ECS Digital attends DevOpsDays Singapore

ECS Digital attends DevOpsDays Singapore

ECS Digital is proud to once again sponsor the DevOps Days Singapore event. This year’s theme of ‘feedback loop’ was reflected strongly in the keynote talks that took place, such as ‘Data Drive DevOps’ and discussions about technologies like Hashicorp’s Consul.

Alongside the various keynote talks, there were sharing sessions and open discussions, providing company experiences of implementing feedback loops, or the cost of lacking such tools. Topics ranged from more general ones like ‘Busting DevOps’ and ‘Automation of legacy tools’ to ‘Chaos Engineering in production and banking’.

You only have to change one thing to ‘do the DevOps’, everything

The opening talk was delivered by Ken Mugrage, establishing the theme of the conference and reminding everyone what DevOps was, and just as importantly what it wasn’t. On top of the usual encouragement of companies to change their mentality to embrace DevOps, Ken talked about reorganising teams into product teams to encourage developers to take ownership over features and products, as well as involving other teams such as compliance throughout the process

One interesting concern raised was that of product team’s unwillingness to iterate further for fear of taking on even more responsibility, since each product created would be another the team would need to manage. What team would be willing to continually innovate if it meant an ever-increasing amount of responsibility and workload?

Ken addressed this concern with the idea that product teams can “earn” the right to hand over a product to another team for maintenance. If a feature/product is stable and no longer a priority to iterate upon and improve, it can be passed on. If the situation changes, then the product team will take back the product and begin the iterative process anew. This prevents product teams from being burdened by their own innovation.

It’s Down! Simulating incidents in production

Kelsey Pedersen from Stitch Fix shared her company’s experience with implementing chaos engineering, i.e. deliberately injecting failure in a system in a bid to build more resilient systems. Sharing interesting observations on other industries having dry runs and practices for handling crises, she commented on the general lack of a similar rigour within many software companies.

Instead of preparation, programmers are expected to learn on the spot to deal with crises as they happen, and often under extremely stressful and thus non-conducive conditions. How could people learn from these experiences and be expected to perform better in the future?

To address this, it is beneficial to encourage incident simulation in production systems. This ensures system failures do not bring the entire application down, on top of better training your engineers to deal with similar future problems. This knowledge and experience is invaluable in crisis management as well as prevention of similar service outages.

Addressing the concern companies may have about limited resources and viability of such methods, companies should focus their efforts on simulating failures that have the highest frequency and impact. This enables the most benefit to be garnered from the simulations.

Consul Connect

Our Hashicorp Partner Ned Shawa gave an overview of the Consul tool, a service discovery tool to help with scaling connectivity management for Dynamic Infrastructures, among other issues. As ever, Hashicorp is dedicated to keeping Consul as flexible as possible, supporting integration for the many tools in the market, such as Cloud services like Azure, AWS and GCP and tools like Kubernetes and Docker.

Ned describes several challenges that have arisen from the migration from static to dynamic systems, such as the securing of service-to-service communications. While conventionally handled with firewall rules, it is unfeasible with large systems that may necessitate 100s of firewall rules. Instead, Consul allows the implementation of a select few Intentions that serve the same purpose, easing the management of such large, dynamic systems.

As usual, DevOpsDays Singapore is a great event to attend, full of useful insight and like-minded individuals. We are proud to have been Gold sponsors for the second year in a row – thank you DevOpsDay for an excellent day!

If you are interested in learning more about ECS Digital and the services we can provide, please get in touch.

Cy NichollsECS Digital attends DevOpsDays Singapore
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Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

ECS Digital announced the official unveiling of their Enablement Pod offering yesterday at DevOps World | Jenkins World, the annual gathering of DevOps practitioners using Jenkins for continuous delivery.

Understanding that business-wide transformations take time and involve multi-year programmes, ECS Digital have designed Enablement Pods to help clients effect change and realise value in the short and long term.

Enablement Pods are a collection of outcome-focused sprints that handpicks specialist teams to deliver the people, resources and capabilities their clients’ need, when they need them. These Pods help enterprises transform at scale by embedding – for short periods – in existing engineering teams to enable new ways of working, tooling and technology.

The unique feature of ECS Digital’s Enablement Pods is that they – and ECS Digital’s success – are measured against KPIs defined in Sprint Zero. By tying success to business outcomes, clients are guaranteed a real return on investment. And if ECS Digital don’t hit the agreed outcomes, customers get a return on the revenue invested.

