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Opening up innovation - Société Générale banks on Red Hat to accelerate software development

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels May 20, 2022
The finance giant is using OpenShift Dev Spaces to open up innovation to as many people as possible.


Société Générale is using Red Hat OpenShift Dev Spaces to automate the delivery of a cloud-based platform that gets innovative developers up and running quickly and effectively.

The financial services group required a platform to facilitate the transformation of innovative ideas into working software and adopted Red Hat OpenShift Dev Spaces, which automates the provisioning of software development environments

Société Générale has used the technology to create what it calls its Cloud Innovation Platform. This helps on-board developers, removes obstacles from engineers' paths and uses OpenShift to promote an efficient use of development resources across the business and out into a wider ecosystem of third parties.

Patrice Lachance, Technical Architect and Advisor for the Cloud Innovation Platform, explains:

Thanks to the various products that we use, we can now provide environments in minutes, so people can focus on creating value, rather than focusing on the underlying technical infrastructure.

Use cases

Lachance’s team started work on the Cloud Innovation Platform four years ago. The platform is now a key part of a group-wide effort to accelerate digital creativity across the business, he says:

We want to provide the right people with the right processes and the right tools in order to support the entire innovation process. That will help people move from the ideas stage to proof-of-concept success.

The Cloud Innovation Platform covers a range of use cases. As well as providing a platform to create innovation proof of concepts, the platform has been used to qualify emerging technologies, such as blockchain, quantum computing and robotics. Right now, the platform is being used to assess technological solutions relating to augmented reality, virtual reality, open source and the metaverse.

According to Lachance, other use cases involve looking beyond the enterprise firewall and connecting to an external start-up ecosystem in a secure manner:

This platform is disconnected from our information system. It’s accessible with Société Générale identities, as well as with some social network-based, developer-oriented identities. So, it's very easy to create a shared environment connecting our staff with the external ecosystem.

Société Générale also uses the platform to host hackathons and coding challenges, as well as to support the teaching of programming languages, either for re-skilling or to help people learn the latest technologies. To support these various use cases, the finance group has created an internal portal, which it hopes to make available to a much wider audience soon to help drive further innovation. Lachance explains:

We are working on an open-source version of that portal in order to allow external contributors to push some technologies on our cloud innovation platform and simplify their interactions in the pre-sales engagement with our innovation team.

In addition, the Cloud Innovation Platform is home to a proof-of-concept and a digital co-working environment that offers three types of user experience. The first is Cloud Box, which offers an AWS or Microsoft Azure subscription. Developers can use this box to pick and choose a series of cloud-based components from a service catalogue to build their solutions.

The second user experience is the Application Box, which provides developer environments running on OpenShift. Lachance says the features of this box mean developers can focus on writing code rather than worrying about underlying technical concerns.

The final user experience, the Dev Box, makes use of the Red Hat OpenShift Dev Spaces product. Société Générale has implemented a chatbot-based user experience over the past couple of months to simplify the onboarding of new users to the platform. Users can connect to the platform through their corporate digital identities, known as SG Connect.

The platform also supports other digital identities that are more focused on developers, such as GitHub or GitLab. There are also plans to allow people to identify themselves through social media platforms. The result is a user experience that allows developers to get up and running quickly via a secure, effective platform, says Lachance:

A user can request a new OpenShift environment and they get it in seconds and then the chatbot provides some links that will redirect the users to the OpenShift console. What's also great is we can post notifications that will be automatically visible to all the users connected to the OpenShift console. So, that’s very useful.

User experience

In terms of the resulting end-user experience, if the business wants to start a new innovation team to work on creative ideas, it can draw on a range of Société Générale employees or third-party experts and hook these individuals into the platform through a range of secure identities. Once the user is authenticated, they will be able to create new collaboration workspaces and work with their team colleagues and access a range of plugins to develop new products on potentially multiple workspaces simultaneously, Lachance elaborates:

The developers don't need to have extended privileges anymore on their laptops or increased security. The code is hosted exactly where we want it to be. So, it can be easier to comply with international regulations. If you have to pinpoint the code in some specific parts of the world, this kind of product is a great helper. It's very efficient. In fact, onboarding new members into a development team can be done in minutes, not weeks.

Lachance cites a couple of other big benefits of Société Générale’s Cloud Development Platform. His team has configured the platform to shut down automatically if a workspace is left unused. This automatic scaling down helps reduce the overall costs of provisioning and helps reduce the carbon footprint of the developer environment. The team has plans to open-source the platform, including the chatbot-based user experience and all workflows.

He concludes by arguing that there several reasons for other digital leaders to be positive about Red Hat OpenShift Dev Spaces:

What we really like about the product is the simplicity and the security. Everything runs in the cloud. It doesn't have to be in the public cloud; it can also be on premises in our private cloud because we had a choice to deploy the product there. So, there’s no more hassle in deploying and maintaining the various developer tools on the laptop fleet. It's good for developers, but it can also help companies to reach their objective in reducing their carbon footprint.

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