Partnerships key to a successful cloud migration strategy in the banking sector
20 October 2023


Partnerships key to a successful cloud migration strategy in the banking sector

Vodacom Business, a ceritified Amazon Web Services partner, developed a strategy to address technical infrastructure and architecture obstacles, maximise returns on investment, and reap the benefits of digitalisation for African Bank. 

Transitioning to cloud technology has become an important step for banks and financial institutions in their journey of digitalisation, as they utilise analytics, scalability, and agility in an evolving and competitive market. However, the sector faces many complexities in cloud migration, including large amounts of sensitive data, various stakeholders at play, and often legacy IT systems that still need to run alongside new technology. Add in regulatory, privacy and security concerns and banks need a watertight strategy when it comes to adopting cloud services.

In 2021, African Bank, a leading retail bank serving both private and business customers in South Africa, was at a pivotal crossroads. The bank’s on-premises hardware was nearing the end of its lifecycle – they could either renew their expiring licenses, avoiding the risk of a complex migration but retaining outdated hardware, or embrace innovative technology and its advantages by transitioning to a cloud data warehouse.

African Bank turned to Vodacom Business as a certified Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner to pursue the possibilities of a data warehouse migration to the cloud. Together, they developed a strategy to address technical infrastructure and architecture obstacles, maximise returns on investment, and reap the benefits of digitalisation.

“Historically, banks have been hesitant to adopt a cloud strategy from an external vendor due to the complexity of the data assets and operations. Any errors in the migration process could have serious consequences. It was essential to establish a trusted working partnership with African Bank at the start, so we could fully understand their needs and how we could meet them through AWS,” says Kabelo Makwane, Managing Executive of Cloud, Hosting and Security at Vodacom.

Implementing the right digital solution

The migration would encompass a colossal 150TB of data, spanning 132 databases, and servicing four hundred business users. Given the data warehouse's role as the heart of the bank’s reporting and regulatory systems, it was critical that the sensitive data was not compromised nor that the bank faced scrutiny and penalties from regulatory authorities.

It was also critical to implement the right cloud data warehouse solution that would deliver benefits across the financial institution and for its customers. Amazon Redshift offers a reliable and secure service that integrates with any of the other AWS offerings in place. Data warehouse capacity is scaled to deliver fast performance for even the most demanding and unpredictable workloads. Users across the bank are able to tap into diverse data and business insights from real-time analytics and machine learning, which can help streamline operations, reduce costs, and drive innovation and growth.

Ensuring successful execution

As part of the migration strategy, the project was split into two phases. Beginning in April 2022, the first phase’s objective was to migrate the bank’s six most complex databases to the cloud using a small team from Vodacom Business, who had to execute the migration remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions during that period. Despite these challenges, the initial phase was completed according to the delivery date within three to four months.

The second phase commenced in July 2022, focusing on migrating the remaining 126 databases, a much larger undertaking that would require four times the initial capacity of developers to meet the delivery deadline of early 2023. This seemed a daunting feat in a region facing a scarcity of IT skills, but Vodacom Business demonstrated its capability by using its partnership with AWS to tap into a broader pool of resources based abroad.

In addition, the project hit peak momentum towards the end of 2022, coinciding with the traditional business downtime in South Africa. Overcoming a potential delay in the process required close cooperation with African Bank to gather necessary information during this period, facilitating continuous progress into the new year with the overall migration completed by April 2023.

“This was the first project of this scale in the financial industry for Vodacom Business, and its success is testament to the dedication and expertise of our cloud services teams. Working closely with AWS and African Bank ensured that we could meet objectives on time and as promised,” adds Sasidhar Parvathaneni, Executive Head at Vodacom AWS Business Group.

The partnership continues

Beyond the migration phase, Vodacom Business has continued to partner with African Bank in providing ongoing support and training internal IT resources to reap the benefits of scalability, agility, and efficiencies of AWS. The success of the project has provided further scope for other digitalisation opportunities that will support the bank’s growth and operational objectives into the future.

“The project's outcome demonstrated the power of collaboration between Vodacom Business, AWS, and African Bank. It highlighted the advantages of adopting an agile and scalable approach in the financial services sector, ultimately positioning African Bank to compete effectively in a rapidly evolving landscape. With this migration journey, the bank not only solidified its technology foundation but also its reputation and future growth potential,” says Fani Maoela, Head of Enterprise Architecture at African Bank.