Financial services companies have some of the most stringent requirements of any industrial sector that is buying and using technology. But that hasn’t prevented financial services companies – typically some combination of consumer, corporate, and investment banking – from embracing containers and its virtual development environment with passion and confidence.
While financial services companies may test lots of emerging technologies, they are slow to implement them in their production networks. After all, they’re protecting billions of dollars in assets, not to mention clients’ most personal data. And that makes security paramount to financial services in a way that’s different from other industrial sectors. Containers boast built-in security with their self-contained development platforms, coupled with security add-ons that protect software integrity.
Financial services companies also look to new technology to accelerate processes or streamline and overhaul how they work with customers and their money. Despite lots of consolidation and attrition in financial services in recent years, the sector remains intensely competitive, creating more pressure to innovate. Containers are helping banks and insurance companies deliver on the expectation that technology will provide a business edge and competitive advantage.
Finally, financial services companies must demonstrate growth and continued profitability. Containers have changed how banks perform and manage software development, and they have reduced time to market in the process. And any technology that can shave even fractions of a cent off a process or transaction is, well, money in the bank. It helps retain existing customers and can help attract new customers as well.
Viewed through that prism, it’s easy to understand why financial services companies have embraced containers with such speed and passion. And it signals that containers are sufficiently road-tested for financial services’ exacting specs.
Case in point: Multi-national banker Société Générale (SG) has been using container technology for a couple years, making it a cornerstone of application development for its investment banking, retail banking, and insurance divisions. One driver for the bank was its objective to reuse as much code as possible, as well as the services and tools used to manage and secure that code. Stephan Dechoux, a DevOps architect for SG, reported 10 apps in production using container technology, with 50 more in development involving 400 developers.
“We’re seeing easy integration with our actual infrastructure and secure and rapid deployment in production,” he told attendees at a recent Docker conference.
To up its security game, SG uses Docker security scanning to check images for any potential vulnerabilities. Dechoux said they also scan dockerfiles and compose files with an in-house linter tool to ensure conformance with the bank’s best practices.
SG also intends to use container technology to bridge the gap between its private cloud to Amazon Web Services (AWS) or MIcrosoft Azure. It will also be the means through which SG implements software-defined storage (SDS), machine learning (ML), and big data management, Dechoux explained. Société Générale doesn’t have to look too far ahead to see what it calls “software-defined everything.” And containers will be one of the cornerstones of that strategy.
Barclays, an international banking company based in London, also sees container technology as a natural add-on to its cloud-based initiatives. Within the last year, Barclays launched an application platform-as-a-service (aPaaS), using container technology for DevOps-driven application creation. By adding containers, Barclays benefitted from a faster release update schedule, which in turn freed up developers to work on more innovative, creative tasks rather than mundane administrative activities that didn’t provide competitive value.
“We’ve got to innovate and keep up with the times and be ahead of the times to secure that marketplace,” said Carole Wright, head of aPaaS service delivery at Barclays. “We needed middleware not to be a blocker on the critical path of projects and release of applications. Speed-to-market is very important to the bank.”
Meanwhile, Bank of America has embarked on its own software-defined networking push to get more standardized across the many platforms it operates or has acquired. Modularity and virtualization are driving Bank of America’s strategy, purchasing, and development; the bank uses containers for some of its internal applications and intends to add more.
Bank of America’s ultimate goal is to rely solely on commodity servers that could perform any combination of computing, network switching, or storage as needed, according to CTO David Reilly. Containers and microservices would spin up the applications that automatically provision those resources as needed without any human intervention.
Indeed, the push to deploy containers – not to mention develop and test more applications in these environments – has captured the imagination of IT professionals and executives in the financial sector. As they continue to push and demand more from container technology, it’s also clear that organizations in other industrial sectors are monitoring their progress and innovations. Those kinds of successes are a hard thing to contain.