Can Deutsche Bank’s PaaS help turn the bank around?

Engineers at Deutsche are so proud of their homegrown container platform, they hope to sell it to other banks

Back in 2015 – following an executive bloodbath and shortly before it would be deemed the world’s most dangerous bank by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)  – a small team of engineers in Deutsche Bank’s London office were tasked by their new management with transforming the bank into operating “everything-as-a-service.”

Now, three years on, those engineers have built Fabric, an internal platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that is already being used by thousands of Deutsche Bank employees to run thousands of applications, all with the aim of running 80 percent of workloads on Fabric by 2022. Built on top of Red Hat’s OpenShift PaaS, Fabric incorporates a slew of features specific to the highly regulated banking industry to accelerate application development and deployment.

It’s a rapid success story for a highly leveraged and highly regulated international bank – which is in the midst of a turnaround effort and that registered a loss of €5.7 billion ($7.4 billion) last year – and one that even has management considering whether Fabric is good enough to sell to rival banks to eventually turn its technology investments into a revenue stream.

A key problem Fabric helped solve was one that confronted the bank’s new leadership when it arrived in 2015: a sizeable virtual machine (VM) estate that was only being utilised at a rate of around eight percent.

“The CIOs got together and realised they had a problem to fix because this is just money that’s bleeding out to the organisation,” platform-as-a-service product owner at Deutsche Bank, Emma Williamson, said during a recent Red Hat OpenShift Commons event in London.

So the bank set out to drastically modernise its application estate around cloud native technologies like containers and Kubernetes, all with the aim of cutting this waste tied to its legacy platforms and help drive a broader shift towards the cloud.

Here’s how they went about it.

From RFP to PoC to MVP

The bank started by tendering a request for proposal (RFP) for a container platform to form the bedrock of its new platform, kickstarting a broader shift towards running the bank on more flexible and scalable public cloud infrastructure.

The bank also wanted a new dev, test, and deployment environment that wouldn’t require the sort of heavy lifting its old homegrown stack of Java-based apps running on the likes of WebLogic and jBoss needed.

It quickly settled on Red Hat’s OpenShift PaaS (acquired by IBM last year as part of its $34 billion Red Hat deal) – over the likes of Salesforce’s Force.com, the now-defunct IBM Bluemix, and VMware’s Cloud Foundry – and started spinning up a proof of concept (PoC), followed swiftly by a minimum viable product, or platform in this case (MVP). In the process, Deutsche Bank engineers wove in banking-specific functionality and added elements from Avi Networks’ application delivery platform and Ansible configuration management.

  
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