Execs at Financial Firms Offer Their Take on Containers

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2015-12-03 Print this article Print
container use in financial services

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch tech executives talk about how they're using containers and why cost savings is not the primary driver.

NEW YORK—Few, if any, industry verticals consume and spend as much on technology as the financial services community. At a panel session during the Tectonic Summit here, executives from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch discussed the opportunities they see with container usage.

For Goldman Sachs, which has been evaluating cloud technology for the past six years, the goal with the cloud is to get its 8,000 application developers to be more productive, said J Ram, global head of cloud platforms at Goldman Sachs. "For us in the six year journey, we now have approximately 85 percent of our computing assets in a cloud framework," Ram said, adding that he's excited about containers, which help push forward cloud adoption in an industry-standard way. 

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has grown from acquisitions and mergers, which have brought about diverse technology and operational challenges. For Bank of America, cloud and container use are part of a larger plan to simplify and improve the operational control and compliance needs of the company, said Ryan Thomas, head of architecture and technology strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

While cloud use for both financial services firms is helpful in reducing costs, container use is not being driven by cost factors. "It's not about cost reduction; it's about reinvesting the people and talent that we have," Thomas said about Bank of America's container strategy.

Container use at Goldman Sachs is not being driven by cost saving, Ram said, adding that he does expect to realize some savings over time.

"We expect that by standardizing on an operating structure, we can change the ratios of how many people we deploy for operations and how many we deploy for creating new opportunities," he said.

The operating efficiencies from container use are driving adoption among developers across all verticals, including financial services. Developers just want to build applications; they don't want to have to wait for test cycles and procurement people to provision systems and resources.

By embracing the container model, Bank of America is reducing the lag in its development processes, Thomas said.

Getting just an incremental improvement in productivity can have a material impact on a large company's ability to innovate.

"We have 8,000 developers and 4,500 applications at Goldman Sachs, so a 5 percent change in productivity is a huge impact," Ram said.

At Bank of America, containers are used in the development and test environment, but not currently in production. Bank of America hasn't entirely vetted an entire container stack for the various regulations with which the organization needs to comply, Thomas said. Containers will, however, continue to be a growing piece of the overall IT architecture at Bank of America, with more use expected in the next year.

Goldman Sachs, however, is now running containers in production for what Ram referred to as a small number of applications. The initial use-cases have been focused on making sure Goldman Sachs developers can get the right workflow to improve efficiency, he said.

"We started off very simple by going after applications that benefit from standardized operations," Ram said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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