Powering digital transformation at Royal Bank of Canada with Red Hat platforms

Enterprises across the globe are looking to transform their operations and services to better align with current conditions. To succeed, they also need to adopt the latest technologies. Even the most traditional businesses – such as banks and financial institutions – need to use innovative approaches to deliver leading-edge solutions to their clients and partners.

As customers begin to evaluate their digital transformation options, they are looking for a trusted partner to work with and a proven infrastructure platform to innovate upon. These are often the key factors for success. Take Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), for instance. RBC is in the top 10 of global banks with over 86,000 employees and a complex IT environment.

As a leader in technology and innovation, RBC has been at the forefront of digital transformation. The bank has been recognized with multiple industry awards and honors, and continues to innovate to better serve their customers.

The majority of the commercial banks in the Fortune 500 rely on Red Hat, so it should come as no surprise that we have been a trusted technology advisor to RBC for many years. With a number of Red Hatters directly supporting the largest bank in Canada, the joint collaboration and teamwork has always been a highlight of our relationship. Over the years, the bank has used Red Hat platforms, starting with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Satellite to Red Hat Ansible Tower and Red Hat OpenShift. Training and Consulting teams worked very closely with various IT and development teams at the bank to complete these engagements, while maintaining security and compliance across the bank’s mission-critical environments.

Having a strong innovative and engineering culture is part of RBC’s DNA and the team was already experimenting and using open source technologies including Apache Spark, Kubernetes and Slurm to help with its AI and ML initiatives. When it came to deploying these technologies in production, RBC decided to use Openshift as its container orchestration system to manage workloads that require both CPU and GPU resources.

In a recent Hyperion Research study, 36% of the respondents said they now use high performance computing (HPC) infrastructure in enterprise data centers to accelerate business operations, as customers in the enterprise world are looking to deploy extremely data-intensive AI/ML/DL workloads, both on the simulation and analytics side for performing highly complex tasks such as Fraud/anomaly detection, Business intelligence and affinity marketing.

For the past two decades, RHEL has served as the foundation for building software stacks for many HPC systems and this trend continues with the next wave of deployments that run on OpenShift, just like RBC’s Apache Spark clusters.As the industry’s most comprehensive enterprise Kubernetes platform, OpenShift can enable better collaboration between data scientists, data engineers, and software developers to speed up deployment of ML and DL models into production environments.

In its 150 years history, RBC demonstrated that it can stay in tune with the times by investing early in emerging technologies. This is how Borealis AI, RBC’s research institute, was born in 2016. Borealis AI builds artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technology using the latest in machine learning capabilities to solve challenging problems in the financial services industry. It’s designed to handle both research and production workloads, and helps AI models developed by researchers to more quickly and efficiently transition to production.

Through the use of algorithms and statistical models, the RBC AI platform can assist with a broad range of projects. For organizations such as RBC, having these models in place is important for streamlining the customer experience, as well as maintaining flexible, agile and more secure backend operations that can keep up with customer requests.

Perhaps even more important is the ability to efficiently deploy AI models and containerized ML applications and services into production. That is why the computing platform at Borealis AI is built using NVIDIA DGX systems running RHEL and is fully orchestrated by OpenShift.

Red Hat works closely with NVIDIA, an industry leader in AI, to provide an accelerated AI infrastructure for on-premise deployments for customers like RBC. The collaboration between Red Hat and NVIDIA resulted in creation of NVIDIA GPU Operator for OpenShift that enables workloads to use NVIDIA GPUs as easily as traditional CPU, memory or other system resources. The GPU Operator simplifies and accelerates the compute-intensive ML/DL modeling tasks for data scientists, giving them flexibility and portability to use containerized ML tools to build, scale, reproduce and share results. In addition, organizations can use NVIDIA’s NGC™, the company’s software hub to download containerized GPU-optimized DL and ML applications, and run them on OpenShift.

At Red Hat, they recognize the need to support emerging technologies with a set of open and standard platforms, including RHEL, Red Hat Ceph Storage and OpenShift. Our platforms are capable of running a wide variety of applications and serve as a foundation for many of the intelligent solutions required to analyze and address today’s (and tomorrow’s) IT challenges across hybrid cloud and multicloud environments.

However, there’s more to delivering a successful AI platform than getting AI/ML intelligent applications to run fast. By working closely with Red Hat and NVIDIA, RBC through Borealis AI is working to transform the customer banking experience while also helping maintain its leadership edge in the financial technology landscape. Combining the unique, yet complementary, capabilities of NVIDIA DGX systems, RHEL and OpenShift enabled RBC to build an AI infrastructure for excellence.

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Author: Lauren Towner

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