The CIO of a regulatory agency that reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission — one of the biggest cloud consumers in the world — has made it his mission to help other CIOs — and Amazon Web Services itself — improve cloud computing.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an operational and IT service arm that works for the SEC, is not only a cloud customer but also a technical partner to Amazon whose expertise has enabled the advancement of the cloud infrastructure at AWS.

“Given our data volumes, I would argue that we’re probably the biggest data user in Amazon [Web Services] in terms of simultaneous processing,” says Steve Randich, FINRA’s CIO.

“We spent about a year and a half going through several bottlenecks, taking them out one at a time with Amazon engineers. And now we’re in a good place,” he says. “But for two years, we were testing limits within the public cloud.”

Randich, who came to in 2013 after stints as co-CIO of Citigroup and former CIO of Nasdaq, is no stranger to the public cloud. And, in his experience, the public cloud is “not quite” as infinitely horizontally scalable as many think — though only a handful of enterprises come even close to reaching the barrier, he says.

Still, while not every CIO will be testing the outer limits of the cloud, Randich’s experience with the public cloud — as well as his work in partnering with AWS — underscores a number of trends that industry analysts and executives, as well as IT leaders, see playing out of late around enterprise cloud use.

Deploying new data types for machine learning

Mai-Lan Tomsen-Bukovec, vice president of foundational data services at AWS, sees the cloud giant’s enterprise customers deploying more unstructured data, as well as wider varieties of data sets, to inform the accuracy and training of ML models of late.

While managing unstructured data remains a challenge for 36% of organizations, according to the 2022 Foundry Data and Analytics Research survey, many IT leaders are actively seeking ways of harnessing all types of data stored in data lakes. Gartner maintains, for example, that roughly 80% to 90% of an organization’s data is largely semi-structured or unstructured and is rarely used in AI cloud applications.

As for FINRA, tapping deeply into its data lakes for unused data has been a game changer, says Randich, who is particularly enthusiastic about the work Amazon has done to evolve its cloud platform to support unstructured data, including new varieties of data sets, such as imagery and audio data.

FINRA can now incorporate massive amounts of unused, business-critical data stored in documents into AWS Machine Learning models, Randich says, adding that his organization uses the AWS Comprehend natural language processing platform extensively for entity extraction from unstructured data.

“We use it to digitally review large volumes of documents and extract/highlight items of interest, such as names,” Randich says, noting that this improvement alone will enable his organization and others to apply analytics and ML to much more data than in the past. 

“Our ingestion of data, both structured and unstructured, because of sheer volume, now requires advanced technology like these to process, analyze, and surveil for non-compliance, or worse, actual fraudulence,” he says.

Cutting costs without stifling innovation

Still, increasing cloud costs has become a top issue for CIOs, especially as they ramp up digital transformations.

To that end, AWS has been increasing efforts to educate large enterprise customers on how to adopt intelligent tiering storage options to reduce costs of hosting dormant data — while paying premium for the data in most active use in applications running on AWS.

Randich says FINRA spends $200 million per year with AWS, a number that causes some consternation in the C-suite. Yet, he says that cost is in line with the agency’s original growth projections when it first adopted AWS.

“I’ve done that analysis and the infrastructure cost savings, specifically around hardware and private data center infrastructure is 40% cheaper in AWS than it would be in a private data center based on our calculations. And that’s exactly the number that we projected when we started the journey back in 2013,” Randich says, adding that AWS does a good job automating suggestions for migrating data to lower-tier storage options — or removing it altogether.

Randich is also continuously monitoring ways to engineer the most productive outcomes using the elasticity of the cloud, Amazon S3 Intelligent Tiering, and shaving on volume licensing costs. For example, FINRA saved 35% migrating large volumes of data from Amazon S3 Standard to lower-cost storage options.

“One of the things that we’ve been doing in the last few years is looking at our SLAs. And algorithmically matching the SLA requirements with spot pricing so that we could schedule our workloads [and exploiting them] when the Amazon unit costs are cheapest,” Randich adds.

Cloud industry friction on ‘multicloud’

As one who has hacked away at the code for vulnerabilities, Randich is impressed with how cloud providers, in concert with governments globally, have secured the cloud from external and internal attack, and he urges them to stay ahead of the curve to prevent blackouts, or worse, someone from inside getting access to the controls.  