Each additional sprint to the Sprint Zero provides an opportunity to showcase and review progress ensuring maximum value from all activities. Sprints last between two weeks and resources are dependent on specific project and sprint KPIs. Another unique feature of ECS Digital’s Enablement Pods is that their resource profile remains dynamic to satisfy the different skills requirements of sprint KPIs.

ECS Digital have begun using Enablement Pods as an essential tool to deliver transformation at scale for their prolific customers. In addition to exceeding project KPIs, ECS Digital have enhanced value by enabling internal teams so they become self-sufficient and architect solutions designed to survive tomorrow’s challenges, not just todays.

 

“ECS Digital’s input has added an extra level of intelligence which has enabled us to build on the capacity under their guidance. We have grown in our capabilities over these past 12 months and developed the skillsets of our internal team through additional training. If we have any DevOps or automation or platform requirements in the future, we won’t bother going to tender, we will go straight to ECS Digital.” Matthew Bates, IT Director at ThinkSmart

Enablement Pod outcomes:

  • For each £1 invested in us, we have delivered £3 of annualised savings in the development lifecycle of a Retail Bank core application
  • A 99% reduction of application environment configuration delivery timescales (from 7200 minutes to 3 minutes)
  • Increase quality of testing through automation as well as timescales of test cycles by over 50%
  • 12x reduction of application delivery cycle

About ECS Digital:

ECS Digital is an experienced digital transformation consultancy, helping clients deliver better products faster through the adoption of DevOps practices.

They are the digital practice of the ECS Group and have been leaders in digital transformation since 2003 – evolving their offerings to support their customers’ evolving needs. They believe in a better way to adopt and deliver new ways of working, processes and technology. A more valuable and outcome focused way of leveraging Enterprise DevOps and Agile testing to help build tomorrow’s enterprises today.

They’ve helped over 100 customers – including Lloyds Banking Group, ASOS, BP plc and Sky – realise the benefits of Enterprise DevOps and Agile Testing and have proactively remained relevant in the face of increasing challenges of customer expectation and market disruption. You can follow the ECS Digital community on LinkedIn and Twitter (@ECS_Digi).

Andy CuretonLatest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…
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Year in the life at ECS Digital

Year in the life at ECS Digital

  • Ever wondered what our consultants do?
  • Do you have an interest in engineering practices, culture, automation, coding or testing?
  • Are you ready to join our family?

At ECS Digital, we are always looking to grow and diversify our talented team of consultants. We pride ourselves in creating the optimal environment for our team to succeed. This means investing in our people when it matters most to them on their journey.

We also make sure that each day is a new and exciting opportunity for learning – because doing the same thing day in day out just isn’t fun for anyone.

So, if you’re looking to break into the world of Agile, BDD/ATDD, coding, CI and CD, Continuous Testing or DevOps, here’s what you can expect from your first year at ECS Digital:

Month 2

By month two, you should be settling into your new role and starting to learn how ECS Digital really works. You’ll start working towards your first certifications and shadowing on customer sites – which means lots of new faces and names to remember.

To help sharpen your consulting skills, you’ll be asked to conduct a few internal presentations and, seeing as we’re a social bunch, it’s likely you’ll have been invited to attend one of our frequent dinners or seasonal parties too! In addition to food and drinks, we plan regular events such as yoga and team-building sessions.

“ECS Digital has an amazing culture which promotes a good working environment for everyone with plenty of opportunity to progress if you wish to. ECS Digital will support this progression and ensure you have the tools required, but they also understand that sometimes the real world can get in the way and provide you with the flexibility needed too”

“While ECS Digital ensures you have people supporting you so you are not overwhelmed, they also provide you the opportunity to take responsibility if you want it, running an event like DevOps Playground provides a great stepping stone.”

Months 9-12

You should be feeling pretty great about what you have achieved and feeling confident in being responsible for delivering a whole host of tasks, as well as where you see yourself progressing in the coming months with us.

You’ll be encouraged to work towards additional certifications or attend one of a wide variety of courses, all while receiving the support and encouragement you need to succeed. It’s an exciting time, so be open to every opportunity that comes your way and continue to sharpen your skills as much as possible. Training is always available to employees but staying curious as you work towards leading your first client project is hugely important.

“After 12 months, I led my first client project involving two ECS Digital resources to work with the customer, a large UK based bank, on building up its Cloud capability. This involved a wide range of areas, control, security, infrastructure, networking, etc. and my personal focus has been on making all of that align so that project teams can consume AWS in a controlled and secured manner.”

When the time comes, usually after around a year with us, you’ll become responsible for leading a client project – with all of the support of your ECS Digital family around you, of course! Awards dinners and events will also guarantee you celebrate your first 12 months as an ECS Digital Consultant in style.

