Mar 31 2021

Does Infrastructure Automation Make Sense for Banks?

As banks grapple with expanding infrastructure size and complexity, infrastructure automation offers a way to simplify operations without sacrificing speed. But how do financial firms get started?

Banks face an unprecedented challenge as they adapt to the new normal of financial operations. For many, exceeding digital client expectations and creating robust remote work environments require the rapid expansion of both internal and external IT infrastructure. At the same time, many firms face the concurrent challenge of capital: Changing consumer habits and fluctuating investment markets have banks looking for new ways to cut recurring costs without sacrificing speed or service.

Infrastructure automation offers a new way for banks to make the most of what they have where they have it, to control both complexity and cost.

What Is Infrastructure Automation?

Infrastructure automation leverages the concept of Infrastructure as Code to deliver automated action in response to an input. Instead of using traditional, task-based scripting to streamline a single operation, infrastructure automation uses a process-based approach that removes the need for human interaction from the equation.

In practice, the deployment of automated infrastructure makes it possible for banks to link cause and effect: Specific operations will occur in response to defined inputs, allowing firms to reduce overall complexity without losing visibility.

The shift to infrastructure automation mimics architecture in the cloud, in that it’s driven by the idea of declarative infrastructure. In other words, as banks adopt infrastructure that’s driven by application programming interfaces, Infrastructure as Code can be backed up and version-controlled to provide security and traceability.

The Advantages of Infrastructure Automation for Banks

Automating infrastructure offers four key operational advantages in financial services:

1. Enhanced compliance. Despite best efforts, people are the weakest link in any financial compliance framework. Automating infrastructure functions provides excellent visibility into change history — to see who did what, when and why — which in turn enhances traceability and auditability.

2. Reduced risk. As IT infrastructure grows, so does the number of potential attack points. Infrastructure automation helps reduce banks’ attack surface and enhance overall security by limiting individual attack vectors.

3. Increased IT hygiene. Implementing Infrastructure as Code empowers easy peer review of changes and additions, allowing IT teams to verify intended outcomes before deployment and increasing overall IT hygiene.

4. Increased velocity. With fewer points of failure and the ability to self-document specific inputs, actions and reporting, infrastructure automation can help banks increase the speed of technology deployments without compromising security.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How banks can refine their cloud strategy.

The Framework for Infrastructure Automation

The tech industry’s three-legged stool of people, process and technology is well-known in our industry as a useful way to think about cybersecurity and the deployment of new solutions. With CDW’s Digital Velocity Solutions, we advise banks and other financial services organizations to keep it in mind as they’re getting started with infrastructure automation.

First, the human element: Getting off on the right foot requires a combination of assessment and education. Firms must decide what they’re trying to accomplish and which services will help them achieve this goal, then build a shared model of understanding that loops in IT staff and employees to encourage adoption at scale.

Next is evaluation of existing processes and how they will (or won’t) integrate with automated infrastructure. In some cases, such as newer security architecture or application-driven services, it makes sense to deploy Infrastructure as Code. In others, such as legacy hardware or software solutions, it may be more cost-effective to replace existing assets than to create automated connections.

Finally, financial firms must evaluate their current technology stacks. We call this the “tools rationalization” process. To go through it, ask yourself questions such as: What tools do we have, and how are we using them? What gaps exist? Can new tools replace existing tools to limit sprawl?

While not new, the people, process and technology model for launching an infrastructure automation project helps ensure a metered and measured approach that addresses specific needs, assesses potential limitations and adopts purpose-built tools to get the job done.

Here’s the bottom line: Expanding infrastructure and increasing complexity make infrastructure automation an effective option for banks to improve visibility, reduce risk and navigate the new normal.

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