How Tesco Bank has adopted AWS cloud as 'business as usual' in eight months

While certain industries have warmed to the public cloud at a fast pace, the more conservative finance sector has traditionally lagged behind.

However this is beginning to change. At AWS Summit in London today, Tesco Bank’s head of transformation, Allan Brearley, revealed the company has gone from little or no cloud usage to it being 'business as usual' within just eight months.

The challenger bank initially trialled the Amazon Web Services cloud as a means of hosting the landing web page for its recently closed Tesco Compare business. It has quickly evolved to include a number other applications, such as its new Tesco Drive insurance mobile app.

"From a standing start in February we have gone from hosting a single web-facing 'out of service' page to having built compliant AWS cloud-hosted VPCs [virtual private clouds] as an extension of our data centre, implemented production workloads, and launched our AWS Tesco Drive app," said Brearley.

"It is not bad in eight months and is something that simply wouldn't have been possible using our traditional on-premise delivery model.”

Tesco Bank: Public cloud enabling innovation

Tesco Bank has been in existence for 18 years, having started life as a joint venture between the supermarket chain and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Eight years ago, Tesco bought out RBS' share of the bank, requiring the migration of millions of customer accounts onto a new on-premise infrastructure platform - a complex two-year process that was fraught with difficulties.

In order to enable the bank to keep pace with the digital demands of its customers and staff, it began to look at alternatives ways of managing and deploying infrastructure.

“In order to differentiate ourselves and offer greater services to our customers, we need the ability to innovate, we need to be able to fail fast and fail cheap and simply be more creative," Brearley told delegates.

"And this means we need more speed and an infrastructure delivery cycle measured in months is not going to be [support our ambitions].”

Tesco Bank: How to succeed with cloud strategy? Start small…

Yet, unsurprisingly for a company operating in a heavily regulated industry, one challenge for Tesco Bank was to convince senior execs to back the public cloud strategy.

Brearley said: “We had some work to do to convince our stakeholders that cloud computing was going to deliver our strategic objectives in a secure way in the context of a financial services company.”

This meant starting on a small scale at first. “We set about implementing some building blocks on which we could deploy production workloads in a secure, resilient and manageable way,” he explained.

“Our day one proposition wasn't about trying to deploy killer applications, this was about ensuring we built a solid foundation onto which we could deploy increasingly complex production workloads and store customer data with confidence.”

This also meant highlight some ‘quick wins’ where cloud could achieve cost savings. Although these were small at first, they made the benefits clear to stakeholders, said Brearley.

“When Tesco Bank made the decision to close the Tesco Compare business, we had to host a landing page where customers could be redirected to,” he explained.

“We evaluated the solutions for this using our traditional on-premise delivery model, and it was going to cost about three and half thousand pounds for the infrastructure and it was going to take around three months to deliver.”

“However we evaluated the AWS option using exactly the same design solution and it cost sixty-six pounds a month an it took less than a week to deliver.

“After we monitored visitor numbers to the site, we moved to an even more effective option - we realised we could just host these things as a static page and it cost thirteen pence a month.

“This story has been great in showcasing the value proposition that cloud can bring to the bank.”

Tesco Bank: Accelerating cloud adoption

This strategy has been a success, Brearly said, and the cloud is now a delivery option that is viewed as “business as usual” by the organisation.

He added that a number of internal and external facing applications are now running in production.

“We have deployed an increasing footprint of live colleague and customer-facing workloads,” he said.

“We have now come quite a long way in a short time, and we have now built a multi availability zone set of environments that are an extension of our on premise data centre - so truly in the hybrid space.

“We have delivered all of the foundation services that allow us to deploy production workloads in a secure way. This includes monitoring, web application firewalls, antivirus and all the really important stuff for the bank.”

Read next: Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS public cloud comparison: Which cloud is best for the enterprise?

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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