But what if you’re the sort of business that can’t afford to take risks? The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) was one such business before it began its Cloud journey. Its ambition was to be nimble and responsive to the needs of its many customers, but it had to overcome cultural and technological obstacles to make that happen.
Founded thirty years ago as the Australian Stock Exchange, the ASX took its current name and structure when it merged with the Sydney Futures Exchange in 2006. Now it is one of the top 10 listed exchange groups in the world, with equity market turnover of almost $A5 billion per day and market capitalisation around $A1.8 trillion — greater than the GDP of Australia.
If ever there was an organisation with reason to be risk-averse, it’s the ASX. So when the ASX investigated moving some of its processes to the Cloud in order to be more agile and responsive to the needs of its customers, it did so carefully.
Katherine Squire is the General Manager of Application Development and DevOps at ASX, and has been leading her team through the technological and cultural shifts involved in the adoption of Cloud.
“It’s about people, and it’s a little bit about automation, but it’s mainly about people and how they collaborate together,” says Squire.
She saw the importance of Cloud for the ASX because “our customers expect more. We need to set ourselves up, organise our teams and our ecosystem so that we can deliver faster, better.”
An organisation the age and size of ASX faced certain barriers to its Cloud journey. “We’re not a startup. We have some technologies that have been around for a fair while,” says Squire.
“The move to Cloud was a significant undertaking not because the workload was huge, but it was more about taking all of our stakeholders on that journey, and making them feel comfortable with what we were doing. We were careful to engage with other parts of the organisation including Regulatory Assurance, Security, and Compliance.”
“Journeys to the Cloud aren’t just about technology – they’re about the whole organisation and how it can change”.
“I believe the way you can affect the culture of an organisation is to have your awesome goals and big visions. But what you need to do is give your team achievable, believable goals. Then they can be a complete game-changer within an organisation.”
David O’Keeffe is the Manager of Application Design at ASX, whose motto is “simple done well.” He shares Squire’s belief in breaking down complex problems into simple solutions.
“Within the ASX, our systems are complex and closely interrelated. Building a complex delivery solution for that doesn’t add anything, so we need to break it down. By finding simpler solutions to these complex problems, there’s more chance of success,”says O’Keefe.
While many organisations see Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) as vital for development and testing and adopting a fail-fast agile tactic, Squire’s approach was to take one entire production workflow through the journey to Cloud implementation first, to show the organisation that anything is possible.
“I wanted to make sure we ticked all of the security, compliance and regulatory assurance boxes, and, now that we’ve done that, dev and test is a lot easier.”
The application chosen for that first run into the Cloud is called Margin Optimiser.
“Margin Optimiser was the perfect example of what we should put in the Cloud. It’s a highly computationally intensive program. It only ran once a day but we had two very “grunty” machines sitting on premise for a once-a-day run,” says Squire.
The chosen solution was AWS Lambda, an event-driven serverless computing service. Raj Prasad, Development Services Manager at ASX who works with Squire, says that AWS Lambda was perfect for the task. AWS Lambda allowed the development team to release first and fill in the features as required. Having multiple environment instances in which to do that meant it was both safe and easy to deliver.
“We reduced our costs, because we literally run the Margin Optimiser for 14 minutes a day and we no longer need high-grade machines on premise.”
Now that the Margin Optimiser deployment has been completed successfully, Squire says, ASX is looking at other ways Cloud can be used effectively.
“We want to be more nimble, we want to deliver faster, and we want to eliminate the waste and delays that can occur in software delivery.”
At the beginning of the Cloud journey, says Squire, “the biggest insight for me was how often people say no to things because it’s different, it’s new, or they don’t understand. It’s just fear of change.”
Now that ASX has deployed AWS services and is using the platform to build and deploy testing systems, O’Keeffe says more people are coming on board.
“Once they see it in action they’ll say why didn’t we do this five years ago? It’s really compelling.”
“AWS is helping us achieve our business outcomes through collaboration, creative services, and rich APIs and technologies. It has been a great experience for us and one that will continue,” says Squire.