05 December 2016

Using The Hybrid Cloud to Span the World 

Have you ever wondered what really happens when you transfer money to someone on the opposite side of the world through your mobile device? For the person sending money, this process involves, in many instances, opening an app, selecting a recipient, entering their details, and choosing how they'd like to send the money — perhaps it’s cash to a mobile wallet, bank account or prepaid card. The recipient will then get notified almost immediately that the money is available for pickup. The process behind this seemingly simple transfer is much more complex, though, and it's all done in our hybrid cloud.

Moving each dollar requires the ability to manage workloads and data in data centers located around the world. Here at Western Union, we've created a network so funds are transferred to customers quickly and efficiently. To make this happen, we have to be on the cutting edge of technology. We’ve innovated how customers can access our network to send that money. On the backend, we’ve built an intricate network that spans the world using the hybrid cloud.

Translate Business Needs into Your Technology

As CTO of Western Union, I view technology as the backbone of our business, and businesses are what drives a company’s architecture. Because of the sensitive nature of some of the data we manage, the public cloud doesn’t always meet our needs. Sometimes we need special processing, high availability and minimal latency, and the public cloud alone isn’t sufficient.

The hybrid cloud works best for us because our business crosses international borders. Companies like Western Union host thousands of workloads to support different products and services. We host our own private cloud in the same data centers that many of the public cloud providers use, but with a cross-connect so that we can interconnect to the public cloud providers when we need them.

Since our private cloud is in the same location as the public cloud, we can choose which workloads we put where. Managing our workloads helps to reduce the load on my private cloud infrastructure and reduce costs. By collocating in the same data center, we’re able to keep any core intellectual property (IP) and data, along with any critical processes, on our own private cloud infrastructure. 

Know Your Customer (KYC)

Like every company today, customers drive our business. We continue to enhance the customer experience using technology and by partnering with companies that our customers use rather than requiring our customers to come directly to us. Sometimes, this can be complicated because in many cases, our customers use apps that are popular in a particular country, but very few apps have global capabilities.

The process behind seemingly simple money transfer is much more complex and it's all done in the cloud.
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Expanding and building our customer base through partnerships is a key growth strategy and has been for a long time. We have two parties in any cross-border transaction — the sender and receiver — and these can take many different variations, like a consumer and a biller, two consumers or two businesses.

While we’re very focused on meeting the unique needs and preferences of each, we’re required to validate their information, monitor transaction histories, and limits, and perform risk assessments on each transaction to determine if someone’s on a sanctions list, interdiction list for fraud, or triggered one of our risk rules associated with previous transactions. To do this work, we leverage our state-of-the-art tools and big data infrastructure.

In our omni-channel environment, some of our customers come to us from partners, like Viber and WeChat. We continue to expand by reaching new customers through new channels, which also brings new customers with different expectations. Viber and WeChat are social media messaging clients who want a fairly streamlined green/yellow/red process — green flow is about getting the requisite data to do our KYC with a minimal number of steps. We’ve designed our processes to be as nimble as possible.

Since we have profiles for our customers who come to us from different platforms, we enable this by using our WU Connect API platform that connects a customer with our platform. This API helps us to build new customer networks and expand our business supporting new use cases.

Every Country Is Different

The financial services industry is one of the most complex industries since each country has its own regulations, privacy laws, privacy concerns and data sovereign rights. Companies operating in a particular country need to process transactions to the letter of the law and make sure the transactions meet the standards under the license in that country.

What does this mean? We have to get it right in every country by being knowledgeable about their laws and regulations. We have to know which calculations need to be processed and which data needs to be stored within the borders of a particular country. This risk creates unique challenges for our information technology platform that operates in over 200 countries and territories around the world.

Don’t Ever Compromise Security or Privacy

Having data and processes all over the world makes for increased security operations and infrastructure. In a cloud environment, we have to encrypt the information and maintain the keys — the private cloud provider only has access to scrambled information as we process our transaction.

The financial services industry is more complex than most industries, since each country has its own regulations, privacy laws, privacy concerns and data sovereign rights.
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Being Strategic Creates Shareholder Value

Being selective about what workloads we offload to the cloud reduces our overall computing costs on an annual basis. Using the hybrid cloud to reduce our capital expenditures enables us to focus our IT financials on business enablement and product development. 

Know Your Business

Using a hybrid cloud allows us to understand the details of every process. We’re more in tune with what we do for the business and where we do that work from a regulatory and cost perspective.

Since we are a financial services firm, along with anti-money laundering and fraud prevention screening, we also have to meet audit and regulatory requirements. Knowing exactly which processes are completed where for every country makes us better able to communicate in a transparent manner about our core processes. We have better documentation, more informed staff, better architecture diagrams and external validation of these services. 

The benefit to the business is that we’re able to focus on our business strategy and processes to achieve these. We can do deep dives and see duplications where maybe we’re checking things twice or code can be optimized to leverage our infrastructure more efficiently. 

The Hybrid Cloud As the New Foundation

CIOs and CTOs must look for creative ways to optimize, consolidate and utilize new capabilities more effectively and efficiently than what was done in the past. They have to do this despite complex obstacles like varied and changing regulatory environments, competing strategic priorities, aggressive competition, and tight financial constraints. A carefully crafted hybrid cloud strategy can help balance priorities; adhere to constraints; and flex the cloud’s agility, speed and economics to solve complex business problems and lay the foundation for efficiently and securely delivering new business capabilities.

The artful application of the hybrid cloud is just the start, it is today. To be truly innovative, we technology leaders must look to tomorrow; how can we further expand on hybrid principles and infrastructure to improve efficiency while propelling our businesses into the future.

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