Google recruited several big name customers including international bank, HSBC, to discuss their cloud implementations at its annual San Francisco gabfest as the Silicon Valley giant looks to convince enterprises to shift their core systems to its cloud platform.
At the Google Cloud Next 2017 event, Colgate Palmolive, eBay, Home Depot and Disney gave snapshots of their implementations of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite during on-stage interviews with Google Cloud’s senior vice-president and VMware co-founder, Diane Greene.
But it was HSBC’s group CIO, Darryl West, who provided the most comprehensive overview of the bank’s move to the GCP, which began only six months ago.
HSBC globally has a multi-cloud strategy using GCP to support its data analytics efforts, Amazon for development and testing activities, and Microsoft Azure for its core Microsoft apps.
The bank is undergoing a transformation to improve customer experience through digital channels using machine learning and data analytics solutions.
Trust and confidence is an essential part of the heavily regulated bank’s business, West said.
“Information security, reliability and resilience in how we deliver our services are fundamental in how we run our business. Apart from having US$2.4 trillion of assets on the balance sheet, we also have at the core of our company, a massive asset in our data.”
The bank is currently dealing with more than 100 petabytes of data, increasingly collected through its digital channels.
“Embedded in this data is massive insights and what we need to do as a bank is work with partners to enable us to understand what is happening with this data, draw out the insights so we can run a better business and create amazing customer experiences.”
Many of HSBC’s core systems have been around for between 20 and 40 years. These systems are robust but simply don’t have the database structures that allow the bank to do the data analysis that it needs to do. Traditional data warehousing platforms have worked well for HSBC for many years, but in recent times have been difficult to run and expensive to use, said West.
“We took the plunge to embed ourselves into the evolving Hadoop ecosystem and for an organisation like mine that has traditional history of legacy platforms, it’s been a tough road for us.
“All of this has been done on-premise and we’ve had to provision large infrastructure, build out datacentres and hire talented new people that have an understanding of these new technologies,” he said.
Given these challenges, West said the bank decided to adopt a ‘cloud-first’ strategy. Cloud infrastructure provides intensive computing capability that is required to crunch large data sets in short bursts across its anti-money laundering, risk analysis, finance reporting, and valuation services portfolios.
“We have a set of applications that monitor billions of transactions for our customers and we run analytics over these huge data sets to identify patterns in data to bring out various activity in our customer base.”
The bank then sends this information to various government agencies to ‘track down the bad guys,’ he said.
“So this is an application that clearly requires massive data sets, great computing capability but also a machine learning capability to identify patterns in these huge data sets.”
The bank also requires significant computing capabilities to better understand its trading positions and risk at a global level, he said.
“This requires our significant compute capability. We were faced with the question, “do we build out new datacentres with thousands of servers and thousands of cores out there to do this activity or should we work with someone who does this as their core business?”
West said to make public cloud work, organisations need to drive a cultural shift across their businesses and adopt Agile methodologies as well as a DevOps mindset.
“You also need to recruit and retain talented people that understand how to use these technologies and work in this way,” he said.
Meanwhile, Colgate-Palmolive helped Google tout its enterprise wares with the consumer products company saying it migrated 28,000 staff to G Suite in 2016. Verizon also said it was planning to shift 115,000 staff to G Suite this year.
Byron Connolly travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Google.
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