Observations and Tips on Cloud Migration

June 20, 2019

by Paul O’Hara

Mainstream Adoption

The case for Cloud adoption has become increasingly compelling as established enterprises see the flexibility of start-ups and companies born in the cloud. The advantages our clients are realising are numerous. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provides the ability to provision and de-provisions IT resources on demand and the flexible pricing models the major cloud providers offer contrasts sharply with the capex and maintenance costs of running a on-premises data-centres, which only deliver a finite capacity of resources. The ability to scale applications as workload peaks yet remain performant is game-changing. As well reducing up-front investment and delivering performance advantages IaaS reduces the time businesses need to spend managing their infrastructure and allows for a greater focus on what will differentiate their offering and make them competitive.

The cloud also significantly lowers the costs of innovation. Our clients often sit on deep histories of data. Historically building a business case to process, analyse and store that data for exploratory purposes meant committing capex with no guaranteed return on investment. Now the cost to explore an idea is low, clients can launch virtual servers, load terabytes of data, process, analyse it and build a Proof of Concept (POC) on an on-demand pricing model. If the insight they were expecting doesn’t arise, or the POC doesn’t work as desired, they can press pause, stop accruing costs, re-think the idea, evolve their build and go again without making any long-term budget commitments.

Increased Security

Cloud adoption is increasing in Financial Services because of the work the major providers have done to address some earlier concerns on security. There are now a vast range of services on offer from the major cloud providers which can provide higher-levels of security, to the point where we are hearing customers say, “We can do this safer in the cloud”.

One great example is a service our partner AWS provides called AWS Inspector. For an enterprise deploying hundreds or thousands of virtual servers, versions of software can get out of sync meaning identifying and remediating security vulnerabilities can be a huge challenge. AWS Inspector addresses this challenge, it monitors your resources to detect any vulnerabilities, it will then alert you and can automate the required updates to remediate the issue. Another service AWS GuardDuty profiles activity on your AWS account and uses Machine Learning techniques to identify suspicious behaviour, at scale. The challenge that is left is for Financial Services firms is to adopt these services as they migrate to the cloud and ensure that the correct enterprise policies are in place to mandate and enforce their usage.

Challenges and Approaches

It can be a real challenge to take an established stable monolithic system, understand it in depth, rearchitect using loosely coupled principles and deploy it on the cloud in a manner which will deliver greater flexibility, scalability and cost savings. Also, if that system is vital to the processing of payments for customers or to the functioning of the markets it can be a risky proposition.

While those sensitive applications could be improved and made more resilient with more robust disaster recovery plans if a firm is in the early stages of their cloud journey it often makes sense to start with less risky projects and build the understanding and experience within the enterprise.

This decision-making process is where the 6Rs of Cloud Migration Strategy come into play, organisation who apply the 6Rs best will do so with an in-depth understanding of their applications and a considered review of the benefits running the application on the cloud will deliver.

The 6 Rs of Cloud Migrations

The ‘R’DescriptionEffortRewardAn Example….
Re-HostLift and ShiftLowLowMoving an existing application as-is to virtual servers in the Cloud
Re-PlatformLift and ReshapeModerateModerateConsolidate on-prem MySQL databases to RDS MySQL on AWS
Re-PurchaseDrop and ShopModerateModerateMigrate legacy on-prem solution to a SaaS provider
RearchitectMake cloud-nativeHighHighGo Serverless or use distributed computing technology.
RetireGet rid of applicationLow (or saving in effort!)LowEnd-of-life service. Superseded by something better so turn it off.
RetainDo NothingNoneNoneHighly latency sensitive applications may need to be retained on-premises

First Derivatives Cloud Services

It is clear the cloud is going to be the predominant theme in the technology industry for the foreseeable future. That is why at First Derivatives we view an advanced understanding of cloud technology as a vital skill for all our staff. We’re investing in upskilling our consultants in each of our practices, across our vendor services practice where we work with Calypso, Murex and Fenergo, in our Capital Markets Consulting Technical practice and, of course, in our Kx professional services practice.

In contrast to the last ten years where the predominate driver of change in Financial Services was regulation, driven by looming deadlines and the fear of non-compliance we now increasingly see clients look in depth at their technology stacks to find where the cloud can give them a competitive edge.

In late 2018 we established our partnership with AWS and are now engaged in a range of projects helping clients on their journey to AWS and as a result we’ve helped clients migrate their kdb+ implementations to AWS, helped new kdb+ clients go straight to AWS and helped re-architect and build customers proprietary applications.

In the second half of the year we’ll also be launching service offerings on innovative AWS services such as AWS HPC and AWS Connect. Which we’ll cover in-depth in future editions of our blog series.

The GCP Financial Services Technology Partner of the Year award has also helped drive significant interest in running Kx on the cloud.