And that’s it, your first year with ECS Digital! We’re excited for you to start your consulting journey with us. If we’ve piqued your interest, take a look at our vacancies now.

If you missed our recent Year in the Life infographic, you can check it out here.

ECS DigitalYear in the life at ECS Digital
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Building your business on the edge

Building your business on the edge

Building better, faster and reliable services is an obvious priority for all businesses. But how do you deliver a richer, more satisfying user experience for your customers?

Companies are making the move from VMs to containers in order to drive innovation. Most are also exploring Cloud alternatives to their expensive data centres, if they are not already floating on cloud nine. So how, in this cloud based, container driven nirvana, do companies big and small reach more customers and provide a richer service?

One word; ‘edge computing’ – well, two words!

There are a number of definitions floating around; partly due to the nature of the implementation and partly due to edge computing’s relative adolescence. Linux Foundation’s rendition of edge computing seems to cover the basics though:

The delivery of computing capabilities to the logical extremes of a network in order to improve the performance, operating cost and reliability of applications and services. By shortening the distance between devices and the cloud resources that serve them, and also reducing network hops, edge computing mitigates the latency and bandwidth constraints of today’s Internet, ushering in new classes of applications. In practical terms, this means distributing new resources and software stacks along the path between today’s centralized data centres and the increasingly large number of devices in the field, concentrated, in particular, but not exclusively, in close proximity to the last mile network, on both the infrastructure and device sides.

Basically, process and store as much data as you can, as close to your customers as possible. So, if a company is running 10 data centres, across the world users will connect to the nearest data centre or an edge node interface providing relevant data.

Edge computing can provide a service unparalleled by conventional centralised application and infrastructure deployments, allowing companies to better localise their service. They can also uncover greater insights into the types of interactions that are being made and where from.

This type of shift doesn’t just improve services for an end-user browsing their favourite website for the latest memes, it also has industrial applications. For example, providing better accuracy and intelligence for traffic management systems, processing huge amounts of data gathered by IoT devices on the ground, analysing and processing data near the producer and reducing latency for a response.

Another domestic application is in the games industry, with multiplayer gaming platforms processing game data in real-time close to the users. The heavy lifting is done across two or more transitional cloud AZ’s, all connecting seamlessly to provide a high-quality experience in game. This in turn can ultimately reduce the number of inexperienced gamers quitting and blaming ‘lag’ or ‘ping’ for poor performance whilst playing ‘Fortnite’.

Knowing that this exciting new world of edge computing has the potential to improve cloud adoption, mobile first development and IoT adoption, getting started early is important.

Deploying your own edge nodes near your customers globally might be a little expensive, and probably not as good as a massive Cloud provider with very deep pockets. Fear not, Cloud providers such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are offering Edge computing, today!

Get involved with Google Peering and host a node on Google Behave or start using GCP’s established network to improve the quality and reach of your applications and services.

Starting your Cloud journey? Realise the potential of your Cloud platform with a Cloud Health Assessment or SDLC review. ECS Digital can provide recommendations and assistance when it comes to implementation and can roll out concepts such as edge computing and enterprise applications at scale – click here to get your Cloud journey under way.

Morgan AtkinsBuilding your business on the edge
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DOES 2018 –  bigger, better, brighter

DOES 2018 –  bigger, better, brighter

We’re back, sponsoring the DevOps Enterprise summit (DOES) 2018 in London – the 5th event in the series we’ve sponsored.

DOES primarily takes a look at how large enterprises are adopting DevOps and the associated challenges which comes at scale. This year was no different. Over the past couple of days, we heard talks from the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Adidas, Nomura and Lloyds bank – not to mention the usual suspects of Barclays, Hiscox and Disney. Each provided valuable insights into their transformation journeys.

It came as no surprise that the common theme amongst these speakers was that whilst adoption is growing, scaling across different areas of the business is proving the greater challenge. One of the key takeaways for adoption is that businesses need to stop looking at IT as “projects” or “programmes”. IT should instead become “long lived products” where the focus is on business outcomes.

