Next-Generation Data Center Assessment for Financial Organization
In this case study
Joining organizations across industries, this banking, wealth management and consumer lending services institution was considering public cloud adoption as a means to achieve a variety of business goals and stay competitive, including:
- Unlocking business agility to pivot with shifting markets;
- Enhancing the speed at which it could deliver solutions and services to its customer base;
- Leveraging the last advances in technology to remain competitive; and
- Achieving cost efficiencies and savings.
Other financial institutions were already leveraging the power of public cloud hyperscalers (e.g., AWS, Google Cloud, Azure) to achieve these outcomes, both for the business and for end customers.
As such, this particular organization wanted to place its workloads where they'd be most effective in establishing an agile, responsive cloud infrastructure for the enterprise. They understood that to achieve their goal of digital transformation, they'd need to identify potential gaps in people, processes and technology.
The financial organization sought the expertise of a partner familiar with solving these challenges. One with proven experience in worked with similar customers in their industry to identify gaps, develop solution roadmaps and categorize applications for the type of multicloud operating model they were considering. They chose WWT as their cloud partner.
Due to the challenges outlined above, WWT was tasked with developing a next-generation data center (NGDC) strategy for the financial organization that would help it leverage both cloud and colocation technologies to increase innovation, enhance security and maximize the ROI of their business applications.
This involved assessing existing enterprise policies, methodologies and technologies to identify gaps in capabilities, then providing direction on how best to mitigate those gaps.
By leveraging the AWS Migration Readiness Assessment (MRA) questionnaire, WWT identified significant gaps across people, process and technology that the organization needed to address as it moved to AWS, both from a business and technical perspective. On the business side, the analysis touched on items such as the need to establish a cloud center of excellence (CCoE), update organization and change management processes, and work with legal and information security teams to review the financial modeling structure of IT spend (capital expenditures versus operational expenses).
In addition, WWT provided a technical gap analysis that included assessing their existing AWS footprint, existing technological stacks and architectural design for the proposed landing zone deployment. We also worked with the client to identify skilled AWS talent internally, evaluated internal automation tools, and provided recommendations to help close any gaps in these tool sets.
One of the tools recommended and requested from the client was HashiCorp's Terraform to ensure automation played a key component in managing their cloud environments. As such, the client wished to automate infrastructure as much as possible using Terraform for Infrastructure as Code (IaC).
The organization's cloud infrastructure team wanted to understand how to leverage Terraform with existing automation tooling. WWT hosted Terraform training on-site for the team and provided instruction about the HashiCorp suite of products through our in-house experts and close partnership with HashiCorp.
To identify which apps were good candidates for cloud migration, we performed an application rationalization assessment that leveraged a 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 tool also evaluated 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 migration score. A high score suggests greater ease of cloud migration, while a low score suggests greater difficulty.
To arrive at these recommendations, WWT selected a subset of applications that had a high-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, we created detailed application dependency maps, workload cost estimates and migration plans for high-priority applications that were meant to ensure the performance and security of these workloads in a cloud-native environment.
Next, we helped develop migration plans for multiple applications based on our candidacy assessment and coordinated with the client'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 included mechanisms that supported a Well-Architected implementation, such as leveraging AWS EC2 Auto Scaling with multiple availability zones (AZs) to avert single point failures; application 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 plan for critical workloads; and an AWS Direct Connect roadmap for consistent and 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.
Figure 1: Proposed architecture for three-tier application (sample)
In addition to the architectural diagrams, WWT developed detailed migration plans based on AWS best practices and migration documentation designed to deliver step-by-step help for moving similar workloads to the cloud.
Figure 2: Sample detailed migration plan for application
Thanks to this assessment, the client was well-prepared to begin its cloud adoption journey. We recommended they follow a multi-year, phased migration due to the technical and operational complexities, as well as inter-application dependencies and the large number of applications in consideration.
As this initiative was part of a larger effort, there are other considerations that went into the decision-making process outside of what has been presented here. Our phased approach can be broken into three work streams: application migration, cloud infrastructure and data center relocation.
Based on AWS best practices, plus extensive discovery and reviews with the client, we helped them design and plan an AWS environment with architectural diagrams and migration plans to meet their short- and long-term goals. We also delivered recommendations as part of our gap analysis based on our experience with other clients and AWS best practices. These included business-level topics, such as personnel training requirements and CCoE creation. Technology, people, processes, tooling and other cloud methodologies were recommended as well.
Because of the work delivered by WWT and AWS, the client's applications were mapped and categorized from the cloud candidacy assessment. In addition, they had architectural diagrams and migration plans to model moving forward.
Lastly, high-priority gaps were discovered and documented, and we provided a recommended roadmap for closing those gaps. As such, the client was confident that their businesses challenges were addressed, and that they had a clear roadmap for continued cloud adoption for the future.