How the Pandemic Made the Cloud’s Benefits Clear
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Enfusion offers industry-leading software, analytics, and middle/back office managed services, removing traditional information boundaries to unite teams on one cloud-native system across one golden data set. As a Fintech leader and pioneer in developing innovative solutions, Enfusion partners with 600+ investment managers from nine global offices spanning four continents.
JANA Partners LLC, an investment manager specializing in event-driven investing, adopted Enfusion in 2019 after looking to simplify their operations and move to cloud based infrastructure. This was accomplished by uniting their front-, middle- and back-office functions under a single cloud-native SaaS platform. In addition, this centralization has reduced operational overhead and total cost of ownership for the client. In this Q&A, Tony Cristiano, Chief Technology Officer, JANA Partners LLC, talks about his pandemic experience and how cloud technology helped his organisation thrive.
Overall, how did your business manage the pandemic from an infrastructure perspective?
We were fortunate enough to have been working on a vision of a fully cloud infrastructure with removing dependencies on the typical desktop/server model. The first phase was to move our internal servers from our data center to a private cloud provider to remove the dependency to our physical office. A year before the pandemic hit, we were working on phase two titled “Mobility” which was moving server dependent software to cloud based systems and tie in new laptop hardware. Beginning in 2019 we started with our OMS/back-office accounting system move to Enfusion which eliminated over 20 servers from our private cloud and VPN. With each application moving to the cloud we were able to focus on getting our users migrated to corporate laptops and docking stations to keep the familiarity of a desktop PC. As we were transitioning the last couple of users to the laptop model in February 2020, we quickly realized that a possible shutdown of the office could be coming and allocated monitors, docks and keyboards so everyone had a second workstation at home. When we shut down the office on March 11th 2020, our users had the same exact setup at home as they did in the office. By utilizing our cloud model with mobility, there was no dependency for a physical office and the transition from office to home was completely seamless. With no hardware in the office or server racks we were freed from the maintenance and upkeep that we used to endure.
What are some of the major, high level lessons learned from the pandemic in terms of technology infrastructure?
There are multiple lessons, but the one I quickly realized that was the most important is planning. We’ve always planned for disaster recovery and business continuity, but that always accounted for a second work site. We are now almost 18 months in and I could have never imagined being in a situation where the office was inaccessible while simultaneously not allowing our users to work in the same space. When we decided to go into a cloud first with mobility platform, the plan was to allow our users to work anywhere they needed utilizing “Zero Trust” without the need of a secondary site to conduct business. In hindsight that’s what enabled us to transition during the pandemic without issue since being in an open space with other people was off limits. By removing the constraint of the office, we pivoted and utilized our model as it was intended.
How did having a cloud based system benefit JANA during the disruption of the pandemic?
It allowed JANA to be completely decoupled from the traditional office desk model. As many firms shut down their office, they had to keep the lights on and have support staff keep machines and servers running with the restrictions and rules in place. This meant tech support staff rotating into the office to be there in case something broke, PC’s being online so users can remote in, and server rooms being monitored in case critical infrastructure was acting up. By being cloud based, we had no dependency to the office at all. This means that no support staff was needed to keep the lights on and the office could be completely shut down without interruption. To take it a step further, we were able to move the entire office mid 2021 during the day without affecting business. Our infrastructure in the office just facilitates connectivity to our hosted systems and provide a place for people to collaborate, it’s no different that and internet café and that’s an amazing feeling.
What does the future look like for asset management infrastructure?
As cloud technology matures and systems become better integrated with stringent security policies the days of inhouse server rooms and disaster recovery systems are numbered. Unless you have a strict requirement to keep systems inhouse, the is no reason to keep swaths of systems in the office. We have seen and continue to progress into a world were managing hardware and software are better managed by the providers than by in house technology. Obviously this approach isn’t for every firm, however we are quickly reaching a tipping point infrastructure is only a conduit to the hosted systems and not the office. I believe the next phase of cloud technology removes all obstacles of physical machines and we just provide the method of connectivity. Something as simple as provisioning a smartphone with connectivity and providing a dock to access bigger screens with a mouse and keyboard to your PC in the cloud accessing your hosted software.
What would you say to managers who are sceptical of switching to cloud systems?
The time to be sceptical has passed and the community has proven cloud systems are here to stay. We also had inhibitions to moving things to the cloud, but as time has passed I cannot imagine the firm without it. Taking small steps and detailed planning is key. You have to secure your cloud environment the correct way and work from there. Once you have the foundation, the progression moving forward is much simpler. The stress of keeping hardware available 100% of the time has been greatly reduced and I can sleep easier knowing that it’s being managed correctly. I know it’s not perfect and there are issues that do come up, however the upside completely outweighs any negative impacts it may have.