The below images, drawn at DOES 2018, gives an overview of the different talks that took place over the two-day event:

Two of the most impressive talks were given by Verizon and Disney. We’ve summarised the key takeaways from each below:

Verizon

‘DevOps is not a hobby but a new avenue to revenue’

Delivered by John Scott, Oliver Cantor, & Sanjeev Jain

This presentation focused heavily on howVerizon has enabled different systems with new ways of working, as well as the adoption of new technology. Their talk touched on:

  • The creation of Immersion Centres, where teams would focus on current challenges and look to improve these during a 6-week period
  • Creation of MVP products
  • New ways of working and the coaching required
  • Using gamification to gather more momentum with the “DevOps Cup”

Disney

‘Creating Digital Magic’

Delivered by Jason Cox & Jim Vanns

An incredibly powerful talk, with a spectacular cinematic view of some of Disney’s blockbusters. Fundamentally, all areas of the business are powered by technology and Jim Vanns explained within Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) how they have used technology to change how they operate. The below were highlights from the talk:

  • Technology stack used include Docker, Ansible, Elasticsearch
  • Strong focus on Microservices
  • Main challenges include scale, speed and stability
  • DevOps transformation focuses on leadership, technology and community

DOES 2018 had some amazing presentations, as well as memorable insights from some of the industry’s trailblazers. It is an event for bringing together innovative thinking, and as Gene Kim mentioned in one of the opening remarks: “business leaders who are driving organisations forward in the next 5-10 years will be in this room”.

We don’t believe any other conference brings this type of thought leadership and access to such an open community. We look forward to DOES 2019 where next year it will be spread across three days!

Jason ManDOES 2018 –  bigger, better, brighter
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Securing your transformation

Securing your transformation

At least 42% of CEOs have already begun a business digital transformation, with IT-related priorities at an all-time high (Gartner Survey Results). While CEOs are beginning to understand and set digital transformation agendas, the responsibility for delivering the promised benefits lies with the CIO. This means that CIOs are equally responsible for ensuring a company’s digital transformation has the processes in place to safeguard security measures and remain complaint with regulations.

73% of CIOs see cybersecurity as a key area of investment in 2018 and 2019. And at the same time, digital transformation is seen as the highest priority strategy to support organisational growth goals. Investing in DevOps is a highly recommended place to start.

This blog looks at how DevOps practices result in more secure systems by design, enabling CIOs to achieve their transformational targets whilst strengthening security.

 

Baking in security from the start

All too often, security has been seen as something to be bolted on to a project after the important features have been completed and tested. This approach was problematic even in the time before agile, with months or years between releases meaning there was time to add in security and test before going live.

Today, with an ever-growing cyber threat and organisations striving for continuous delivery with weekly or daily releases, leaving security to the last minute is simply not an option.

The answer lies in the way DevOps rewrites the old ways of working, shifting security left in the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) until it is present by default in every iteration.

It does this through a number of approaches, starting with the culture. All teams and individuals involved need to understand not just the ‘how’ but, the ‘Why’! Buying in to the idea that working toward one shared objective that has security at its foundation is essential to success.

Developers should be educated of the importance of introducing security into the SDLC and its impact on delivery. In fostering a culture of care, workarounds are reduced, removing vulnerabilities and creating more secure systems from the outset.

Promoting a blame-free culture where people feel they can find new ways of working, fail fast and learn from each iteration is imperative – with guidance coming from an overall agile framework. Practitioners often do their best work when they are given the opportunity to exercise the very wealth of knowledge and experience they were hired for in the first place.

 

A practical approach to security 

Automated testing is key, and not just because it reduces human error. It ensures consistent quality gates throughout the SDLC, including security check markers. This not only increases confidence in the software being delivered, it guarantees everything that has passed through the lifecycle has been cleared by security. 

DevOps also enables transparency across the SDLC. Using IaC (Infrastructure as Code), teams are able to use the similar SDLC as the application they host will eventually be hosting. This allows for security check marks to be applied to these elements, ensuring compliance, policies and security best-practices have been adhered to. 

Greater visibility promotes proactiveness, with configuration changes and issues monitored across the overall systems in real time. This in turn offers the ability to identify and action potential security breaches as they happen – for example stopping applications without interrupting other systems before it become a threat. This is a way of working that hasn’t been possible until DevOps’ holistic approach to software development. 

These benefits of DevOps means QA and security are built in to the testing processes, with software unable to move though the lifecycle if it does not comply with pre-agreed standards. 

Harry McLaren, Managing Consultant at ECS Security, explains more about managing security in a DevOps environment: 

DevOps and the corresponding tooling means you can respond faster in the development lifecycle. You can fail fast and fail safe. It’s not possible to remove 100% of risk but it is possible to eliminate the vast majority of it. By using like for like code in a development environment, with mirrored dependencies and so on, we can safely fail without risk before the release goes anywhere near the live environment. 

“It’s vital to get buy-in from your security team, involving them in the initial conversation when it comes to DevOps. Today’s consumers see security as a priority, they take it for granted. If you break that trust, there can be far-reaching reputational consequences as well as short-term practical ones.” 

