Financial institutions count on OpenStack for a future of innovation.

The scope of the recently formed  OpenStack Community Financial Services Team is to coordinate with users, service providers and developers to identify and fill in the gaps for OpenStack adoption in the financial industry.

Superuser talks to members of this group from China UnionPay and Intel about current goals of the team and how you can get involved.

Why are financial services organizations turning to OpenStack?

The financial industry is rapidly evolving along with with new business innovations such as internet banking and mobile payments. Financial institutions also need to continually enhance and upgrade their IT infrastructure to satisfy business agility requirements and to reduce operating expenses.

What are some examples of workloads that financial services organizations want to run on OpenStack?

Many financial institutions are exploring new business services and ways of transitioning IT workloads to the cloud. UnionPay has been operating an OpenStack-based financial cloud in a live, stable production environment for more than 1,500 days (that’s about five years), serving many UnionPay business services and applications. These include UnionPay core services such as online payments, mobile payments and Wallet. (Learn more from this session at the Sydney Summit.)

What are some unique challenges that financial services organizations face in regards to infrastructure? Open source?

There are stringent regulatory requirements for the implementation of financial institutions’ infrastructure. There are also common best practices in the financial industry that must be to adhered to (e.g. reference architecture design for financial data center network infrastructure with specific characteristics).

Driven by software-defined infrastructure, open-source solutions are an opportunity for financial institutions to explore new operation models but they also introduce new challenges. Although open-source solutions provide an innovative platform for financial institutions to optimize their IT infrastructure, it’s also a challenge for organizations to improve their own IT capabilities in open-source technologies and to acquire the necessary skill sets to build talented open-source teams.

What are the unique requirements that financial services organizations have for OpenStack? Any notable gaps?

While implementing OpenStack at UnionPay, we discovered a few functional gaps that need to be improved, such as a better network management capability to meet the complex network requirement of financial institutions. We also noticed a gap in OpenStack operational usability, such as the ability to upgrade OpenStack infrastructure in batches. We would also recommend that the OpenStack community build more and better support in data center management tools, such as F5 and ASA.

What are the goals of the new working group and what are some of the outputs the community can look forward to seeing?

We hope to investigate the need and requirements of financial clouds with other industry partners.

A few key deliverables include:

  1. Documenting a successful OpenStack financial cloud use case
  2. Identifying gaps for OpenStack in financial clouds
  3. Developing reference architectures for specific technologies, such as software-defined networking reference architecture for financial networks

Industry regulations are clearly an important part of this mix. How much commonality do you see in regulations around the world (i.e. China, United States, European Union, etc.)? Do you expect there to be region-specific work?

At the moment, we have not concluded that there is any specific commonality or differentiation of regulations around the world (China, U.S., EU, etc). However, based on our initial experience with U.S. financial regulations, especially in the IT infrastructure realm, we can probably identify a few commonalities at the foundational infrastructure layer, such as data center infrastructure requirements.

We believe that a regional organizational structure is necessary and critically important for financial teams to promote the research and investigation of the needs for the global financial industry. First, we recommend organizing research work in specific regional areas (China, U.S., EU), then we can exchange and collaborate the research output across these regional teams. Such regional structure would allow teams to develop the work more effectively.

Which organizations are currently involved in this effort?

UnionPay is now leading the effort to establish the Team. Other financial institutions such as the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Bank of Communications, Industrial Bank and Bank of Shanghai have also participated in related work. You can find more information on members at the Financial Team Wiki pages.

Do any of the financial services organizations involved currently contribute upstream? Are there any particular projects that are of interest to this group?

UnionPay is committed to contributing upstream. We have an open-source team of 50 engineers working on OpenStack projects.

We are specifically interested in contributing to Nova, Neutron and Keystone because we are actively using these projects in production.  We’re also interested in other innovative projects and features such as cross-data center management since these align with our future implementation strategy.

How can financial services organizations get involved?

We’ve set up the Wiki page at the OpenStack site (https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/Financial_Team). Information on how to get involved can be found there as well.

We welcome all organizations/institutions to participate in the Financial Team. To join, just send us an email with some basic information.

We plan to share our results and deliverables through the Financial Team page or at https://github.com/openstack/workload-ref-archs. In the coming months, we’ll be organizing regular meetings and promoting joint research activities with relevant partners of common interest.

Cover Photo // CC BY NC