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HSBC: Why machine learning is accelerating cloud adoption

Matthew Finnegan | May 10, 2017
Machine learning, along with cloud-first strategy, helps bank understand huge amounts of data.

"So if I look in Google at Fei-Fei Li, who runs the machine learning product line, there aren't many of her in the world. But fortunately we don't need her in our organisation, because Google are making the product of her research available to us through the cloud."



The partnership with Google is just one part of HSBC's extensive cloud strategy - itself something of a rarity among the large multinational banks. HSBC is also using Azure to move some of its Microsoft applications to the cloud, and is using AWS for dev and test environments. It is also using software as a service tools such as Oracle Fusion financial apps.

On premise it has a mix of legacy systems running along more modern, virtualised applications. It is also using Pivotal's Cloud Foundry platform as a service tools to further automate delivery of its infrastructure to developers.

"Like any large technology organisation, we have managed a very large and diverse portfolio of suppliers for decades - that is bread and butter of being an enterprise technology business. So in some ways managing multiple providers who do similar things is not new to us, we have managed those kinds of relationships for a long time."

Nevertheless, managing multiple cloud vendors presents some challenges.

"There are some specific nuances that the cloud brings," he says. "One of those is one that the cloud industry hasn't quite figured out how to address yet, which is service management across multiple clouds and across our own services as well.

"It is going to be increasingly a fact of life where certain business services will depend on services that come partly from us, partly from our cloud provider, potentially from multiple cloud providers.

When something goes wrong, you need to make sure that everybody is going to show up and play their part in fixing it quickly. So through our cloud journey, one of the reasons why we have been a bit deliberate about some of adoption is that we have wanted to make sure that we really understand what happens when something breaks at three o'clock in the morning - because it is always at three o'clock in the morning.

"Beyond that I don't think we have seen huge challenges in adopting the multicloud world. I am sure that as it matures we will find other stuff, but the one top of mind at the moment is how do we do service management across multiple clouds."


Future plans

HSBC is now considering which application workloads can move to the cloud too, but Knott says the big data and analytics plans currently is a "pretty bold move" in itself, and one "that is going to keep us busy for a while".


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