NAB builds cloud-based data lake on AWS

Bank leverages cloud for analytics boost

NAB has begun what the bank’s chief technology and operations officer, Patrick Wright, describes as its first foray into using cloud services to host and crunch data.

Around a month ago the bank launched NAB Discovery Cloud: A service for its data analysts and data scientists intended to replace aging data warehouses.

“It’s brand new and it’s the beginnings of what will be our data lake,” the NAB executive told Computerworld.

The service is built on top of Amazon Web Services infrastructure managed through HashiCorp’s Terraform. It uses AWS’s S3 storage service, Amazon Elastic MapReduce and the cloud provider’s data-warehouse-as-a-service offering, Redshift. Data can be interrogated through Apache Zeppelin, Jupyter and R Studio.

Wright was one of today’s keynote speakers at the Amazon Web Services Summit in Sydney.

Historically the bank’s data warehouses were “large pieces of kit in a data centre,” the NAB executive told Computerworld.

“What we want to get to, and the reason why we launched this, was a highly elastic data lake that allows us to use it for almost anything -  whatever we want,” Wright said.

“It will be the foundational element that will feed our machine learning ecosystem, it will be the foundational element that will feed our analytics ecosystem, it will be the foundational element that feeds our marketing ecosystem.

“The reality is, data is king and this is the beginnings of a journey for us that will be many years in the making - to move from a traditional, old school, five-years-ago sort of design, into a modern design that allows us to be far more flexible and scale more rapidly.”

Core banking system

Wright said that he foresees a time where it will be possible to shift a core banking system to the cloud, but a key consideration would be whether it is worth it.

“If you’ve got a core banking system and it works and you can wrap microservices around it do you really need to move it to the cloud?” Wright said.

“What I’d far rather do is spend my time and money innovating at the customer level than retooling a legacy system that’s calculating interest perfectly. So I think the question we’ll really get to is not about whether you could do it, it’s about should you do it.

“I think there may be some instances where it makes a lot of sense to do [but] there’s probably some where I’d just let it be for a while – and a while might be a long while.”

NAB this morning announced a new employee training program focused on cloud skills. NAB Cloud Guild will be run in collaboration with AWS and offered to more than 2000 of the bank’s employees.

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