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Why the cloud is the next frontier for financial services

Tesla recently offered a great example of why the cloud is the future as a way of thinking – for just about any industry where software is or will be key to deliver a competitive customer experience.

The story goes that a Tesla customer sent a tweet to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, writing: "@elonmusk the San Mateo supercharger is always full of idiots who leave their tesla for hours even if already charged." Within twenty minutes Elon Musk responded, writing: "@loic You're right, this is becoming an issue. Supercharger spots are meant for charging, not parking. Will take action."

elon musk super charger twitter conversation

Just five days later, Tesla came out with a solution to "Improving Supercharger Availability" whereby users who took advantage of supercharger spots would be charged for any time after their car had been charged.

This is a customer experience success story for Tesla, and one that shows the power and potential of the cloud. Tesla has integrated cloud software solutions with their cars and charging stations which allows them to receive timely and detailed telemetry from each car and charging station in the network. The telemetry can be analyzed fast and because of the breadth it affords a high degree of certainty. Based on this, very specific responses to evolving customer needs can be developed and deployed instantly across the entire customer base.

This is not unique to cloud as such, but the example shows cloud thinking by leveraging key attributes.

The long white cloud

Cloud continues to drive changes across many industries. The platforms are maturing and the wealth of easy-to-use add-on features is impressive. This explosion of available services is a key enabler for many of the start-ups challenging many industries including retail banking. It has reduced the barriers to entry substantially and it has enabled entirely new types of businesses. 

The consensus within the investment community seems to be that while perhaps at a slower pace, disruption will come to asset managers too – in particular from technology firms who may impact how funds are sold. What is common for these potential disruptors to the industry is that they leverage cloud scalability, but also represent ecosystems in their own right. The jury is still out as to whether investment management is too niche for pure technology firms to create an ecosystem from.  

SimCorp's future cloud ambitions

We have also started a journey towards building a new cloud-based application stack. SimCorp Dimension will still be deployed either on-premises, or via our ASP offering, but we will also gradually start adding new features on a cloud platform that clients can access.

Like in the Tesla example above, it is key for us to create tighter connectivity between existing SimCorp Dimension installations and the cloud. This will be used to deliver new types of software and service-based products. But more fundamentally, we will have a platform where we can gather telemetry on how our system is being used, helping us to improve SimCorp Dimension and make it even more focused on what clients actually do with it.

We are still in the process of fleshing out the exact details and priorities of our cloud strategy, but we know what the first product is and what the end destination is. The goal is to migrate all or most of our existing functionality to the cloud using a set of complementary strategies including both containers and full rewrites.

Anders Kirkeby speaker at SimCorp's GTS 2017

The first deliverable which we expect to fully launch at SimCorp’s International User Community Meeting (IUCM) conference in Barcelona in September 2017. This launch will offer participating clients continuous benchmarking of their infrastructure from a system performance point-of-view. This represents a robust step towards a more evidence-based and faster resolution of system performance challenges which come in many shapes and sizes, but surprisingly rarely require actual code changes.

This is a project for the long term, hence the ‘long white cloud’. But we will add exciting new capabilities from early on in the process. The overarching aim is not cloud as such but rather to create a flexible ecosystem where SimCorp customers can focus on what they do best and leave the rest to SimCorp and others.  In the coming months, I look forward to sharing more with you about SimCorp's journey into the cloud.

Is the cloud secure?

Security is a key concern when it comes to cloud computing, especially within financial services. Examples like the recent local Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage only add to this concern. This is slightly misguided.

In the AWS case, www.amazon.com itself was not affected. Not because they used another cloud provider, but because they leveraged an important quality in cloud platforms – to run any application including data in a distributed fashion. Some of AWS’s clients had chosen to deploy their applications to a single cloud data center location and when that location had an outage they had no business continuity. The merchant site www.amazon.com is highly distributed and suffered no downtime. The example is instructional but it is not about lack of security or certainty in the cloud. Rather the take-away is to make sure your cloud applications are built to make use of key attributes of cloud platforms.

I had the pleasure of recently sharing the stage with Daniele Catteddu, CTO at the Cloud Security Alliance, at our Global Technical Seminar (GTS). One of my key takeaways from his presentation was that public cloud is likely to be far more secure as a platform than any in-house system.  Amazon, Microsoft and other big players have the scale to secure the best and largest security teams and because of their scale they get more exposure too in the fast-moving security threat space.

Another key point is something that occasionally comes up in the investment management discourse, that regulation might be a burden but it can also be a source of positive change. Your goal should not be compliance but rather to live up to the gist of the regulation. In terms of security, your goal should be to understand and live the motivation behind security standards. That way it becomes easier to meet the requirements for the many overlapping security standards a firm may be subject to if it does business across borders.

The last point from Daniele Catteddu I would like to pick out is that cloud is coming to you whether you want it or not. This may be because of cost reasons or because vendors you rely on are all moving in that direction, albeit at different paces. So you might as well just embrace cloud now!

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