2-2

 

The future of security 

We’re seeing a shift in how the big players respond to security breaches. There is a trend towards far more public ownership of the breach and transparency as to how the organisation intends to fix or mitigate risk in the future.  

Whilst traditional companies – including some in the banking sector – are more reluctant to take a public stance because of the severity of reputational threat, modern companies are adopting a different tact.   

Amazon and Reddit are two such companies, demonstrating an openness of sharing ideas around how to avoid or deal with security breaches. Netflix is another, going as far as to release ChaosMonkey – an opensource service which identifies groups of systems and randomly terminates one of the systems in a group. Whilst deliberate termination of a system seems illogical, failure happens, and being able to challenge your system’s architecture at a time that suits your business is invaluable.  

This open sharing of information is not only bolstering the leaders’ business reputations, they are changing the digital landscape by enabling businesses to build fully resilient applications that can face modern problems.   

McLaren agrees: The general trend is that transparency is becoming a differentiator. Monitoring and early warning are hugely important in order to get insights into what’s occurring. My advice is to empower your developers with data and KPIs – and challenge them.” 

 

Organisations with mature DevOps practices are able to build fully-resilient applications that can cope in the face of today’s threat landscape. They do this by building in security early and testing rigorously in a safe environment. 

Would you like to learn more about how DevOps can help to secure your digital transformation? Contact us today for more information. 

Morgan AtkinsSecuring your transformation
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DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

Now pilot projects are complete, DevOps demand is outstripping talent availability

Andy Cureton, Founder and Managing Director of ECS Digital – winner of the 2018 Best DevOps Consulting Firm award – thinks that the DevOps industry is struggling to meet demand, and will continue to do so in the future as enterprise-scale transformation begins.

Many organisations have now completed their pilot DevOps projects successfully, which are now being or have been replaced by larger transformation programmes across the organisation.

“This is driving a sharp increase in demand for support from partners and a challenge to the industry as a whole to satisfy,” said Cureton. “The larger consultancies and outsourcers are struggling to transform themselves and develop DevOps or agile capabilities at scale, and we predict that this will lead to consolidation in the sector as demand outstrips talent availability.”

ECS is leading some of these enterprise-wide transformation programmes itself, and is rolling out a new as-a-service concept that it calls ‘Enablement Pods‘, combining DevOps, agile testing and automation. Cureton added:

“Whilst all of our transformation programmes leverage enablement rather than long term staff augmentation, we will be actively pursuing ‘Innovation Pods’ going forward. These are in effect full-stack teams: from product owner through to architect, developer, QA and DevOps. This is a key strategic area where we feel we can bring additional benefit to our clients.”

The adoption of DevOps practices will differ from organisation to organisation, and that is where DevOps consultancies like ECS come in. These business can provide advice on tools, methodologies and people.

ECSDigitaloffice-590x129

ECS Digital’s office is based in central London

Cureton thinks that these are some of the most important traits to have in employees and partners when it comes to DevOps:

  • Pragmatic and outcome-orientated;
  • Team player;
  • Empathic;
  • Strong problem solving abilities;
  • Communication.

On the win itself, Cureton said that he and his team were “extremely proud” to have secured the top spot, along with ECS Digital’s Michel Lebeau, who was announced as the Young DevOps Engineer of the Year.

“We’ve continually innovated and evolved our services over the past 15 years to help organisations realise the benefits of adopting DevOps and are proud to be the only DevOps consultancy to offer specialist testing expertise as a foundation element of our offerings.”

He added, “Recognising the work of the team and making them feel part of something bigger has also seen a boost in team morale which is extremely important for our culture – and a good excuse to celebrate!”

The original article was published on Computing.co.uk on May 29th 2018, read the feature here.

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here. 

Andy CuretonDevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage
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Banking on DevOps

Banking on DevOps

Andy Cureton, Founder and Managing Director, ECS Digital, looks at how, in a competitive environment, banks and other organisations can use the latest IT and business methodologies to modernise their IT systems to meet customer expectations and comply with regulations.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the banking sector, like many industries, is now more competitive than ever before. There has never been a more difficult time for the big banks in particular, with the disruption from digital innovation hitting everyone hard. Time is running out and, to stay relevant, today’s big banks need to embrace agile methodologies across their entire organisation.

Digital transformation in the banking sector has a unique set of tough challenges, both external and internal. Along with regulatory changes such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Open Banking, there is increasing external pressure from FinTechs, challenger banks and Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA), who have innovation hardwired into their culture and are more customer centric by nature – exactly where many of the more traditional banks fail.

