Transition to the cloud as catalyst for change

Menno Stevens, Cloud Engineer

5 January 2019 ‘Rabobank’s systems are in transition to the public cloud. That’s a multi-year trajectory to which I make a small contribution every day as a Cloud Engineer. It’s a great responsibility and an interesting challenge to make it work. Most of all, it’s incredibly inspiring to lay the foundation for our future IT.’

Prototype within a week

‘IT touches on almost every single process and element, meaning that the transition to the cloud is a huge step forward for the entire bank and ultimately for our customers. In practical terms it will help us respond much faster to market developments. That’s the what and the why: we’re doing all this to keep pace with the rapidly changing world we live in.

We used to have a really big infrastructure department. The cloud is helping to radically reduce the throughput times for projects implemented by the DevOps teams, as they’re no longer dependent on many different parties within that department. Working with my colleagues in the Cloud Competence Center, I make sure that the DevOps-teams can complete their projects quickly and easily. We’ve developed secure standard features in the public cloud, which they can use instead of their own infrastructure.

Today when the business needs a new functionality or applications, we can develop the prototype within days. It used to take weeks, even months. The cloud has made our processes much more efficient and user-friendly, and it radically reduces the time-to-market of our products and services.’

IT pioneers inside the bank

‘The Cloud Competence Center is actually a business within the bank.  There are 20 to 30 of us working there. My co-workers and I are given lots of freedom and trust to scrutinize everything that Rabobank IT has been working on in the past years. In partnership with the DevOps teams we’re working on the smartest ways to migrate all the existing applications one-by-one to the cloud. We’re using different services including PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), mostly from Microsoft Azure, but also AWS and GCP. PaaS cloud services are the most efficient to convert applications from classic development methods to new ones. For this transition we’re also using Serverless Functions and Containers, to name only a few.

We will migrate every single application, this is only the beginning. Of course, we make sure that new applications will work in the cloud right from the start. That’s not just for the Netherlands, but for Rabobank worldwide. Right now, we are also working for Rabobank Brazil. A local developer is working on an app for farmers. They need us to get the app into Rabobank’s part of the public cloud as quickly and securely as possible. That’s when you realize just how far the influence of our cloud-based way of working extends: right through to rural Brazil. How cool is it that you can help international colleagues and clients to grow?’

Experimenting and learning from each other

‘What makes working as a Cloud Engineer such fun and so interesting is that we’re constantly trying things out and making new discoveries. Change is our starting point. When you work in IT you can’t hold on to old methods, because technology will leave you behind. We are learning every day and we do everything we can to share and spread new knowledge, for instance through the cloud newsletter we recently launched. Collaborative working, sharing knowledge and curiosity are essential given the breadth and pace of developments in our profession.

Based on the philosophy that two heads are better than one, once every two months we organize Knowledge Sharing sessions: evening sessions where colleagues exchange experiences about new developments in cloud technology. There’s always pizza and drinks and it’s open to anyone. We ask questions and give feedback—and sometimes we reach the conclusion that a specific piece of knowledge could also be useful for a different project. It can be just the kickstart you need. I love the fact that this initiative was launched by my colleagues. That’s what Rabobank’s all about.’

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