NAB starts moving critical applications into cloud

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NAB starts moving critical applications into cloud

Migration much faster than expected, with 505 workloads re-hosted.

NAB has hit a major turning point in its migration of 840 applications into the cloud, with 60 percent of the project done, and more critical ‘tier one’ workloads now being moved in.

A year after publicly committing to shift 35 percent of its applications into the cloud “in three to five years”, the bank is tracking well ahead of that goal.

This time last year it had shifted 70 applications to the cloud.

But head of monitoring, analytics and diagnostics Oliver Murphy told Splunk’s .conf19 conference in Las Vegas last week that 505 applications have now been moved, whether into AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

This is well above its expectations of 300 applications migrated by the end of 2019.

“Where once it took six months to do one [application migration to the cloud], now we're up to 505 applications, so it's really accelerating the velocity of how we're really leaning into that commitment that we made to the market that we're going to move 35 percent of our applications into the cloud,” Murphy said.

With 60 percent of the target number of migrations appearing to be complete, the bank is getting to the pointy end of the program, and with it some of the most business-critical migrations.

“Where once we used to migrate the lower level category B and category C [applications] from an importance perspective, now we're moving effectively our internet banking and our online mobile application all into AWS,” Murphy said.

“We're very much more confident that we know how to run and how to keep services in AWS and also prove to our risk partners and our risk community in the bank - and we have lots of them - how we're actually running a [cloud] stack and doing it appropriately with all the checks and balances in place.”

The order of things

Murphy later said the order of applications being migrated to cloud wasn’t necessarily decided by relative importance to the bank, but by a variety of factors.

“We started with the lower value targets in regards to what made up that 505 applications, because some of this stuff was so easily packageable to just shift it across,” he said.

“But some of it was the maturity of the actual engineering team that supports that asset. “There are still lots of people out there that haven't got a huge amount of cloud skills, so some of it was, 'how ready are they to run there [in the cloud]'?”

NAB has previously discussed at length its challenges running the cloud migration after a long period of IT outsourcing left it without technical staff and skills. 

“If you think about it, what we're doing - it's moving - but we use a fairly kind of outsourced model in the bank,” Murphy said.

“What we did is we used to use IBM on-premises, and then effectively we're taking back control of that application - someone [at IBM used to go] and patch those servers and someone did all those maintenance and disaster recovery testing, and we've given that power back to our engineers. 

“But with it comes great responsibility. Those teams that are ready to take on that challenge and have that full stack capability … almost self-nominated. 

“So [the cloud migration] has very much been about readiness, what’s important and a little bit of ‘starting with the lower hanging fruit stuff, and then moving up to those big targets like internet banking'.”

Migration work on these more critical workloads has now started.

“Even I was surprised we put one of our big trading platforms into AWS … about three to five months ago, but that hasn't skipped a heartbeat since,” Murphy said.

“That was a really good test case”.

Murphy indicated that particular transition showed that the bank’s two-speed migration strategy - and its automated governance and compliance checking tool, known as Cloud Adoption Standards and Techniques or CAST - had achieved sufficient maturity, allowing the bank to move faster and with a greater degree of confidence.

“We're so confident with some of the ways [these] work that we're willing to start putting that stuff into the cloud,” Murphy said.

Checks and balances

Murphy said that AWS’ growing presence in the bank would have a positive impact on reliability.

“In AWS, we've never had a critical outage or critical incident on our services in four years [of using it],” he said.

In addition to being a showcase for AWS’ reliability credentials, Murphy also credited having “Splunk ingrained in a lot of the activities of moving to the cloud” and the bank’s evolving engineering culture for the result.

Splunk’s role in NAB’s cloud migration is that teams with apps going into the cloud need to comply with a set of security and operational controls, and must also provide visibility into the health and performance of their applications.

A monitoring tool is required to do that - and while teams can choose their own local monitoring product, at some point they need to submit monitoring data up to Splunk, which provides an aggregate view across the 80 service teams now with a cloud presence.

This aggregate picture is relied on by NAB’s global operations centre (GOC) and by the bank’s executives.

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