Cloud-based data management is winning converts with its ability to free financial institutions from often rigid and siloed architectures that can stunt innovation and erode the value of digital transformation. It also reduces dependency on on-premise and data warehouse-based architectures, giving firms the scale and power to make their data work harder and deliver greater value.Traditionally regarded as a location for disaster recovery or as an add-on to liberate space on a firm’s systems, the capacity of cloud to enhance fundamental enterprise operations is now being grasped as new use cases evolve.
Marc Alvarez, managing director at Protego Trust, says cloud has become almost indispensable as a data management tool. “It’s an irresistible force,” he tells Data Management Insight.
Alvarez is one of a host of key speakers who will dissect the data management ecosystem at A-Team Group’s Data Management Summit New York next week. He will be joined by leading practitioners and thinkers in the field as they examine how data is being managed today and what we can expect going forwards.
Scalability and ease
The benefits of cloud migration for financial institutions are many. For a start, it offers scalability of use and storage, enabling access to data from across enterprises and all managed from a single location – or even outsourced to cloud-based third-party providers. It permits the hosting of analytical capabilities that are beyond the scope of most individual firms’ own architectures. And it provides for a single source of truth that streamlines governance processes.
Operationally, cloud management requires fewer experts as it allows for the centralisation of engineering, eliminating the need to respond to enterprise-wide data problems or infrastructure updates in a piecemeal, end-user-by-end-user manner.
Access to cloud capabilities has become easier, too, with the development of software-as-a-service, data-as-a-service and other such contracts.
The seemingly endless possibilities of the cloud in terms of data management can be daunting for new converts, argues Alvarez. He likens cloud adoption to standing at the top of a mountain and looking down between your skis and not knowing what you’re going to encounter further down.
“Trying to unwind generations of data and spin it up in a whole new data centre is tough to begin with, but doing it in an environment that immediately exposes that data to everybody else who wants it inevitably brings other pressures within the firm. Suddenly you have a very complicated and demanding landscape.”
Indeed, for some firms, the transfer of data management to cloud hasn’t been plain sailing. The change to new security protocols can often trouble adopters and the different platforms all have their own protocols, adding another layer of administration to companies that opt for a multi-cloud architecture.
Alvarez argues that when problems happen, it’s often because the decision to move has not been made as a part of a broad enterprise strategy, but to address a specific issue or even a poor metric.
If a holistic, considered approach isn’t taken to the exercise then the many benefits of migrating to cloud will be missed, the monetisation of data among them. This, especially, can be tricky without a clear objective, argues Julia Bardmesser, senior vice president and head of data, architecture and analytics at Voya Financial.
“I don’t think we have a consensus here on definitions of monetising data,” Bardmesser says.
Hard monetisation models provide the clearest example of how data can add value. Companies like Netflix use data they have mined from their users’ activities on their platforms to gauge and shape products it will sell later. There are also companies, such as rating agencies, that sell data and data derived products. Similarly, banks sell datasets they’ve created from analysis of other data sets.
Service- and value-enhancement models that result directly from cloud migrations are equally valid monetisation models. As an example, Alvarez points to the transparency into operations and corporate costs that cloud can provide.
“Cloud can expose a lot about a firm,” he says. “A lot of firms are shocked that they spend millions of dollars just to close their books every month because nobody’s ever actually run the numbers. Then they realise the finance department in most of these firms is probably the single biggest user of content.”
Cloud’s novelty and the challenges that are still associated with it mean that corporate data centres and warehouses will remain part of financial services’ data setups for some time. Experts expect that to change, however. Hybrid systems are already in use, in which enterprises host their core and critical data on premise, but outsource storage and analytics to the cloud.
The biggest hurdle cloud needs to overcome is the lack of operability between the three main providers, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. When that happens, competitors will emerge, ensuring prices drop and more companies take the leap to migrate. Alvarez reckons that day is not far off.
“Interoperability and cooperation across these networks has to happen sooner or later,” he says. “And it’s got to be better than just shifting big files of data back and forth. We need much tighter coupling and I think businesses will be driving that.”
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