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  • Ahead in the Cloud: Smashing Data Centers and Embracing Public Cloud with John Wei

    October 6, 2022
  • John Wei, CTO & Senior Vice President at Comerica Bank discusses Comerica’s journey to the public cloud. The discussion covers different approaches and advantages of being a late mover.

    Hosted by Chad Watt, researcher and writer with the Infosys Knowledge Institute.

    “In our experience, shutting down a data center requires bold action and ambition.”

    “I think the hardest part is getting the organization mobilized and marched toward a shared mission.”

    “One advantage of being a late mover is that we could leapfrog our competitors. We are able to look at their experiences and frankly avoid some of the mistakes.”

    - John Wei


  • Being a bank, by the time you get into the details of moving to the cloud, there are regulatory controls, security controls, access controls. There's also series of procedures we need to follow, more than 200 controls. So, it is a significant work effort. But as we have demonstrated over the past 18 months, once you set a goal and you're able to mobilize business and technology together and really understand the why, it is a mission possible. I think the hardest part is getting the organization mobilized and marched toward a shared mission.
  • If you look at the bank industry, we are living three digital waves all the same time. First one is about access. It's your mobile banking, web banking.
  • Then there is this notion of unlocking the enterprise capabilities we have developed for many commercial customers. All of a sudden you're really dealing with a large ecosystem of partners. That is extremely difficult to do with a traditional non-composable architecture because you have to bring a lot of experiences, services, workflow settings to deliver that simple and convenient experience.
  • And the same with the digital 3.0. It is essentially AI machine learning that creates that intelligence and predictive guidance to the customers. And to automate intelligently all these capabilities we need a huge amount of data enablement. The speed of data access is impossible economically with a traditional architecture.
  • Today majority of our business workload already sits in the public cloud. Cloud is really about leveraging the internet, shared infrastructure, security, easy access, but more importantly an economic model where you can pay by the drink. Private cloud simply does not really deliver that. Private cloud is almost like I bought a better power generator at home, now I'm claiming I'm on the public grid. It's maybe the generator's a little bit quieter so I don't hear it, but the fundamental economics is not the same as being hooked up to a public cloud.
  • One advantage of being a late mover is that we could leapfrog our competitors by awarding some of those private cloud type of technology prototypes. We are able to look at their experiences and frankly avoid some of the mistakes. Mistakes such as only doing cloud migration “lift and shift” instead of taking a modernization approach. Or focusing purely on the infrastructure and not looking at the modernization from the lens of the business.
  • Think about a diagram. Horizontally it's technology and vertically it is the value. Nowadays if you have zero technology, it's hard to generate any value. If you have too much technology, definitely you have too much complexity. The value will drop eventually to zero because all your time is spent on just managing that complexity. So the relationship between the value and technology has to be a bell curve. And here's the trick of the bell curve: it's impossible to find where the pinnacle is.
  • What you really have to do is play on both sides. So really as we innovate to bring the digital capabilities into the banking environment, it's easy to add a complexity to the environment. Which means in order to pay for that added complexity, you have to be much more intentional in the complexity out of the environment.
  • The challenge of the traditional “lift and shift” approach is: it shifts the problem but does not fundamentally increase the resiliency. It keeps the same complexity of the operating environment. And for many banks, if you are kind of taking the “lift and shift” approach, you have cloud, you have on-premise, but you're not shutting down the data centers. The overall footprint is actually becoming more complex.

Show Notes

  • 00:06

    Chad introduces himself and John

  • 00:39

    How does amateur hockey play a role in closing your data centers?

  • 03:12

    Why is Comerica smashing data centers and moving to public cloud in 2022?

  • 05:15

    You talk about embedded banking. Is this something you guys have in practice now? Can you give me an example of embedded banking in action at Comerica?

  • 06:56

    John talks about AI and automation

  • 11:06

    Your investors were told in 2019 that cloud was gonna help Comerica get better at being Comerica. Let's do some calibration here. How much at that time did Comerica really rely on the cloud?

  • 14:10

    From a culture perspective, why not just “lift and shift?” I mean this is a great system. I can just lift and shift and we won't miss a beat and it'll be running on Monday morning. Why should I have to rethink this, sir? Convince me otherwise.

  • 16:48

    In your wallet right now, do you have more plastic or more paper?

  • 16:59

    Do you reconcile your bank statement each month?

  • 17:19

    Do you keep your personal data on-premises, in a private cloud, or in a public cloud?

  • 17:31

    What's the banking app you use the most?

About John Wei

John Wei

John is CTO of Comerica Bank, one of the top 20 banks in the United States, with responsibility for Technology Architecture, Infrastructure Modernization, Operations, Digital and Cloud Transformation, including enterprise platform strategy, cyber security, regulatory compliance, and commercial arrangements with ecosystem partners.

Before Comerica Bank, John served as CTO for a $10B insurance, health, and technology firm Emergent Holdings from 2019 to 2021. John led cloud transformation, M&A integration, and the launching of technology platforms for joint ventures, along with regulatory and compliance responsibilities. Before Emergent, John was CTO, Industry Leader, and Distinguished Technologist, for DXC Technology and Hewlett Packard (HP); where he headed client executive partnerships, cloud strategy, and solutions development and delivery from 2011 to 2019.

Earlier in his career, John was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Heiler Software Corporation, publicly traded on Frankfurt Exchange (since acquired by Informatica). Heiler was a Gartner Magic Quadrant leading provider of enterprise data management solutions, which underpin the global supply chain of manufactures and retail eCommerce platforms.