All this set against the background of acquisitions, meaning there are now, in effect, four big banks in the UK. Customers may think they are banking with one bank but are in fact sitting on the systems of another. Take for example TSB, whose customers up until recently have been using Lloyds Banking Group’s core banking systems. This leaves banks with complex ecosystems full of legacy systems which as of now, no bank has completely got to grips with… Add issues of dealing with both structured and unstructured data, it is no wonder changing and updating systems is a complex problem to solve.

DevOps – an approach to IT where software developers and IT operations combine their skills and responsibilities to produce software and infrastructure services rapidly, frequently and reliably by standardising and automating processes –  can help organisations such as banks to address the issues they face. These challenges include overhauling and modernising legacy systems without additional risk and addressing the thorny issue of testing. To remain relevant, organisations need to change their culture one step at a time.  Challenger banks are leap-frogging old-fashioned ways of working in favour of agile practices that promote innovation. GAFA have high-performing Digital/DevOps-native cultures with levels of innovation, efficiency and customer centricity that most organisations can only dream of. But the good news is that any organisation can incorporate these ways of working into their culture and harness the power of DevOps.

 

The Myth of DevOps

It’s a myth that legacy issues mean DevOps practices can’t be applied, that the only solution is to rearchitect and replace. Technologies such as containerisation and data virtualisation, coupled with automation, can improve the speed and quality of change in existing systems, whilst reducing reliance on increasingly scarce and expensive specialists. The concept of containerisation essentially allows virtual instances to share a single host operating system and relevant binaries, libraries or drivers. Data virtualisation, on the other hand, provides the ability to create multiple virtual copies of a physical data set without the requirement for the same physical storage.  These virtual copies can be created very quickly and then used independently by environments for testing and even production, with only the differences to the base data set being stored.  Functionality such as bookmarking and data masking further enhance the performance and storage benefits.

Changing mind-sets, organisational culture and building confidence in new ways of working is essential to getting the most value from DevOps adoption. DevOps provides a structured way of working to improve management frameworks and reduce a product’s time to market, taking it from several months to perhaps weeks. Additionally, it can help to strengthen governance and regulatory compliance across the business whilst increasing innovation and agility.

While many banks intend to adopt new technologies, the execution is often mixed. The first step is accepting that the world of finance is changing and there is a better, different way of doing things. You are only as fast as your slowest link. Any system that is slow and process-heavy will hold back an organisation from moving at the pace their customers expect – and indeed demand – in today’s 24/7 world. If such systems are not improved they limit innovation and become a risk in themselves, as faster, more agile competitors are appearing across the finance sector.

 

A Better, Different Way

Testing has a very important role within the banking sector; ensuring continuous testing is taking place makes regulatory compliance easier to achieve and maintain. The introduction of automation in the testing process can actually reduce the risk of change by removing the opportunity for human error and increasing the achievable test coverage.

Getting the testing strategy right can help make the transformational changes more achievable, by reducing both cost and time taken to deliver quality software. Testing in banks is done thoroughly, but it needs to happen earlier in the Software Development Life Cycle, a concept known as “Shifting left”. Testing is typically manual, time- consuming and error-prone. This creates bottlenecks and slows down the flow of change, depleting both the time and resources available for innovation.

Automation brings additional benefits. It speeds up the provisioning of environments and data, and also delivers cost savings. Inconsistent and over-provisioned environments can result in unpredictable outages. The cost in downtime and testers’ time to fix environments is considerable when calculated over the course of a year with multiple instances, each taking two to three days to fix. Configuration management tools such as Ansible and Puppet give businesses increased control over downtime costs by using automation to ensure environments are fit for purpose; Containers provide the ability to instantly replace environments that are out of sync.

DevOps brings with it a licence to fail – but fail fast – something which is essential for real innovation to exist – with processes in place to spot, learn from and remedy failure quickly and early. In this way, teams are encouraged to be proactive, accepting and understanding of their impact on each decision or change in a blame-free environment. Failure demonstrates that boundaries are being tested and are an opportunity to learn.

 

The Journey to Increase Innovation and Agility

Banks are slowly changing their organisational structures and operating models to bring the business and IT closer together – although such is the risk-averse nature of the industry, that an aversion to quick change is almost built in. But it doesn’t have to be this way – DevOps is not risky in any way when properly introduced. In fact, getting the culture and working methodologies right can help to strengthen governance and regulatory compliance across the business whilst increasing innovation and agility.

