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Next-Generation Data Center Assessment for Financial Organization

A Financial Organization enlisted WWT's expertise on their path toward a cloud adoption and next-generation data center transformation.

A large Financial Institution had a similar call as many other organizations in today's IT environment: consider adoption of public cloud services to enhance speed to delivery and to customers. The organization provides corporate banking, investment banking, retail banking, wealth management and consumer lending services at locations throughout their service area.

Challenge

Recently, the Financial Organization encountered challenges to enable business agility, technology capabilities and cost efficiency required to effectively compete in the industry. Multiple other financial institutions are currently utilizing or on their way to leveraging the power of cloud service providers (CSPs) and the latest technologies that these CSPs can provide for both businesses and their end customers. 

As such, this particular organization desired to place workloads where they are most effective in providing an agile, responsive infrastructure to the enterprise. They understand that to address these challenges they will also have to examine areas of the organization that require iterative maturation to achieve the desired target state and identify potential gaps in people, processes and technology that could inhibit or prevent resolution. 

As such, they requested that an outside party with experience in dealing with these challenges for multiple customers, as well as staffed with experts in cloud architecture and processes, help identify gaps, develop a resolution roadmap and identify and categorize applications that would be a good fit for their multicloud operating model. 

Solution

Due to the challenges outlined above, they tasked WWT — an AWS partner who works closely with institutions across multiple entities providing consulting, supply chain and professional services — to develop a next-generation data center (NGDC) strategy for this organization that will help empower it to leverage cloud and colocation technologies to increase innovation, security and ROI from their applications. 

Part of this approach was an assessment of existing enterprise policies, methodologies and technologies. The goal of the assessment was to identify the gaps in organization’s current capabilities and provide direction on how to mitigate those existing gaps.

Gap analysis and customer enablement

By leveraging the AWS Migration Readiness Assessment (MRA) questionnaire, WWT identified significant key gaps across people, process and technology that the organization will need to address as it moves to the AWS Cloud environment, both from a business and technical perspective. On the business side, the analysis included items such as establishing a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), organization and change management processes, working with the legal and information security teams and reviewing financial modeling structure for IT spend (CapEx verses OpEx).

In addition, WWT provided a technical gap analysis which included identifying their existing AWS footprint, existing technological stacks and designs around the proposed landing zone deployment. WWT also worked with the customer to identify AWS Cloud talent internally, as well as evaluating their internal tools that were leveraged for automation in order to provide recommendations for tools that could help close gaps in these toolsets. 

One of the tools recommended and requested from the customer was HashiCorp's Terraform to help keep automation a key component of management of cloud environments. As such, the customer desired to automate infrastructure as much as possible using Infrastructure as Code (IaC). 

The organization's cloud infrastructure team wanted to understand how to leverage Terraform with existing automation tooling. WWT hosted a Terraform training on-site for the team and provided instruction about the HashiCorp suite of products through our in-house experts, along with our partnership with HashiCorp. WWT is a HashiCorp Hyper-Specialized partner and was named HashiCorp's Rookie Partner of the Year in 2019.

Application Cloud Candidacy Assessment  

To perform an application assessment and identify what applications were candidates for cloud migration, WWT leveraged an auto-discovery tool to scan the organization's network and distributed server infrastructure. This resulted in a rough-order-of-magnitude assessment of cloud fit for their applications. 

The auto-discovery tool evaluates criteria such as network dependencies, OS support in the cloud environment, workload role, performance requirements and storage requirements to obtain a high, medium or low fit score for cloud migration. A high score suggests greater ease of cloud migration, and a low score suggests greater difficulty.

To arrive at this recommendation, WWT selected a subset of applications that had a high auto-discovery tool fit score and performed further investigation through interviews and documentation review to determine the best candidates for the high-priority application group. The team assessed in-depth criteria such as technology stack, business criticality, architecture dependencies, licensing, security and compliance requirements, database requirements and platform requirements before arriving at a final recommendation.

From these findings, WWT created detailed application dependency maps, workload cost estimates and migration plans for high-priority applications that will ensure application performance and security of these applications in a cloud-native environment.

Example migration plan and cloud architecture

WWT helped develop migration plans for multiple applications based on our candidacy assessment and coordinated with the customer's application teams to develop architectural diagrams that utilized core AWS Services such as VPC, Route 53 and RDS for Databases. 

The application cloud architecture includes mechanisms that lead towards a Well-Architected implementation, such as leveraging AWS EC2 Autoscaling with multiple availability zones (AZs) to avert single point failures; application load balancers and network load balancers to evenly distribute traffic between instances in different AZs wherever applicable; RDS multi-AZ databases; cross-region replication as part of an Application Disaster Recovery (DR) plan for critical workloads; and an AWS Direct Connect roadmap for consistent/stable cloud connectivity. 

These architectural diagrams are based on AWS best practices and the five pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework: security, reliability, performance efficiency, operational excellence and cost optimization.

Proposed architecture for 3-tier application

Figure 1:  Proposed architecture for 3-tier application (sample)

Example of detailed migration plan

In addition to the architectural diagrams, WWT developed detailed migration plans based on AWS best practices and AWS migration documentation to assist the customer step-by-step when moving similar workloads to the cloud.

Sample detailed migration plan for application

Figure 2: Sample detailed migration plan for application

Outcome

With the conclusion of this assessment, the customer is well-positioned to begin its initiative in 2020. We have recommended they follow a multi-year, phased migration due to the technical and operational complexities, as well as inter-application dependencies and number of applications.  

As this initiative is part of a larger effort overall, there are other considerations that went into the decision outside of what was presented here. The phased approach is broken into three work streams: application migration, cloud infrastructure and data center relocation. 

Based on AWS best practices, and extensive discovery and reviews with the customer, we helped them design and plan an AWS Cloud environment with architectural diagrams and migration plans to meet their short-term and long-term goals. We also delivered recommendations as part of our gap analysis based on our experience with other customers and AWS recommendations. These include business-level topics, such as personnel training requirements, to CCoE creation. Technology, people, process, methodologies and tooling were recommended as well. 

Because of the work delivered by AWS and WWT, the customer‘s applications are mapped and categorized from the cloud candidacy assessment. In addition, they have a subset of architectural diagrams and migration plans to model moving forward. 

Lastly, high-priority gaps were discovered and documented as well as a recommended roadmap defined to close those gaps. As such, the customer feels confident that their challenges were addressed, and a clear roadmap for the business and its applications is now defined and outlined.

 

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