The best way to go ‘all in’ on cloud

In 2015 Capital One CIO Rob Alexander took the AWS re:Invent stage to declaim the company’s independence from its traditional data centers, shifting instead to a reliance on AWS to run its infrastructure. The company went from eight data centers in 2014 to five in 2016 to three in 2018. In late 2020, the company announced that its journey to truly being “all in” on the public cloud was complete. The move away from running its own infrastructure, however, didn’t mean it sent engineers looking for new jobs. The opposite, in fact. Even as the company shifted to public cloud, it more than doubled the number of technical employees on its payroll, roughly 85% of whom are engineers.

Just as it had envisioned in 2015, Capital One was now a tech company that happened to build banking applications, rather than a bank that happened to dabble in tech.

Capital One is the exception not the rule when it comes to banks jumping into the cloud. Yes, it’s not hard to find financial services companies embracing cloud to speed innovation (see Google Cloud, AWS, and Microsoft Azure customer case studies). But it is difficult to find Capital One-esque “all in” examples, be it to a single cloud provider or multicloud. This is starting to change, as Gartner Analyst Lydia Leong recently highlighted. At long last, “banks are accelerating their cloud journeys.”

But where they end those journeys could make a huge difference.

A long time coming

We’ve been talking about this shift to public cloud for what seems like eons. I wrote in 2015 that “The mega-clouds are coming for your data center,” and they were, but we saw the equivalent of toe-dipping rather than diving in headfirst. Why?

Well, all the obvious concerns come to mind, security foremost among them. Banks stubbornly held to their view that only they could safeguard sensitive customer data—until the day they realized that, in fact, the cloud providers were better at security. In his 2015 re:Invent keynote, Alexander called this out, arguing that AWS could better secure his workloads than his own team, despite Capital One having highly qualified security professionals on staff. The other banks may have taken longer to reach this same conclusion, but they’re getting there now.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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