Scotiabank’s ‘PLATO’ team shows its serious about technology-first approach with open source release

Most customers taking the stage at Google Cloud Next 2018 were sharing their uses cases for the public cloud infrastructure, but Justin Arbuckle, senior vice-president of Platform Organization (PLATO) at Toronto-based Scotiabank didn’t stop there.

Not only did Arbuckle detail how his team of engineers has used its public cloud deployments to completely transform how Scotiabank builds new applications and integrates them into business processes, he also announced the bank’s first open source software release to Github. Initializer is the first open source module of many to come from Scotiabank, each module a new piece of the bank’s own Accelerator product that serves as its own integrated development pipeline, which integrates the required security controls and approvals for code as they move through various stages of production.

With the Github code dump, Scotiabank becomes the first Canadian bank to release open source software. Internationally, it follows in the footsteps of Deutsche Bank, which released Waltz to GitHub in February. That tool scours multiple systems to provide a complete accounting of a complicated IT environment (par for the course at large banks.)

The release is making good on Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter’s vision of the storied organization as a technology company that happens to do banking, Arbuckle says.

“It’s to attract the best developers in the world and help us solve our engineering problems,” he says. “If you want a tough engineering problem, take a 186-year-old bank and try to connect it to all these modern applications.”

Scotiabank’s PLATO team is growing fast, with 27 open positions currently posted to the jobs page. By posting to GitHub, PLATO essentially expands its team to include every other developer in the world that’s facing similar challenges. The implicit bargain of the open source community is that developers that take the code and evolve it for their own purposes will share that added capability back with the community.

“Modern software companies take advantage of a global community of developers,” Arbuckle says. “PLATO styles itself as a software company inside the bank.”

Its Accelerator product, until this point entirely an internal tool for Scotiabank, is a build and deployment engine. It pulls together the coding languages and resources required to develop software and bakes in the Scrum and Agile approaches often used in development to create templates for developers called initializers.

The goal is to get internal partners to convert to PLATO’s dogma of behaving more like a software company. To accomplish it, Arbuckle will preach to internal partners about the business advantages of building with the new approach. For example, Accelerators has cut the time required to prove that new services meet the bank’s control objectives from one month to just one hour.

Scotiabank open source roadmap
A Scotiabank roadmap for its open source release plans. (Provided by Scotiabank).

Not surprisingly, Arbuckle is willing to get philosophical about PLATO as well, saying he chose Google Next 2018 as the stage for his announcement because he likes what he hears from the Silicon Valley giant’s leadership. By investing in new services such as Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) On-Prem and investing in cloud services offerings that help modernize applications, Google is showing that it cares more about the “how” of cloud computing than the “where.”

“Cloud is a method, not a location,” he says. “So when you hear cloud phrases like private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, consider are we talking about where we are moving to or the value of the work that we’re doing?”

If a bank simply accomplishes a project of cloud migration and does not change how it works, the migration was pointless. It must also change its approaches to development so applications can be updated continuously instead of quarterly, and the benefits of the cloud can be wrought. Such as a common data layer that is supporting Scotiabank’s business around the world.

With Accelerator going open source, Arbuckle hopes to achieve more results like this. As other organizations chase digital transformation, more developers will be seeking ways to wedge the modern development workflow into legacy processes. Initializer provides a roadmap to make it happen.

“Anyone that works for anything other than a unicorn company has that problem, because you can’t assume everything is consistent with modern capabilities,” Arbuckle says.

More pieces of Accelerator will be released to open source in the near future.


Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

Related Tech News

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.