Some of the Best Cloud Benefits are Not the Ones You Would Expect
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Some of the Best Cloud Benefits are Not the Ones You Would Expect

Paul McEwen, Global Head of Technology Services, UBS (SWX:UBSG)
Paul McEwen, Global Head of Technology Services, UBS (SWX:UBSG)

Paul McEwen, Global Head of Technology Services, UBS (SWX:UBSG)

In the financial services sector, speed of cloud adoption has been varied. The mix of legacy infrastructure, regulatory requirements and cultural change that’s required for technology teams means that adoption in the industry has been mixed. At the same time, the benefits of cloud adoption for enterprises of any shape and size are well known: scalability, speed, better insights into costs, speed of innovation. The list goes on.

At UBS, we pride ourselves on being early adoptors of the cloud in the banking sector. And while we are enjoying all of the well known benefits of the cloud, we’ve started to see a number of other benefits as we’ve embarked on our cloud adoption journey, which is now entering its sixth year.

Early adoptors will be your biggest advocates

As we started to stand up our instance of the Azure cloud, there was a lot to do. Ensuring the right controls and policies were in place was paramount. At the same time we needed to ensure that we had scope and expertise to start building applications in the cloud. This is where our pioneers came in. Born from both necessity and the need for scalability, a small number of development teams had the opportunity to develop cloud native applications. After a lot of the initial work and overcoming the steep learning curve, teams quickly found that the speed at which they could spin up an instance in the cloud rather than the lead times associated with provisioning resources in our data centres was really rewarding.

Armed with new and faster tools, early cloud adopters have also been the strongest advocates for the uptake of the cloud. Within the firm, we’ve found that developers and engineers who have been working on the cloud since the start of the journey are more likely to do things like contribute to internal development forums and often act as mentors for teams who are embarking on the migration or development journey a bit later.

A cloud-based developer experience

At UBS, we created DevCloud—our Cloud-based, compliant, CI/CD tooling. Run in GitLab, DevCloud uses cloud native tools that provide seamless pipelines for application development, which have, over the last 12 months, shown increased productivity and reduced time to market. Another vital component of the end-to-end developer experience is the Developer Desktop which has been custom built with the community in mind. The flexibility of the build in the cloud means that we can release new features and capabilities faster to meet the demands and workloads of our development teams.

New dimensions of efficiency

Cost reduction is often one of the main benefits cited for cloud adoption but more than anything, we are witnessing new dimensions of efficiency across our teams. A great example is the speed of new feature releases—accelerated by both DevCloud and the reduction in lead times, we’re seeing far more efficiency in delivery than ever before. Another example comes from the insights we’ve gained into our consumption patterns. A concrete outcome of this has been the creation of policies that do things like automatically shut down development servers over the weekends. Over the last year alone, these small behavioural changes have resulted not only in cost savings but also a notable reduction in the carbon emissions associated with running idle resources. The ability to make decisions like these based on the data we can extract from the cloud means that we are experiencing more efficiency than ever.

New capabilities breed creativity

As we methodically vetted and curated new cloud services for the UBS ecosystem, we’ve witnessed much more creative problem solving when it comes to the design of applications, features and services. This comes partially from the maturity of our cloud program but also from the availability of capabilities that were previously too costly or required too much development time or expertise to integrate.Within the UBS digital ecosystem, the best example of this has been steady growth in the integration of cognitive services like facial recognition, speech recognition and translation. Cognitive bot services are increasingly being used to solve support queries for employees. As the training for these AI driven tools deepens, we will see wider penetration of these cloud tools across the Firm.

“The flexibility of the build in the cloud means that we can release new features and capabilities faster to meet the demands and workloads of our development teams”

Early investment, due diligence and strict control landscape early in the UBS cloud journey has proven that not only is it possible to successfully and safely adopt the cloud in our industry but that there are a lot more benefits than there are down sides.

What we’ve witnessed in addition to reduced hardware and maintenance costs is more value creation. This value comes in many flavours; The ability to dynamically scale up and scale down resources based on demand has seen a measurable reduction in our infrastructure costs for many applications. We have also seen more value created by way of faster feature releases for our client facing and internal applications.

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