Eagle’s Cloud Native Journey

Helping clients achieve operational efficiencies and respond to new business challenges by delivering product features faster using cloud technologies 

Mike Fitzgerald, Head of Information Technology and Operational Services

In a recent Gartner survey of CEOs and senior business executives, roughly half of those polled highlighted that as a result of the digital transformation confronting their businesses today, their industries could be unrecognizable within the next five years. The overwhelming majority of those polled viewed the coming digital disruption as a positive force—one that would spark innovation in a way that will improve the client experience and support margin growth. This is a topic that is front and center at Eagle, particularly as we assess not only how technology can change the investing landscape, but also our role in helping firms efficiently manage assets, support business growth and enable shifts in business strategy.

It should be noted that this eye towards building the FinTech company of the future will be on full display this November when Eagle and BNY Mellon will host the Engage 2016 conference in Orlando, Florida. Over three days we are excited to be joined by clients, third-party vendors and fellow industry thought leaders to discuss our thoughts on cloud native applications among other topics that are set to define the future of financial services.

As part of our evolving vision, we at Eagle see a future in which organizations can experiment with new business models, leveraging data and analytics to identify the patterns that work and quickly abandon those that do not. Software will be delivered quickly, consistently and reliably at scale, while automation—through eliminating rote tasks—will intensify the performance of individuals and teams. The end result will be a high-trust culture, enabled by a conviction borne of real-time, high-quality data, instantaneous insights and thorough, transparent testing that sheds light on analytics and code coverage. We believe this seemingly fantastic future is actually achievable through the adoption of cloud native applications, which will offer the performance, system scalability and resiliency that will be required from next-generation platforms in the years ahead.

The term “cloud native” traces its lineage to virtualized data center resources, in which applications are installed in cloud-based virtual machines. The original definition has since evolved to reflect a more modern (and vendor-agnostic) form of today’s cloud-native capabilities, which does not necessarily include virtual machines. Rather, a cloud-native application has these attributes:

  • As quoted in the 12-factor app manifesto, cloud-native applications and software will “minimize divergence between development and production, enabling continuous deployment for maximum agility.” A cloud-native application must be able to scale as the production load requires, either up or down, at a rapid rate and with the ability to accommodate hundreds of thousands of nodes or instances. This dramatically improves quality and the ability to respond faster to business change, quickly delivering a recovery oriented computing (ROC).
  • Cloud-native applications use elastic infrastructure. Said another way, the infrastructure is expected to be a commodity that is abstracted away from the application itself and the application places demands for infrastructure resources that it expects will always be available when needed, irrespective of previous constraints like location.
  • Cloud-native applications provision instances of themselves through application programming interfaces (API’s). These applications leverage publicly available programmable interfaces that offer a higher degree of automated support for previously manual tasks like provisioning a virtual machine, lessening the workload by following the necessary steps to prepare the application to receive production traffic.
  • Cloud-native applications are enabled by and built upon a platform as a service (PaaS) featuring a robust cloud-management functionality.

To be sure, it is a major departure from traditional enterprise application design, as it involves creating tools and services from the bottom up, utilizing open source code, to fully maximize the cloud’s potential and engender a continuous software delivery archetype.

Embracing cloud native is actually the logical next step for financial services companies given the pace of business today and frequency of change, whether it is market- or business-driven or the result of a regulatory environment in constant flux. For instance, consider the rapid rise of the robo-advisory offerings that serve a new generation of clients—an audience that may have little or no experience with traditional models. These peer-to-peer networks are dis-intermediating traditional financial ecosystems and disrupting the market.

Since we introduced Eagle ACCESSSM in 2004, most of our new clients have opted for our secure, private cloud-based deployment, whether to facilitate a “follow-the-sun”, 24/7 global operations service model or reduce the need for on-premise technical infrastructure and related operations. In addition to a growing ecosystem of complementary, best-in-class solutions, clients can also benefit from increased, on-demand capacity and quicker time to value in adding new capabilities. As this is extended to include cloud-native applications, the benefits will revolve around the intuitive nature of microservice architecture that affords users the ability to auto-scale as business needs change; facilitates auto-redundancy in which corrective actions are instantly processed to avert outages or disruptions; and instills auto-provisioning, in which resources are released and allocated on demand with load-balancing features.

The alternative to going cloud native is to stay the course, though this option fails to account for where the market and technology are gravitating. As our chairman John Lehner wrote two years ago, the Wayne Gretzky approach to technology is not to play where the puck is, but rather where it is going to be. As such, this is a critical initiative for Eagle to meet future client needs, as digital disruption will make it essential to add new functionalities without the expense and risk of disrupting daily operations. Clients, in a cloud-native environment, can be upgraded based on their own timetables, versus one- or two-year vendor-driven release schedules, which serves to tighten the feedback loop and allows developers to respond far more effectively to client needs. The co-development model will become even more powerful, as collaboration efforts alongside clients can focus on minimally viable products that can then be tested, refined and quickly deployed as add-on services for the broader client base as soon as they are ready for rollout.

Make no mistake, the move to cloud native is a truly transformational effort for Eagle, one that will be measured in years. This is a natural extension of the more than two decades of innovation and development that stand behind Eagle’s existing cloud-based investment management solution. Along the journey to cloud native, clients will recognize incremental benefits. Once Eagle is fully cloud native, clients will benefit greatly from a cloud-agnostic architecture and agile solution delivery model.

All of this sounds ambitious (and certainly is), but this is another area where our relationship with our forward-thinking parent company differentiates Eagle. For instance, BNY Mellon operates six innovation centers in Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh, the New York Metro area, London, and both Chennai and Pune, India. The company also has over 13,000 technologists and developers located across 50 cities. In 2015, the bank formally launched an ambitious PaaS offering, NEXEN, which is BNY Mellon’s next generation digital technology ecosystem. By marrying its open source platform strategy with Digital Pulse—the bank’s big data analytics offering—BNY Mellon has created an integrated platform that can deliver a faster speed to market than few likely ever imagined for both existing and new applications and capabilities. And with seamless integration of APIs, clients can even render their own solutions leveraging the NEXEN platform. As a foundational component of BNY Mellon Technology Solutions, Eagle is actively partnering with our parent to create new solutions and also leverage existing technology to bring these capabilities to Eagle clients.

When the anticipated future state is juxtaposed alongside what is possible today, the benefits are clear: Upgrades can be completed in mere hours, while the cost to clients will shrink; Analytics will transition from reactive and fragmented to innate; Our service orientation will transition from “break / fix” to recovery-oriented computing; And data integration will shift from primarily service centric to product oriented. The evaluation of new features will also transition into a painless exercise, one driven by business users versus the coordinated compromises between IT and end users. Meanwhile, capacity management and disaster recovery will be native to the platform, while accounting workflows will be delivered as add-ons.

This does not happen overnight, but this is where we see the puck going and how we are positioning ourselves and our clients to be successful as the digital revolution continues to go mainstream. Join us at Engage 2016 to learn more and participate in lively discussions around this topic.

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