Sallie Mae Sallie Mae is a bank headquartered in the United States that provides financial guidance for graduating college students while offering products and resources to help customers achieve goals and explore new experiences beyond university. "Sallie Mae's mission is to help our customers build a prosperous future. Most of our customers belong to the digital generation. To gain a competitive advantage in the financial services market and put customers at the center, we need to shift at a faster and more compelling pace," said Donna Vieira, Chief Marketing Officer of Sallie Mae.

However, the data of the bank, stored in the traditional data center in the past, has contradicted these objectives. "If we want to move faster, we need to embrace advanced and innovative technology solutions that allow us to experiment with everything, test hypotheses, build the smallest components we can easily retain if it works, and also easily discard if it doesn't. We couldn't do that with our previous data center. If the goal is to prioritize customers and demands speed and innovation, then cloud platforms and services seem to be the best choice," said Rebecca Tyrrell, Vice President of Technology Delivery and Architecture at Sallie Mae.


Understanding how cloud services operate in the financial sector

Amazon Web Services (AWS), as a leading cloud service provider, is clearly the best choice for Sallie Mae. Mike Migliore, Senior Vice President of Application Delivery at Sallie Mae, stated: "The readily available power of AWS is crucial for us, especially on the strategic cloud approach and working with customers.

However, the business needs to learn more about how services actually work, especially in the financial sector. Tyrrell said, "We have spent time in the AWS environment, talking to other financial organizations using AWS, and working with consultants." In addition, the business is also equipping itself with knowledge to fully understand what cloud services can do for them.

As a bank, Sallie Mae must adhere to federal security regulations. Any cloud provider or service must ensure the organization's compliance. "For AWS, security is built-in. We have seen significant innovation in the AWS security space. It gives us confidence that we can build a highly compliant and secure platform. More importantly, it makes federal managers and auditors equally confident," said Jerry Archer, Chief Security Officer at Sallie Mae.

Impressed with what they learned during the assessment, the next step for the bank's technical team is to convince other stakeholders. Dan Kennedy, Chief Information Officer at Sallie Mae, believes: "We have to convince various stakeholders, from our management team to federal regulatory agencies. Sallie Mae has presented a solid plan to ensure the trust of all parties involved." 

Ensuring Progress with AMS Assistance

Due to the prolonged learning process of the technical team, the cloud transition needed to happen faster. With the traditional data center lease coming to an end, the bank had to complete the cloud migration within a specific timeframe.

Sallie Mae took 4-5 days to migrate the first server to the cloud, while their plan required migrating hundreds of servers simultaneously over a few weekends – a seemingly challenging task. Ultimately, they turned to AWS Managed Services a service that provides AWS expertise and specialization to enterprise customers applying cloud services on a large scale. "Everyone talks about putting the customer first. With AWS Managed Services, we demonstrated how serious we are about making that happen," said Mike Bandy, Vice President in charge of infrastructure and operations at Sallie Mae. "The AMS team reviewed our plan and realized that the integration process would not keep up with the workload of migrating to the cloud. They worked with us to significantly improve the integration process, so we could catch up with the schedule we committed to."  

During those weekend migration events, the AMS team worked on-site with Sallie Mae. Bandy stated, "The technical expertise provided by the AWS Managed Services team is remarkable. They understand what our challenges are and always provide solutions to address them."

Migration is Just the Beginning

With AMS assistance, Sallie Mae successfully met the schedule to use all cloud services, but that's not all. Enterprises often need guidance after migration on optimizing services, adding various ways to use cloud services, and helping internal staff acquire cloud skills. AMS helped the bank automate error correction, reducing downtime by 25%. Additionally, Sallie Mae can now quickly add resources to support sudden high traffic, such as during peak summer months when students and their parents actively seek tuition payment options. Bandy said, "Infrastructure has to scale when we need it and can be returned when our demand decreases."

Sallie Mae has also measured operational efficiency since moving to AWS. For example, the company developed and implemented a disaster recovery (DR) plan that improved the DR simulation process by over 50%. Sallie Mae also reduced 30% of planned maintenance through automated software patching. The company has achieved a 30% overall cost reduction and met the savings goal in the first year.

Furthermore, Sallie Mae uses AWS Professional Services to help the company identify and focus on business goals. Migliore stated, "Now that we have our own cloud platform, we have started the journey to become more cloud-native and reshape our core business applications." Kennedy added, "This process has initiated a significant cultural change at Sallie Mae. Our business partners fully embrace and are excited about the opportunities available."  

Working with AWS Professional Services, Sallie Mae is even more focused on its customers. Vieira said, "With digital transformation, Sallie Mae is unlocking business value through the speed and innovation we find in the cloud. Now we can prioritize our customers and deliver the connected, personalized experiences they are seeking from us."