But FINRA’s CIO remains skeptical about so-called multicloud infrastructure. The SEC, like many other organizations, is technically multicloud in that it uses AWS for some applications and Microsoft Azure for applications such as Office 365, for example. But this is a superficial definition of multicloud, Randich says. For him, a true multicloud infrastructure allows a single enterprise application to run across multiple hypervisors seamlessly — which is not possible today. And he blames cloud vendor infighting for that.

“There’s a whole cottage industry exploiting [unsuccessful] efforts to urge commercial cloud providers to move towards multicloud. I think I’ve been saying we’re five to 10 years away from that,” Randich says. “So we’re no closer.”

“All vendors are competing vigorously for enterprise customers migrating away from data centers, but sometimes they go too far in their competitive tactics,” he says, pointing to what he alleges Microsoft has done in preventing FINRA from running SharePoint and Office 365 on Citrix on the AWS cloud. Microsoft has not responded to that as of press time.

“They’ve suspended that, really forcing us into Azure for those services,” Randich says, hoping all cloud vendors would be more flexible in allowing interoperability. “The vendors are working further apart, it seems, as they were as recently as a year ago.”

Cloud culture wanted

Of course, cloud providers and their tools can only have so much impact on transformation outcomes. Successful cloud strategies require strong leadership and an organizational culture committed to the cloud, as even cloud execs admit.

“What many customers are realizing is that the cultural transformation in a digital journey is incredibly important and the culture and the skills of your team can slow down or speed up your adoption of cloud,” says Tomsen-Bukovec, the highest-ranking female executive at AWS. “Right now, we see a lot more business leaders taking a very intentional approach to leading through cultural change.”

Randich agrees that too many organizations have failed in the cloud due to a lack of understanding about the investment in time, training, and leadership involved in a doing it right.

“We actually advise other organizations on how to do this,” says Randich, who gave the keynote at AWS re:Invent more than six years ago. “We get out there very publicly about our cloud journey to attract talent. But as other people see us out there, a kind of financial regulator who moved to the cloud years ago, it attracts a lot of attention because a lot of companies are struggling with it.”

And through that work, Randich, who loves to talk about the cloud and mentor other CIOs on building cloud infrastructure in the best way possible, is having an impact, having advised as many as 200 companies on how to migrate to the cloud successfully, he says.

Cloud Computing, Government IT

GITEX GLOBAL is the largest event for global enterprise and government technology, with public digital transformation top of the agenda. Though different countries had slightly different priorities, they were all rebuilding from the pandemic through initiatives in three areas:

Digital public utilities, which include e-services for essentials such as gas, water, and communication systemsDigital economy initiatives, such as lowering the barriers to entry for businesses to transform and expandDigital society, focusing on simplifying citizen-government interactions  

The blueprint for national digital transformation

Huawei’s Global Chief Public Services Industry Scientist, Hong-Eng Koh, detailed Huawei’s long involvement in digital transformation.

“Over the past decade, Huawei has been involved in over 700 cities and 100 countries in terms of public services and transformation. And we’ve noticed certain similarities required for public service digital transformation to be successful,” says Koh.

Government agencies tasked with digital transformation projects should keep some key considerations in mind to ensure success. Koh further outlined seven questions transformation leaders should ask themselves:

Do you have a vision and a champion that can drive the transformation?Have you identified the department, governor, and process to implement the transformation? If none are suitable, can you create a department dedicated to it?Do you know which laws and regulations are impacted by the transformation?Have you planned for an operating model that is sustainable from a budget standpoint?Do you have the right skillsets/talent in place to execute the transformation?Do you have a digital and data strategy in place?Do you have the right technology ecosystem to support transformation?

Developing the technology ecosystem

Huawei’s experience in public digital transformation projects has given it a leading position in the technology ecosystem that supports them. “Data is a new crude oil. By itself, it has no value. At Huawei, we have the end-to-end technologies to process the data and extract value from it,” Koh explains.

It’s important to select a full-stack tech vendor that can support all the foundational elements of transformed business processes. This includes data awareness technologies, such as Wi-Fi 6, LTE, and IoT platforms that provide the mesh of communication technologies across wide areas to efficiently be aware of data from sensors across the community.

Transmitting data to edge processing points and central data centres also needs to be both high-performing and cost-efficient. Huawei supports more than 50% of global national backbones and last-mile connectivity.

In the zettabyte era where data growth is unprecedented, Huawei builds data centres and other essential computing infrastructure—in particular, storage—to provide a robust infrastructure that efficiently supports the data.

However, as Koh pointed out, data will only deliver value when processed and refined. On that end, Huawei offers the software (such as database-as-a-service, security-as-a-service, and computing-as-a-service) the platform (cloud with AI), and the advanced services such as AI and ML frameworks to support and speed up the data processing process, and reduce time-to-value.

