Quo vadis, cloud?

What role does cloud technology play in the banking environment?

And what tasks does zeb assume in this context?
My name is Philip, I’ve been working as a Cloud Operations Engineer at zeb since April 2022, and in this article, I’ll let you take a look behind the scenes of the zeb SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) team. Because besides consulting, zeb can do a whole lot more: we are not just consultants, but also creators!

The digital trend that is no longer a trend

When the term “cloud” comes up, the discussion is usually about the next trend, digital transformation, the future of IT and possibly even the future of public life. That sounds as if it will be years before we arrive in the modern age. But especially for banks and insurance companies, it is no longer a trend, but a quake. The understanding of the need for secure, accessible IT is particularly pronounced in this sector, and the demand for sensible solutions is correspondingly high. After all, cloud solutions require expertise and in-depth experience!

SaaS, IaC, GitOps – not just buzzwords, but passion

The people who work here have a passion for solutions. Since we sell not only software, but a service, i.e. Software as a Service, we have a wide range of tasks and the intrinsic urge to check out the latest technologies that make our work easier. After all, our products need to be scalable not just for economic reasons – we all want to maximize the outcome while minimizing the required effort.
But what does that mean exactly? For example, we use Terraform for Infrastructure as Code which allows us to utilize templates, store customized configurations in Git, and have a fixed state in order to easily compare requirements and reality. 
In general, we like to take advantage of things that make our lives easier, such as software deployments in the Kubernetes cluster and many types of serverless computing from AWS. By contrast, the topic of networks in the cloud is downright old school, as not too much has changed there in recent years. The only thing that’s really new is the approach of keeping everything as simple and easy to follow as possible. After all, the larger a network, the more complex it becomes.

The daily routine

Whether you’re part of an operations, infrastructure, developer or product team, of course there’s always a routine. Even creativity needs a plan and a framework, which we put in place by means of Scrum and Kanban. In the morning, the tasks of the day are discussed, and then it’s all about organizing yourself. Whether you want to work in the office or from home is up to personal preference; I come to the office on two fixed days per week to be able to talk to colleagues directly across the desk for a change. Also, water cooler chat works much better when you’re actually in the same room.
In our Operations team, an established routine is to work through what we call the “daily doings”. This includes checking and evaluating the alerting as well as checking logs and monitoring. May sound boring, but these are the best sources of interesting new tasks! Time and again we find things that don’t work the way we want, that we can improve or just simplify.  
This is how many of our tasks are generated and solving them can be very exciting! Anyone who wants to may grab a topic, analyze it, research it, complete it, and thereby drive the solution forward. Frequently, ideas are discussed with colleagues, solutions are challenged, progress is documented, and thus our products are improved.

Operation in the cloud? But how do you change hard disks there?

Provocative question, but I’d like to make one thing clear: many people think Cloud Operations is the same as system administration. We have nothing to do with hardware. Neither do we maintain systems and set up Outlook or Active Directory. Cloud Operations is responsible for system and process monitoring, participates in infrastructure development, customer support, regulatory compliance, documentation and evidence. In short, many different disciplines meet there. It also offers excellent possibilities to specialize in areas such as security, networking or clusters.
Sure, at the end of the day, programs run on hardware. But an auto scaling group with 700 nodes, 5,600 cores and 22.4 TiB of RAM is created by mouse clicks or, when you think of IaC, a few lines of code. What we focus on is the structure in the cloud, the functionality and the economic aspect. When you’re able to remotely control a data center on demand, you quickly get a sense of the essential aspects of what we do.

Unix – you = nix

A catchy line, especially if you understand both English and German. We work with AWS, so we are Linuxers. Or to be precise, Unixers.
Why am I writing all this? I don’t just want to tell you about my work but encourage you to become a new colleague! Are you interested in working autonomously in IT? Do you fancy gaining, applying and sharing new knowledge? Being an expert and a diplomat, a planner and a doer? Then let’s talk!

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Philip Jahn