Private cloud trends

Financial services PaaS and private clouds – Managing disparate environments

Patricia Hines
private cloud
Cloud image via Shutterstock

Not all enterprises and IT teams can enjoy the luxuries of the public cloud. So let’s take a look at the limits and the risks of the alternative: the private cloud and PaaS.

Financial Institutions (FIs) find that deploying PaaS and IaaS solutions within a private cloud environment is an attractive alternative to technology silos created by disparate server hardware, operating systems, applications and application programming interfaces (APIs). Private cloud deployments enable firms to take a software-defined approach to scaling and provisioning hardware and computing resources.

While other industries have long enjoyed the increased agility, improved business responsiveness and dramatic cost savings by shifting workloads to public clouds, many firms in highly regulated industries like financial services, healthcare and government are reluctant to adopt public cloud. As a result of increased regulatory and compliance scrutiny for these firms, the potential risks of moving workloads to public clouds outweigh any potential savings.

Private cloud and PaaS trends

The definition of what comprises a private cloud deployment vary, with some analysts and vendors equating private cloud with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and others broadening the term to encompass both IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Whatever the definition, many financial services firms have already deployed private cloud, IaaS and PaaS technologies, often driven by platform simplification and consolidation initiatives.

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Vendor platforms for private PaaS are gaining popularity with a wide range of available proprietary and open source solutions. Proprietary vendors include Apprenda and Pivotal (which is a commercial version built on Cloud Foundry). Open source platforms include Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Apache Stratos and Cloudify. Many banks are choosing open source-based solutions as an insurance policy against vendor lock-in. Moreover, with the source code under the pressure of public scrutiny, the quality of these applications is often higher than their proprietary rivals.

Business drivers for private cloud and PaaS adoption

According to Forrester, the top two business drivers for private cloud adoption are improved IT manageability and flexibility, followed by a transformed IT environment with optimized systems of record and empowered developers. For those citing improved IT manageability and flexibility, there is a desire to collect, analyse and centralize error and event logs to manage and monitor performance against SLAs.

For those adopting private cloud to empower developers, the choice is viewed as a foundational element to allow developer self service for provisioning application environments and deploying code throughout the application lifecycle. PaaS promises to abstract applications from their underlying infrastructure, enabling faster deployment and time to market.

Limitations of private cloud and PaaS

Most large banks have thousands of systems in place to support millions of customers. They host these systems on a complex, heterogeneous mix of systems, many of which have been in place for a long time. For example, many core banking systems are still running on IBM mainframes and AS/400 platforms because of their security, reliability, scalability and resiliency. FIs continue to depend on third-party hosted applications for functions ranging from bill pay to credit checks, which along with SaaS applications for CRM and HR management, will remain outside of the private cloud’s domain.

As firms evaluate their private cloud architecture, they need to consider how they can achieve their business goals of improved IT manageability and empowered developers across a heterogeneous, hybrid environment. Although it is possible to re-host and re-architect core legacy systems onto modern platforms like Java and .Net, these projects will extend far into the future. As a result, financial institutions need to manage and monitor disparate environments, each with its own challenges and restrictions, for the foreseeable future.

When a FI adopts private cloud and PaaS technologies to simplify IT management for application deployment, they are adding another technology stack to the already complex mix. To make matters worse, some FIs have deployed (or are evaluating) multiple private cloud and PaaS platforms, often with disparate capabilities and restrictions, and proprietary APIs. With the mix of private cloud, IaaS, and PaaS environments that must coexist with legacy infrastructure, critical “health” managing and monitoring becomes more difficult.

Even if a firm decides to eventually re-architect legacy applications for private PaaS hosting or move workloads across multiple PaaS solutions, it is critical that organizations develop an overarching connectivity strategy to seamlessly tie together systems, data and workflow that accommodates a long-term migration journey. In order for the organization to achieve a “single pane of glass” for managing and monitoring, organizations need the ability to connect and integrate the various environments and enable service discovery, naming, routing, and rollback for SOAP web services, REST APIs, microservices and data sources.

Managing disparate environments

The combination of endpoints—data sources, applications, web services, APIs and processes—are ever growing and evolving. In order to orchestrate a well governed but agile application landscape, IT architects need to re-consider their integration approach. A unified integration platform can handle any type of integration scenario, particularly high-complexity requirements for high performance, throughput and security involving a combination of application, B2B, and SaaS integration needs, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Organizations facing the need to manage heterogeneous architectural environments have an opportunity to address a wide range of requirements by means of a unified, full stack for connectivity on one platform – connectivity, orchestration, services, and APIs.

As firms adopt multi-vendor solutions, they need a way to abstract the complexity of their private cloud vendor and architecture decisions. With a unified connectivity solution, you can beta test multiple PaaS environments using an independent orchestration layer with a single API layer to back end systems and databases. The connectivity layer helps you to avoid PaaS vendor lock-in while increasing interoperability and data portability.

A unified integration layer enables organizations to take an API-led connectivity approach for xPaaS (Application Platform-as-a-Service, Database Platform-as-a-Service, Middleware Platform-as-a-Service, etc.) integration and management. API-led connectivity packages underlying connectivity and orchestration services into easily composable, discoverable and reusable building blocks. Reusable building blocks accelerate time to market for new products and services whether packaged vs. custom, on-premise vs. off-premise. Rather than each developer needing to have a deep understanding of an external application’s API intricacies, they can use the integration layer to compose their applications with connectivity as needed to easily automate tasks, access databases and call web services by leveraging APIs.

Private cloud, IaaS and PaaS technologies are on the IT agendas of many financial services firms. But those technologies are just one piece of the infrastructure puzzle. In order to simplify IT management and empower developers, you need a blending and bridging of environments that delivers agility across infrastructure silos. MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform is the only solution that enables end-to-end connectivity across API, service orchestration and application integration in a single platform.

The single platform enables IT organizations to take a bimodal approach to private cloud management—driving speed to market and agility while enforcing a governance process to avoid fragmentation and duplication of services. MuleSoft, a proven on-premises, hybrid and cloud integration leader, provides a virtual agility layer, allowing new services on the PaaS to interact with legacy on-premise mainframes or SaaS environments in the cloud (see figure 1).

Figure 1

Each of the building blocks in Anypoint Platform delivers purposefully productized APIs, powerful Anypoint core and ubiquitous connectivity. Based on consistent and repeatable guiding principles, the Anypoint Platform delivers tools and services for runtime, design time, and engagement that enable successful delivery for each audience, whether internal and external. MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform is architecturally independent—it is agnostic in terms of private cloud, IaaS or PaaS solutions, whether custom-built or purchased from a third-party provider. Customers have the freedom and agility to abstract connectivity and integration from the underlying infrastructure, platform and application environments maximizing efficiency and business value.

Part of simplifying your architecture and becoming more agile is having flexibility. MuleSoft’s unique connectivity approach allows you to plan for the future. You may start with an established infrastructure provider and move to an emerging pure-play PaaS provider. You may build applications for on-premises deployment but later decide to host them in the cloud. Anypoint Platform has a single code base for on-premises, hybrid and cloud deployment, adapting to changing business and regulatory conditions. This single code base ensures integration and interoperability across the enterprise with transparent access to data, seamless monitoring and security, and the agility to respond to changing business needs.

Patricia Hines
Patricia Hines is the financial services industry marketing director at MuleSoft, a San Francisco-based company that makes it easy to connect applications, data and devices.

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