Transforming Enterprise IT with Google Cloud Platform

Over the last couple of years, ATB has been in the process of migrating to the cloud. In fact, in a previous article, we talked about how our organization transitioned to working on G Suite, and how the switch has positively impacted our productivity. In that same time period we have also begun migrating our software development and production onto the cloud, using Google Cloud Platform.

Hyperscalers like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services all have the same ultimate service – but they each go about it differently. While cloud migration does impact the way technology can be deployed, we’ve found that shifting our production to the Google Cloud Platform has led to a mindset shift for our IT staff too. 

Why Software-first Thinking is a Break From the Traditional:
Google Cloud Platform places much emphasis on engineering excellence. It takes a software-first approach rather than a data centre approach. For many of our staff who have worked long careers in traditional IT (especially in the financial services industry), this has fundamentally changed how we do our work. For many years, the standard has been working with legacy technology on in-house hardware. The cloud enables us to shift much of our work towards managing business capabilities, where before we would have been working on the maintenance of operating systems or hardware. 

Moving production to Google Cloud Platform also means that our IT staff can focus on software development. By leveraging a cloud-based platform, we get to focus on building solutions that matter to us and our customers. Developing cloud native technology means being able to create new digital experiences that are significantly faster. With digital traffic not having to be routed to an on-premise data centre, our customers can quickly access our services wherever they are in the world. 

Working with hyperscalers also provides a level of security and encryption that is unmatched by on-premise systems. In addition, cloud technology has enabled the commoditization of security tools that would otherwise be expensive and tough to deploy and maintain. Google Cloud Platform in particular encrypts data five times over, which would require significant investment in time and cost to do internally.

So what does that mean for our IT and software development teams? For ATB, software development excellence is transforming how we architect our banking platforms and how we add services to those platforms. In the past, internal developers would have worked on point solutions based on legacy technology, not platforms. Disaster recovery is also fundamentally different between the cloud and traditional IT, especially in terms of investment and scalability, so we’ve had to ensure that we update that plan as well. 

The debate about on-premise or cloud-based is essentially over. Many organizations’ IT teams, much like ours, have been continuously working on adding cloud native expertise to their skillset, as well as concentrating on software development. Whether organizations are going cloud native or any hybrid form, there’s a definite movement towards cloud adoption. It isn’t an easy shift for organizations to fill their pipelines with cloud native talent, because going software-first fundamentally changes IT operations. This skillset is one of the most highly sought after resources on the market and professionals must consider adding cloud skills like storage infrastructure and networking to their expertise.
 
Why Enterprises Must Also Shift Their Mindset:
Technologists know that the cloud brings tremendous immediate benefits to software development. The added scale, speed, agility, and level of protection are well known. It is, however, easy to move too quickly towards cloud adoption. Having low or no ops investment (such as with serverless architecture) can be tempting. But in order to take advantage of cloud enablements, enterprises must take a sustainable approach.

As ATB has been going through our own cloud journey, we’ve learned a lot about how to adopt this technology with a mindful approach. This is not a lift and shift migration. We have been taking our time with the change to ensure successful implementation. Our goal was to complete our migration to the cloud this year, but we have now shifted that goal to 2021, for a number of reasons.

One reason is the talent side of the shift. While the technology and possibilities are exciting, it is important to remember the people who will be working with the technology. This means working with existing IT talent and supporting them as they build up their cloud expertise to create robust knowledge and capacity internally.

Protecting Security and Privacy As We Move to the Cloud:
As a financial institution, the security and privacy of our customers are of utmost importance. As such, we have governance frameworks in place just for that, and we have had to transform these frameworks as we migrate onto the cloud. We’ve taken careful consideration of this as we build our cloud foundation, especially when it comes to aspects such as security and networking - fundamentally readdressing our thought processes around the architecture. 

Zero-trust security, which uses the principle of ‘never trust, always verify,’ is a model that we have used in the process. Organizations are understandably risk-averse when it comes to having data on a cloud versus on-premise, so to show the defence and depth of the cloud environment, we built zero-trust architecture to ensure that we have layers of security throughout, even more so than we did with on-premise servers. It is also important to be mindful about security when building and deploying solutions on the cloud. Just because the software development cycle can be shortened, does not mean it should be. Our speed to market is decidedly slower than what we are capable of. When building solutions for the enterprise, we must consider security first and ensure that the depth of defence is at each and every layer of our cloud delivery.

Cloud Migration is All About People:
For enterprises, cloud migration is less about the technology and more about the people who work with it. Whether it’s the operations department or the IT staff, organizations tend to stick to traditional methods and mindsets. It takes effort to shift those mindsets (...new design paradigms, new system-wide thinking) in order to transition to cloud-based operations. It means changing the way we think about the work we do, and how we deliver that work as an organization. In a way, that process is much easier, which is fantastic, but can put an organization at risk if not done properly and mindfully. Just because you can build something in a day does not mean that it is sustainable. You have to be able to deliver that technology to your customers in a meaningful way. Cloud providers have made that accessible, but organizations and IT leaders must work to drive sustainable adoption to deliver those capabilities.

ATB’s journey to the cloud has enabled us to work on groundbreaking technology like AI, machine learning, and robotics process automation. Building and adopting a cloud-first mindset has transformed how ATB thinks, does, and makes. We are delivering faster, broader, and bigger solutions.

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