The digital transformation imperative

 The recent pandemic has served as a catalyst to advance the business case for digitisation of governments globally. And with citizens having experienced how digital has enabled a semblance of normalcy during lockdowns and border closures, they will only continue demanding for more efficient and digital government delivery that can ultimately enhance their way of life.

As a result, leading governments that have embraced this opportunity are reaping the benefits of improved productivity, shorter lead times to action community requests, reduced rates of error, and improved workforce and community satisfaction.

Find out more at HUAWEI CONNECT 2022

Accelerate your government’s digital transformation agenda by attending HUAWEI CONNECT 2022 in Bangkok, Dubai, Paris, or Shenzhen.

Learn how enterprise, ecosystem partners, application providers, and developers can work best together to lead best practice industry development and build an open, sound ecosystem.

Join us there to Unleash Digital. For more information, visit

Digital Transformation

As a result of the widespread shift to hybrid working and learning brought about by the pandemic, the cloud continues to play a critical role for public sector organisations – particularly those in the education sector.

Enlightened by the accelerated digital transition over the past two years, students, researchers and staff are now demanding cloud-hosted resources and online lessons, and are vying for access to modern tools and services.

The benefits are clear for IT leaders, too. Not only is cloud technology a key enabler in the sought-after modernisation process, but it also enables organisations to innovate quickly, enjoy greater resilience, and continue to be agile in order to meet students’ ever-changing needs.

Although the potential gains are clear to see, public sector organisations looking to migrate to the cloud often face a wide range of challenges, from privacy and security concerns to a lack of in-house IT staff.

One of the greatest challenges, however, is a difficulty fitting into cloud industry-standard processes. This means cost and affordability are often cited as the main reason for hesitancy around moving away from on-premise systems.

For example, while it may be typical for a commercial organisation to sign up to a multi-million-pound cloud contract in return for a discount, such activities can prove difficult for UK public sector organisations. Even making the most out of smaller commitments in return for a discount, such as Reserved Instances or Saving Plans, can be a nightmare for public sector procurement teams.

This is why, in order to make a successful transition to cloud, organisations require the help of a financially focused cloud reseller like Strategic Blue to ensure they can better manage, control, reduce and optimise their cloud costs.

Strategic Blue, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting Partner with a specialist education competency, helps organisations to buy cloud a brighter way. Using the appropriate purchasing framework agreement and pricing models, organisations can procure cloud services in a compliant way. Strategic Blue can also put in place additional discount options from cloud providers to help reduce costs.

For example, it helps the University of California, San Diego, to save on average 17% per month, while increasing their breadth of service adoption by 14%. Similarly, it helps the University of York make significant monthly cloud savings, reduce internal time spent managing cloud costs and cut the complexity of their cloud billing.

Not only does Strategic Blue’s commodity trading approach to purchasing cloud reduce both cost and uncertainty, it also helps organisations reduce their carbon footprint and edge closer to meeting their net zero goals – by enabling cost effective and efficient use of cloud.

Ultimately, it’s clear that a transition to the cloud is a smart choice for education providers – and Strategic Blue can help ensure you’re making the most of that investment. To find out how Strategic Blue can help your business click here.

Hybrid Cloud

Educational institutions are continuing to accelerate their use of technologies such as e-learning, VR and AI-driven chatbots in order to facilitate remote and hybrid learning. Many expect the use of these digital technologies to become a permanent change, having recognised the flexibility and productivity benefits it can bring.

In a recent survey with leading institution across Germany, Ireland, Netherland and Sweden- close to half (46%) of campus IT and faculty say that greater use of social media for study support groups will become a permanent teaching method. While 19% believe a greater use of collaboration technologies for lectures will become an enduring teaching method. This survey also demonstrated that IT upgrades have affected the way people feel about technology, having learnt new skills and improved their work-life balance. 

The continued demand for distance learning means schools and universities are under increasing pressure to conduct lectures via digital platforms. However, at the same time institutions are having to meet complex security and compliance requirements and are often locked into the high capital expenditures that come with ageing data centres, long-term contracts and legacy applications.

What’s more, organisations in the public sector are often met with resistance from senior leaders when it comes to embracing new technologies, such as the cloud. This problem is often fuelled by a lack of awareness surrounding the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to adopt the cloud technology, along with fears over how much the migration journey could cost.

