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Cloud Composer at Deutsche Bank: workload automation for financial services

July 27, 2022
Filip Knapik

Group Product Manager

Vladimir Elvov

Customer Engineer - Data & Analytics

Running time-based, scheduled workflows to implement business processes is regular practice at many financial services companies. This is true for Deutsche Bank, where the execution of workflows is fundamental for many applications across its various business divisions, including the Private Bank, Investment and Corporate Bank as well as internal functions like Risk, Finance and Treasury. These workflows often execute scripts on relational databases, run application code in various languages (for example Java), and move data between different storage systems. The bank also uses big data technologies to gain insights from large amounts of data, where Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) workflows running on Hive, Impala and Spark play a key role.

Historically, Deutsche Bank used both third-party workflow orchestration products and open-source tools to orchestrate these workflows. But using multiple tools increases complexity and introduces operational overhead for managing underlying infrastructure and workflow tools themselves.

Cloud Composer, on the other hand, is a fully managed offering that allows customers to orchestrate all these workflows with a single product. Deutsche Bank recently began introducing Cloud Composer into its application landscape, and continues to use it in more and more parts of the business.

“Cloud Composer is our strategic workload automation (WLA) tool. It enables us to further drive an engineering culture and represents an intentional move away from the operations-heavy focus that is commonplace in traditional banks with traditional technology solutions. The result is engineering for all production scenarios up front, which reduces risk for our platforms that can suffer from reactionary manual interventions in their flows. Cloud Composer is built on open-source Apache Airflow, which brings with it the promise of portability for a hybrid multi-cloud future, a consistent engineering experience for both on-prem and cloud-based applications, and a reduced cost basis. 

We have enjoyed a great relationship with the Google team that has resulted in the successful migration of many of our scheduled applications onto Google Cloud using Cloud Composer in production.” - Richard Manthorpe, Director Workload Automation, Deutsche Bank

Why use Cloud Composer in financial services

Financial services companies want to focus on implementing their business processes, not on managing infrastructure and orchestration tools. In addition to consolidating multiple workflow orchestration technologies into one and thus reducing complexity, there are a number of other reasons companies choose Cloud Composer as a strategic workflow orchestration product.

First of all, Cloud Composer is significantly more cost-effective than traditional workflow management and orchestration solutions. As a managed service, Google takes care of all environment configuration and maintenance activities. Cloud Composer version 2  introduces autoscaling, which allows for an optimized resource utilization and improved cost control, since customers only pay for the resources used by their workflows. And because Cloud Composer is based on open source Apache Airflow, there are no license fees; customers only pay for the environment that it runs on, adjusting the usage to current business needs.

Highly regulated industries like financial services must comply with domain-specific security and governance tools and policies. For example, Customer-Managed Encryption Keys ensure that data won’t be accessed without the organization’s consent, while Virtual Private Network Service Controls mitigate the risk of data exfiltration. Cloud Composer supports these and many other security and governance controls out-of-the box, making it easy for customers in regulated industries to use the service without having to implement these policies on their own. 

The ability to orchestrate both native Google Cloud as well as on-prem workflows is another reason that Deutsche Bank chose Cloud Composer. Cloud Composer uses Airflow Operators (connectors for interacting with outside systems) to integrate with Google Cloud services like BigQuery, Dataproc, Dataflow, Cloud Functions and others, as well as hybrid and multi-cloud workflows. Airflow Operators also integrate with Oracle databases, on-prem VMs, sFTP file servers and many others, provided by Airflow’s strong open-source community.

And while Cloud Composer lets customers consolidate multiple workflow orchestration tools into one, there are some use cases where it’s just not the right fit. For example, if customers have just a single job that executes once a day on a fixed schedule, Cloud Scheduler, Google Cloud’s managed service for Cron jobs, might be a better fit. Cloud Composer in turn excels for more advanced workflow orchestration scenarios. 

Finally, technologies based on open source technologies also provide a simple exit strategy from cloud — an important regulatory requirement for financial services companies. With Cloud Composer, customers can simply move their Airflow workflows from Cloud Composer to a self-managed Airflow cluster. Because Cloud Composer is fully compatible with Apache Airflow, the workflow definitions stay exactly the same if they are moved to a different Airflow cluster. 

Cloud Composer applied 

Having looked at why Deutsche Bank chose Cloud Composer, let’s dive into how the bank is actually using it today. Apache Airflow is well-suited for ETL and data engineering workflows thanks to the rich set of data Operators (connectors) it provides. So Deutsche Bank, where a large-scale data lake is already in place on-prem, leverages Cloud Composer for its modern Cloud Data Platform, whose main aim is to work as an exchange for well-governed data, and enable a “data mesh” pattern. 

At Deutsche Bank, Cloud Composer orchestrates the ingestion of data to the Cloud Data Platform, which is primarily based on BigQuery. The ingestion happens in an event-driven manner, i.e., Cloud Composer does not simply run load jobs based on a time-schedule; instead it  reacts to events when new data such as Cloud Storage objects arrives from upstream sources. It does so using so-called Airflow Sensors, which continuously watch for new data. Besides loading data into BigQuery, Composer also schedules ETL workflows, which transform data to derive insights  for business reporting. 

Due to the rich set of Airflow Operators, Cloud Composer can also orchestrate workflows that are part of standard, multi-tier business applications running non-data-engineering workflows. One of the use cases includes a swap reporting platform that provides information about various asset classes, including commodities, credits, equities, rates and Forex. In this application, Cloud Composer orchestrates various services implementing the business logic of the application and deployed on Cloud Run — again, using out-of-the-box Airflow Operators.

These use cases are already running in production and delivering value to Deutsche Bank. Here is how their Cloud Data Platform team sees the adoption of Cloud Composer: 

"Using Cloud Composer allows our Data Platform team to focus on creating Data Engineering and ETL workflows instead of on managing the underlying infrastructure. Since Cloud Composer runs Apache Airflow, we can leverage out of the box connectors to systems like BigQuery, Dataflow, Dataproc and others, making it well-embedded into the entire Google Cloud ecosystem."—Balaji Maragalla, Director Big Data Platforms, Deutsche Bank

Want to learn more about how to use Cloud Composer to orchestrate your own workloads? Check out this Quickstart guide or Cloud Composer documentation today.

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