Ultimately, DevOps adoption is a journey. Many organisations don’t have a blank sheet of paper to start from like challenger banks, FinTechs and GAFA. So, unless they build separately on the side, they’ll always have a heritage challenge. That challenge does, however, come with tried and tested operational processes – which typically demonstrate greater resilience and availability than their nimbler competition. This approach is being pioneered by Scandinavian bank, Nordic Nous, who are using new technology to build a new customer bank alongside the existing bank. Over the past decade, they have thrown away their legacy technologies and invested heavily in the right frameworks to adopt agile practices. Combining heritage with the agility, quality and compliance benefits of DevOps gives banks formidable capability with which to compete in the digital era.

The original article was published on Acquisition International, read the feature here.

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here.

Andy CuretonBanking on DevOps
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Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

The banking landscape is changing at an accelerating rate, and competition in the sector has never been greater. Traditional banks are encountering threats from multiple sources, all of which need to be met and mitigated head on if these banking giants are to stay relevant and competitive.

On one side there are the nimble challenger banks who boast smaller, easier to manage product sets. On another are the regulatory changes including Open Banking and the EU’sGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And the digital unicorns ofGoogle, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) are already beginning to stake their own claims on the banking world with their innovation-driven culture, and immense worldwide customer scale and data.

The internal threat to traditional banks is no less pressing; the majority are reliant on legacy systems that are slow, bulky and process-heavy. And it is these systems that will hold the banks back from moving at the pace their customers expect and demand. Tied into this is another issue – that of skills shortages. As time goes by, legacy skills are becoming less and less available, and can only be bought at a premium.

 

Unlocking the Value in Legacy Systems 

Time is running out for the traditional banks; if they are to stay relevant they need to embrace agile methodologies across their entire organization – and this is where DevOps can help. It’s true that, for most banks, re-engineering and replacing these bulky legacy systems with modern technology simply isn’t feasible. In most cases it would involve unpalatable levels of risk and would require a capital investment bigger than they could withstand.

A more viable solution is to work with the systems they have, using DevOps practices and tooling to bring them up to speed. DevOps is an approach to IT where software developers and IT operations combine their skills and responsibilities to produce software and infrastructure services rapidly, frequently and reliably by standardising and automating processes. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not purely for new, startup or unicorn companies. Adopting DevOps principles and practices allows companies to unlock value in the systems they already have. It allows them to move as fast as the rest of the marketplace – so maintaining their competitiveness, compliance and, ultimately, profitability.

 

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Changing the Legacy Mindset

In the more traditional banks, it is common for people and teams to have very set ways of working, often within distinct siloes. To ease the cultural challenges associated with the adoption of new ways of working, it’s important to involve the teams that will be impacted, and help them to fully engage with the benefits both to the business and to their own professional development.

Creating small, interconnected teams, all working towards a common, achievable goal backed by a considered plan of how to get there makes the transition much more palatable. The agility that creating these integrated, task-focused teams allows, means they can find the optimal balance between speed, control and risk management, therefore improving efficiency and reducing the time to market of any new and fully compliant products.

The key to gaining the most benefit from the DevOps way of working for any business is to understand fully what they are trying to achieve, and which elements are best placed to be transformed to help meet those goals.

 

Regulation vs Innovation

Since the banking crisis of 2008, regulations have grown even tougher. Banks are being closely scrutinised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority. They also have to adhere to the data management requirements of GDPR and similar regulations in other countries and regions. At the same time, the Payment Services Directive II has given customers access to more innovative and flexible financial services through third-party internet and mobile banking solutions. Keeping up with consumer demands, whilst complying with these new regulations is a fine balancing act.

Banks must keep an eye on every regulatory change, whilst at the same time innovating in order to stay competitive. The risks of a single mistake at any point in the development process, especially of core systems, could have serious repercussions.

The DevOps methodology of collaboration between business and IT teams can mitigate some of these risks. It ensures regulatory compliance is built into products from the start, and allows any subsequent changes to regulations to be easily and quickly trialled, tested and implemented. The focus on automation,which is part of DevOps, in turn provides the auditability and visibility needed to demonstrate compliance, and cuts down on the need for manual overheads – a huge financial drain on most of the major banks.

 

Automating to Rise to the Challenge

As well as the demands of data security and the new, stricter regulations, traditional banks are also facing competition from challenger banks and GAFA – many of whom have DevOps built into the core of their processes and systems.To rise to these demands, they need to achieve digital transformation at all levels of the bank.

DevOps brings people, processes and technology together, working more collaboratively in order to speed up and improve the quality of the development process, and take software to market faster. Paramount to this is the need to get testing practices right.

