Featured

5 minutes

Cloud-First strategy pays dividends for Mediolanum

Client

Mediolanum

Sector

Financial Services, Private Sector

Technology

Microsoft Azure, Cloud Security, Virtual Desktop, Azure Data Factory

The Challenge

Mediolanum International Funds Limited (MIFL) is the Irish asset management company of the Mediolanum Banking Group. The Irish business has over €58 billion assets and more than 60 funds under management. Over one million clients trust their investments to 5,600 financial advisors in Italy, Spain, and Germany.

Headquartered in Dublin with 160 employees, Mediolanum International Funds has forged a reputation for focusing on its investors’ needs, targeting the highest quality standards for their investment services. On a growth trajectory, with assets under management expected to rise both from captive and non-captive distribution, the company identified leading-edge technology as essential for scale and driving innovation around products and client service delivery. “We focus on outcomes as an organisation and wanted to become more efficient in our execution and delivery,” said Barry Noonan, Chief Information Officer. “We wanted a platform that could scale and grow as our business skills grow, from week to week, and year to year.”

Ergo had partnered with Mediolanum on its first foray into the cloud with modern workplace tools like Microsoft 365 and some infrastructure on Azure, which was significantly scaled up when remote working became the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic. This included moving a DR (Disaster Recovery) plan from a data centre to Azure. The experience fed an appetite for becoming a cloud-first company and the company went to tender for a programme of work based around Azure. Once again, Ergo was chosen to be the partner. “We’ve taken the opportunity to reimagine our services for the cloud,” said Noonan. “Our goal was to make sure that we do it the right way, holistically across the entire stack, and that’s where Ergo brings the secret sauce.”

The Solution

To succeed at such a large-scale transformation project, Ergo drew on all its Microsoft competencies, from hard-earned certification as an Azure Migration Specialist and Azure Expert Managed Service Provider (MSP), to having seven Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) in the team, the highest skills accreditation Microsoft awards. Among the first pieces of work was moving Mediolanum from a file share environment to OneDrive, using Azure Rights Management to protect files across multiple devices with encryption, identity, and authorisation policies. Always-on monitoring and threat mitigation comes from Azure DDoS Protection. Advanced security is a major challenge for every financial services company and Mediolanum is no exception. Barry Noonan saw Azure as a way to fast-track a multi-region approach.

Azure Sentinel was chosen as the SIEM (Security Information and Event Manager) platform, which uses built-in AI to analyse large volumes of data across Mediolanum’s Azure footprint and is integrated with MDR (Managed Detection Response) defences. At the same time, Ergo moved device and service management from Microsoft System Center to Intune, which has made configuration much faster and easier. Similarly, Azure App Service is now used to create new applications across the enterprise, much quicker than spinning them up on virtual machines. SQL-as-a-Service (SQLaaS) was implemented to enable the company’s development team to work much more efficiently in the new environment. Azure Bastion is used to connect to a virtual machine securely inside Azure without exposing Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) ports to the outside world.

To advance Mediolanum’s ambition to become more data-driven, a new data warehouse was enabled by Azure Data Factory, a fully managed, serverless data integration service, with Azure Event Hubs used for streaming data and ingestion. Having such a developed data platform, where flows and streams are monitored by Sentinel, prompted Mediolanum to close down its traditional data centre and entrust everything to Azure, run out of three Microsoft data centres for added resilience and performance. Ergo also implemented Azure Virtual Desktops for Mediolanum’s team of twenty developers, and as a DR solution for the entire enterprise. The desktop virtualisation solution makes it easier to configure and manage laptops for power users, as well as ensuring business continuity for everyone else in the event of a disaster. An automation template framework was set up by Ergo to make device configuration a self-service process.

The Benefits

Barry Noonan talks about cloud immediacy being a big benefit to a company like Mediolanum, and how working with Ergo and Microsoft in Azure has made IT much more dynamic. It’s not just the self-service ability to spin up a virtual machine in 15 minutes – something that took days in the old world – but the ability to bring solutions to the business more quickly.

Part of this is what he calls Azure’s ‘cookie cutter’ capability. “It’s repeatable, it’s automatically backed up, patched, and slotted securely into our wider ecosystem. We can do things at scale now, because Ergo provides the original thinking and commoditises it in code that we can use and reuse, over and over again.”

He compares it to traditional on-premises data centre infrastructure where a lot of manual work delivers little business value. “We reimagined our solutions in a cloud-based universe where we spend a lot more time analysing the data and adding business value,” said Noonan.

Another benefit is better visibility of costs. “Running everything in Azure helps us with our budgeting, our planning and the transparency around our cost base,” he said. “I’m able to actively manage my costs and know where my spend is at all times, which means I can give my developers freer rein when I need to, which I would not have been able to do under a more traditional model.”

Ergo has become a valued partner for Mediolanum as it enters an aggressive period of growth. Dialogue between the two companies is continuous: security and project teams meet weekly, while quarterly business reviews look at the overarching managed service that Ergo provides. All the KPIs and SLAs are on the table and up for discussion as part of a process of continual improvement.

“Ergo is very good at marshalling a response and always there when we need them, all I have to do is manage a vendor who has a partnership view, which takes away a lot of pain and overheads.”

Barry Noonan

CIO, Mediolanum International Funds

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