The Open Clouds for Research Environments (OCRE) framework enables schools, universities and research institutions to use cloud services more easily and helps them to recognise the full benefits of migrating from expensive legacy technologies.

It can save institutions from time-consuming and complex processes and gives them access to cloud services at a discounted rate, helping institutions that need funding assistance in order to migrate. By using the OCRE service agreements, the universities and the research community can access unique OCRE discounts to Amazon Web Services (AWS) that would otherwise not be available.

OCRE also takes the complexity out of compliance, offering ready-to-use contracts that have been designed to satisfy national and European public sector procurement regulations and GDPR requirements. Institutions can also be confident they’re meeting the education and research community’s specific requirements, including procurement and payment models that match the sector’s financial structures and funding prerequisites.

Rackspace has been exclusively chosen by GÉANT – the pan-European data network for the research and education community – to provide AWS services to institutions through the OCRE framework. This means that organisations concerned about the skills gap when it comes to IT expertise in the cloud can make use of free training on AWS. Rackspace, which has 15 AWS competencies, and 2700+ certifications, can also has considerable experience helping customers implement AWS solutions.

Ultimately, the OCRE framework empowers research institutions and universities to move their IT environments to the cloud, and to recognise the full benefits of doing so. Institutions can expect an increase in productivity, an improved work life balance, and can make it easier for students to work at their own pace.

If you want to learn more about Rackspace click here.

Education Industry

The successful journey to cloud adoption for Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) enterprises cannot be completed without addressing the complexities of core business systems. Many businesses have been able to migrate corporate support systems – such as ERP and CRM, as well as IT security and infrastructure systems to the public cloud. However, security concerns, legacy architecture, country-specific regulations, latency requirements, and transition challenges continue to keep the core system from cloud adoption.

BFSI enterprises will be unable to realize the full cloud potential until their core business systems use cloud platforms and services. Firms are looking for solutions that will allow them to continue operating out of their data centers while also providing access to the cloud-shared infrastructure made available to them in their own data centers.

To address these challenges, leading cloud service providers have launched hybrid integrated solution offerings that allow enterprises to access cloud services from their respective data centers via shared infrastructure provided by cloud providers. These allow enterprises to deploy their applications on either the cloud shared infrastructure or on their own data centers without having to rewrite the code.

Enterprises have two options: run applications directly on the cloud or run computing and storage on-premises using the same APIs. To provide a consistent experience across on-premises and cloud environments, the on-premises cloud solution is linked to the nearest cloud service provider region. Cloud infrastructure, services, and updates, like public cloud services, are managed by cloud service providers.

AWS Outposts is a leading hybrid integrated solution that provides enterprises with seamless public cloud services at their data centers. Outpost is a managed AWS service that includes computing and storage. Outpost provides enterprises with an option to be closer to the data center, as many BFSI core systems require significantly low latency, as well as an ecosystem of business applications residing on on-premise data centers.

AWS Outposts will deliver value to BFSI enterprises

Several BFSI enterprises use appliance-based databases for high performance and high availability computing. In the short and medium term, it is unlikely that these enterprises will migrate their appliance-based databases to the cloud; however, AWS provides an option to run these systems on Outposts while keeping databases on the appliances. Outpost also assists in the migration of databases from proprietary and expansive operating systems and hardware to more cost-effective and economical hardware options.

Other use cases, such as commercial off-the-shelf BFSI products that require high-end servers, can be easily moved to AWS Outposts, lowering the total cost of ownership. As a strategy, legacy monolithic core applications that require reengineering can be easily moved to AWS Outposts first and then modernized incrementally onto the public cloud.

A unified hybrid cloud system is the way forward for BFSI enterprises

AWS Outposts offer BFSI enterprises a solution that combines public and private infrastructure, consistent service APIs, and centralized management interfaces. The AWS Outpost service will be able to assist BFSI enterprises in dealing with the many expansive appliance-based core systems that run on proprietary vendor-provided operating systems and hardware that are very expensive.

AWS Outposts will allow BFSI enterprises to gradually migrate to the public cloud while maintaining core application dependencies. AWS Outpost enables a true hybrid cloud for BFSI enterprises.

Author Bio


Ph: +91 9841412619


Asim Kar has 25+ years of overall IT experience spanning executing large-scale transformation programs and running technology organizations in BFSI in migration and reengineering space. He is currently heading the cloud technology focus group in BFSI. He leads complex transformation projects in traditional technologies in telecom, insurance, banks, and financial services programs.

To learn more, visit us here.

Hybrid Cloud