Traditionally, testing is a manual and time-consuming process, and typically prone to errors. It commands huge amounts of resource, which are unavailable for innovation. To test effectively, DevOps/agile testing processes use anonymised production-like data; data that is consistent and quality assured – that can be replicated in real production-like scenarios and automated, ensuring consistency across the data being used for each set of tests.

As well as speed and efficiency, automation also produces cost savings. It reduces the risk of human error and allows increased test coverage in a shorter period of time – which in turn reduces the number of unpredictable and costly outages, with their associated downtime while a fix is sought. The failure of TSB to migrate its customer data without serious operational and security incidents, highlights some of the worst possible outcomes.

One top five UK bank is working towards a solution where all processes are automated or orchestrated, including testing. This would dramatically reduce lead times and delays in projects and provide considerable efficiencies in their end-to-end delivery model.

 

A Shift in Culture

The threats from challenger banks and GAFA to the more traditional banks are pressing. And the only way the traditional banks can meet those threats head on is to adapt their cultures to suit more modern ways of working – both at a leadership and a team level.

Leaders within these big banks need to embrace and promote a culture where it’s acceptable to fail – with the emphasis on identifying, learning from and, of course, remedying those failures as quickly and early as possible. They must recognise the need to constantly embrace new ways of doing things – instilling a culture of continuous improvement and growth. One way to achieve this is by running agile ‘experiments’across multiple teams and locations. These experiments can be used to assess the benefits of new methodologies and tools whilst, at the same time, focusing on communication and collaboration across the teams.

Ultimately, DevOps adoption is a journey. For big banks the challenge is to make this journey from a cumbersome heritage system to a modern, agile way of working as seamless and efficient as possible. The rewards of doing so will be a formidable capability with which to compete in the digital era.

 

The original article was published on Global Banking & Finance review on May 10th 2018, read the feature here.

 

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here. 

Andy CuretonWhy traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive
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DevOpsDays Beijing 2018

DevOpsDays Beijing 2018

The DevOpsDays conference took place on 5th May at Empark Grand Hotel. It is the second run in Beijing with 2017 being the first. There seems to be a significant drop in attendance as compared to 2017 but it still garnered a good crowd of an estimated 600+ professionals. 

This year, the DevOpsDays China core organising committee is planning to host the second DevOpsDays Shanghai event in August and the first DevOpsDays Shenzhen event in November. Looks like they will eventually reach out to more cities in the near future.

The morning session of the conference comprises talks like “Journey from Enterprise Architecture to DevOps” and “The dirty parts of DevOps” that are delivered to the whole audience while the afternoon session is made of 3 tracks, namely, Finance, Internet and DevOps Practices.

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I attended the Finance track that is made up of implementation stories sharing and talks like “Digitalization: DevOps Design and Thinking” and “Release Fast or Die!”. The finale was anchored by Jez Humble with his talk on “what i learned from 4 years sciencing the crap out of devops”.

Another highlight for DevOpsDays Beijing 2018 is the official launch of the Chinese edition of The DevOps Handbook written by Gene Kim, Jez Humble John Willis and Patrick Debois. Accordingly, the team of translators took about one and a half years to complete this translation work! A commendable effort to benefit the Chinese community. 

Through the use of Wechat, the organisers are able to connect with event attendees through live updates of event information, sharing of official photos taken during the event and conducting of lucky draws via real time games. Even theslides from all speakers and video recordings were shared out within 48 hours of event closure. A truly effective use of Wechat to engage with people and who knows, Wechat might one day become an integral part of China’s DevOps solutions.

From conversations with the some of the participants at the conference, it is observed that organisations in China are generally faced with similar challenges that organisations in other countries in the region are also facing. In particular, smaller organisations or startups are more willing to experiment with new concepts and hence they might be the ones that are spear-heading the initial DevOps movement.

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Large organisations are merely adopting a sit-back-and-watch-first approach, with a lack of strong mandate and support from higher management. Eventually when success stories start to build up sufficiently, these big boys will surely take DevOps more seriously.

Generally, China is catching up very fast in promoting DevOps adoption. As observed by one of the speakers, there has been multi-fold increase in the number of job advertisements for DevOps related positions over the past one year. He even jokingly advised participants to start changing their job titles to increase their market value. In time to come, China may well be the “Big Brother” of DevOps in the APAC region. 

 

We’d like to thank the organisers of DevOpsDays Beijing.  It was a great event and we hope to see everyone again in the upcoming meet ups and DevOps events.

 

If you’d like to get in touch with us about how we can help you implement DevOps in your business, just click the link below.

Kok Hoong WaiDevOpsDays Beijing 2018
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