Having historically operated in data center environments, Cowen recognized the importance of migrating to the cloud. We knew we needed an experienced partner to help train our staff and develop a plan for the migration.
After thoughtful review and consideration, we engaged with Cloud Technology Partners (CTP) to help us through the process. A year after we started the migration, we have just successfully completed our initial project, on time and on budget. In fact, we are now looking forward to future cloud projects.
Here is how we made it happen.
Although Cowen was new to cloud, I had cloud experience at my prior firm where my team moved a data warehouse into the public cloud. This move ultimately saved the firm money, while increasing agility and elasticity. Cowen’s leadership fully embraced the public cloud, having had successes with the cloud in the past. These factors were key to the project’s launch.
Timing was also important. Many servers in the firm’s two New York area data centers were nearing the end of their useful lives, and the data centers themselves were facing contract renewals. The firm was also evolving its business model to more SaaS vendors, leaving empty space in its data centers.
Although many internal factors were in alignment, we knew we still needed an outside company that could make a full assessment and offer the know-how needed to perform a cloud migration on this scale. We reached out to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for guidance and AWS put us in touch with CTP.
From the beginning, the team was impressed with CTP’s expertise and the strength of its offerings. It was also apparent that CTP’s CMO, Jonathan Bumba, understood our immediate needs and recognized what we wanted to accomplish and knew how to get us there.
Creating a Plan for Success
Working with CTP, we forged a series of initiatives to drive us toward our goals. We established a minimum viable cloud (MVC), developed an agile process, created and trained a cloud-focused team and executed migrations in small blocks.
Building the MVC gave Cowen a framework to start migrating workloads to AWS. CTP worked with us to identify migration tools and set up a process for doing the migrations. Over the past year, Cowen has migrated approximately 40 applications to the AWS environment, accounting for about 100 TB of data.
Cowen’s IT team migrated workloads in short sprints. Early on, we had no trouble meeting our targets of three weeks per app, until we were faced with issues with app dependencies and firewalls. Still, the timing of the overall project did not suffer. We were able to hit our targets of retiring one data center in late 2017 and a second, along with three co-located facilities, in early 2018.
While the planning and the physical work were important, CTP’s biggest contribution to the project included training a team of system administrators, database administrators and network engineers in the finer points of agile development. That training was critical in ensuring we met our deadlines.
Enjoying the Benefits of AWS
As Cowen turns on cloud apps one by one, the benefits are becoming clear.
- Cost Savings: Using AWS, Cowen has been able to significantly reduce its tech budget. We continue to reduce our costs by shutting off underused applications, and dialing up services when we need them. We expect further savings as we continue to re-architect our systems.
- Agility: It is now much easier for IT to react to new environments or requests. When a business comes to us and says we have a new product we would like to test and deploy, we now have the capacity to turn it on right away.
- Elasticity: Earlier this year, the volatile stock market pushed daily trading volumes to limits we haven’t seen in several years. Having access to the cloud lets us add capacity for an overnight batch, and then remove it after that batch has completed, saving money and minimizing any issues.
We recognized early on that migrating workloads is never as smooth as you would expect. What we found was that certain applications, based on their legacy nature, could not be pushed through the migration factory. We had to make some hard decisions about lifting and shifting certain apps rather than pushing them through the migration factory.
Then there is the compliance issue. As you move to AWS, the high levels of speed and agility generated creates a whole new set of changes for the business regarding data tracking, data governance and application transparency. It’s critical to ensure these environments, which are spinning up quite rapidly, remain compliant. CTP’s Continuous Compliance framework gave us the visibility we needed to assure customers and regulators that the changes were all accounted for in the proper way.
What comes next?
As for the future, Cowen is gearing up for another cloud migration project starting in spring 2018. Through acquisitions, Cowen has several more data centers to exit. Initial assessments again indicate approximately a one-year time frame to complete the project. We are confident, based on the experience of the last year, that this new project will be seamless and equally successful.
Cowen Inc. is a diversified financial services company and provides alternative asset management, investment banking, research, sales and trading, prime brokerage, global clearing and commission management through its two business segments: Cowen Investment Management and Cowen and Company. Cowen Investment Management provides alternative asset management solutions to a global client base and Cowen and Company offers industry focused investment banking for growth-oriented companies, industry-leading research, a sales and trading platform for institutional investors and prime brokerage services. Founded in 1918, Cowen is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is headquartered in New York with offices worldwide. For additional information, visit www.cowen.com.