The financial services industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. This can make it hard for banks to undergo any type of significant digital transformation because every step they take must be in strict compliance with local and federal regulations. Modernizing in this industry is tough, but with help from the right partner, it’s not impossible.
Sourced Group, a Microsoft partner who holds multiple gold competencies in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program including Cloud Platform and Data Analytics, has provided this type of support for banks for years. Servicing a wide range of industries—including financial services, public sector, healthcare, aviation, media, and telecommunications—Sourced is a rapidly growing consultancy with employees in Australia, Canada, Singapore, and Malaysia. The group focuses on helping their clients migrate to hyperscale cloud providers so they can modernize their operations, revitalize their offerings, and reimagine the way they do business.
One of their more long-standing engagements has been with a large bank in Canada. Years ago, when the bank began its cloud transformation journey, Sourced was brought on as a strategic advisor. Together, they began building and deploying an enterprise-grade Microsoft Azure platform intended to support the bank’s entire application portfolio. The goal was to enable the application teams to benefit from the full library of Microsoft Azure services while maintaining the ability to strictly enforce security controls across the entire environment.
One of the more challenging applications to migrate to the cloud was Pega. Pegasystems —a leader in cloud software for customer engagement and operational excellence—offers business-aligned applications for sales, marketing, services, and management, connecting clients and management channels in real-time so they can share and react to new information with ease. Financial institutions use Pega for many of their business processes, and Pegasystems’ expertise in digital process automation has made them a significant player in the financial services industry.
Here’s the catch though: Pegasystems’ keystone platform, Pega 7—which powered the bank’s national and international operations—was hosted exclusively on-premises at the bank. Because this business-critical platform had touch points across many of the bank’s key business operations such as online banking, mortgages, loans, and credit card campaigns, Sourced was confident that migrating it to the cloud would unlock numerous benefits for the bank’s customers. What’s more, hosting these applications on-premises was causing significant, widespread challenges for the bank such as:
- Severe capacity constraints. Because the Pega environments were hosted across 250+ servers on-premises supporting a variety of business use cases, the bank was running into capacity limitations which prevented its customer-facing business units from bringing new products to market.
- Difficulty deploying new workloads. Because Pega was deployed on shared infrastructure and shared databases, it was difficult to scale and deploy new workloads.
- Difficulty troubleshooting problems. During workload contention, a lack of tooling and Pega’s shared infrastructure made it difficult to troubleshoot and pinpoint the root causes of issues.
- Limited agility. The complexity of the on-premises solution significantly slowed capacity increases which limited the bank’s ability to expand its Pega footprint and remain agile.
In addition to these challenges, the bank needed to expand its Pega environment to meet a new business demand: deploying Next Best Action. This Pega application calculates client eligibility for offers, but to deploy it, the bank would need to run large-scale batch computations that were impossible with its current on-premises infrastructure. It knew they would need to leverage the power and scale of the cloud to calculate all the “what-if” scenarios required to enable this application.
Migrating Pega to the Microsoft Azure cloud
Together, Sourced and the bank designed a plan for migrating its Pega applications to Microsoft Azure. Because Pega is a business-critical, highly-regulated three-tier application, the solution put in place would have to address all three tiers.
The first was the web tier. Here, Sourced and the bank used the Microsoft Azure Application Gateway which provided load balancing and facilitated a highly available architecture. This also enabled mutual authentication between clients and the gateway, and from the gateway to the application servers.
The next was the application tier. Here, Sourced implemented an auto-scaling application tier to meet daily workload requirements, allowing the bank to meet SLA requirements of 99.95 percent. This highly available and scalable architecture was also critical for deploying the Next Best Action application. For load balancing between the online banking platform and the application tier, Sourced leveraged Microsoft Azure Load Balancer and Microsoft Azure Application Gateway.
The last component was the data tier. Here, the bank leveraged Microsoft Azure SQL Managed Instance because of its 99.99 percent SLA, its security features, and because Pega supports Microsoft SQL for its persistence layer. Azure SQL Managed Instance also offered the strict network controls that the bank required through VNet isolation and private IP addresses. Because Pega was a critical workload, all data was backed up to prevent data loss and ensure business continuity in the case of a failover.
With this solution in place, the first migration was a success. However, Sourced knew that this was only the first step in the bank’s cloud transformation journey—as its business needs grew, it would need to replicate this migration many more times.