With a data platform based on AWS, Aegon is breaking free from the limitations of legacy systems. Jasper Buschgens explains how the architects at Aegon are making a leap forward by migrating all data solutions to the cloud as much as possible.
Developments in financial services are moving at a rapid pace. Think of 24/7 online services for consumers, the consequences of an ageing population or new data privacy regulations. Aegon wants to be able to respond to these changes faster and more flexibly, which is why one of the most important elements in its IT innovation strategy is the work on an AWS cloud-based data platform.
“We are working hard to become a data-centric company,” says Jasper.
“But at the same time, there are still legacy enterprise applications and databases in mainframe environments. From those systems too, we want to unlock the data and make them available in real-time, securely and accurately for complex data analyzes and model validations, for example.” Jasper sees that many companies run queries directly on the underlying databases. “That can put extra strain on those systems. It does not solve the problem of data synchronization between the different systems, nor is it the safest solution.”
“Five Devops teams are developing on the platform”
Instead of developing on the existing infrastructure with central data warehouses and data-vault type solutions, the architects at Aegon took a leap forward and decided to build a data platform in AWS. “The data platform is a large copy of all our core databases. Users do not get direct access to the data platform. Instead, datasets are published that are fit-for-purpose. This can be permanent, such as for the Aegon app allowing customers to access their bank details or pension value at any time, or temporary for a data analysis of the marketing department. With this we also guarantee compliance with privacy regulations”.
While a first version of the cloud-based data platform has been delivered, development is continuing at a rapid pace. Five Devops teams are continuously working on the platform. “We are looking at how we can handle data even more efficiently, or how we can publish more securely and faster. At the same time, we are phasing out or migrating various applications ensuring that the data remains available.”
"So, where to go from here?"
Priorities are determined quarterly together with the business during so-called PI events. “After that it's up to the teams how they take it from there. It can happen that a requirement is so unique that they start working with a different language. The data platform makes extensive use of Python, but in some cases developers prefer to write code in R. We leave that to the developers to decide.” The last sprint of each quarter is a so-called innovation sprint, which the developers use to experiment with things that they find useful or interesting, in their own way.”
“With Data platform 2.0 we will soon have the power of a complete data platform”
The contours of the 'Data platform 2023' trajectory are now becoming clear, Jaspers reports. “The teams are now looking at how this takes shape and may want to rebuild the platform to a large extent. In fact, it is a kind of Data platform 2.0. We are now in the design phase.” The lessons learned when building the first data platform will be carried over to the new trajectory. An important design principle now is that all application owners make their data accessible in a uniform manner. It is sometimes difficult to align all stakeholders, but Aegon's management team fully supports this development. As a result, we now have the power of a complete data platform.”
Jasper is visibly proud of the project: “We have won several awards with our data platform and this is just one of the projects we are working on.”
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"We are leading the way with our data platform. There are few companies that have the same ambition and allocate such a large budget for it. It's great to be working on this."