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Move to public cloud displays CIO’s clout

Brian P. Watson | April 18, 2017
Veteran IT leader Steve Randich arrived at FINRA and found a burning platform — leading him to move the regulator’s 'crown jewels' to AWS.

By the end of 2013, he finalized his business case for moving the surveillance platforms to AWS, and the board approved in February 2014. He had his marching orders, and budget, to move those platforms and the vast majority of data to AWS. And he less than two and a half years to do it. 


Keeping It Sold

Less than six months after hitting the July 2016 deadline, Randich delivered his victory speech at AWS’s annual conference. In our recent interview, he outlined a few of the notable results.

On the infrastructure side, FINRA has seen a 40 percent reduction in costs versus running a traditional private data center, including costs for the plant, data center, servers and some labor associated with running all of those. In the past, FINRA would peak at 3,000 logical nodes in the data center. Today, it peaks at three to five times that amount, just to get through momentary processing spikes.

The staggering 400-times performance improvement means improved capacity for FINRA employees running and reacting to surveillance activities.

For information security, patching is now done instantly, and testing them for kinks happens automatically. As for disaster recovery, FINRA no longer needs a dedicated backup site. It replicates data within a different region of AWS. If it were to lose the primary region, FINRA would simply rent more capacity to bring back the data.

And the automation improvements have allowed Randich to eliminate or reduce the number of employees doing testing, builds and deployments. Instead, he has invested those savings and resources to help the organization develop new value-added software development capabilities. Overall, FINRA is looking to move its ratio of software developers to infrastructure staff — which historically has been 50:50 or 60:40 — to 80:20, and is nearly there.

Still, there are some naysayers, Randich says, including some from FINRA’s board of directors. “There’s the never-ending desire for the cyber question, because the public cloud is inherently viewed as being less secure, which is completely wrong at this point,” Randich says. “A year and a half ago, not so much.”

Demonstrating the results is part of the answer. The other comes with education, Randich says. Shortly after our interview, he was planning to bring a handful of board members to Amazon’s headquarters to sit face-to-face with the AWS team, learn more about the offering, and make sure they had a committed partner.

“They empowered me to do it, and they trusted me, but they have by no means been a slam dunk,” Randich says. “At every board meeting, the cloud subject comes up one way or another. So I have to keep it sold.” 


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