In an industry where a fraction of a second can mean the gain or loss of millions of dollars, the latest management information systems can make or break a company. Perhaps no segment of IT is more vital to a financial institution's success than its datacenter and the accompanying network. As cloud computing becomes more popular and increasingly compliant with the financial sector's strict regulations, legacy datacenter operators find themselves struggling to guarantee service availability, substantially expand network operations, simplify IT management, and ensure security.
To meet the stringent regulations imposed on financial institutions, including PCI DSS and SSAE 16, while maintaining efficiency and adhering to a strict budget, operators should focus on these five imperatives:
1. Maintain uptime
It may sound obvious, but application downtime, such as from a large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, often leads to catastrophic loss of productivity and the inability to perform required tasks, which can dramatically affect a company's bottom line. The Ponemon Institute reported in 2013 that datacenter outages cost nearly $8,000 per minute -- a 40% increase over the previous three years -- and are even more crippling to a financial institution relying on connectivity for high-frequency trading.
2. Scale infrastructure
The vast majority of employees use multiple access points to tap into the company infrastructure, and financial clients require instant access to their data from anywhere at any time. With the rapid adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices, organizations now need far more capacity within the enterprise datacenter. In addition to these stresses, Web 2.0 "push" technologies, with their "always on" and continuous polling, exacerbate traffic demands.
3. Consolidate equipment
The need to reduce enterprise costs is consistently listed as a top concern in the annual Gartner CIO survey, and financial institutions are always looking to reduce their operational budgets. Fortunately, newer technologies like server and storage virtualization and high-capacity application delivery controllers can help drive down datacenter costs by reducing the amount of physical equipment, cutting power consumption, and minimizing required real estate.
4. Maximize datacenter staff efficiency through automation
No one feels IT budget pressure more keenly than datacenter administrators, who find themselves overburdened with growing tasks, technologies, and manual processes. Financial institutions must be able to perform massive numbers of transactions quickly and accurately, posing added difficulties for datacenter staff due to the learning curve required whenever there is a large number of infrequently performed manual tasks. These manual processes not only consume valuable IT resources with repetitive, low-value tasks, but they also can lead to costly errors that consume even more IT time and cost financial clients millions. Orchestration and automation of datacenter tasks is key to meeting escalating business requirements, decreasing time-to-deployment expectations, and improving the accuracy of policy creation and enforcement.
5. Ensure application security
Perhaps the most important aspect of a financial institution's modern datacenter is maintaining compliance to all the relevant regulations, such as PCI DSS and SSAE 16, which effectively require organizations to deploy web application firewall solutions to protect servers and prevent leakage of confidential information. Moreover, with the increasing attention to data security resulting from breaches at Target and Home Depot, there is heightened concern around, not just avoiding the revenue/profit losses that can result from a data breach, but also protecting overall brand value. These threats are compounded when a company's internal applications are exposed to third parties like customers and other investors, because doing so creates additional attack surfaces to be exploited.
In conclusion, financial institutions rely heavily on their traditional datacenter and network infrastructures but must be keenly aware of the limitations and threats to this technology. The bottom line is that the best way for datacenters to maintain relevance in modern enterprises is to address the five business imperatives above, so organizations can continue to function at maximum efficiency. Datacenter operators can address some of these issues themselves, but given how far the datacenter staff is already stretched, it would be prudent to investigate solutions that can provide the availability, optimization, and security needed to solve these pressing problems.A10 Networks' vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Jason Matlof, is a marketing executive with over 17 years of experience in the technology, data networking and security industry. Before joining A10 Networks, Jason was vice president of Marketing at Big Switch Networks ... View Full Bio