Using the Kubernetes open-source system, the data science division of the world’s largest asset manager has a new app for internal use that may one day be available for Aladdin clients.
(Editor’s note: A while back the data science division of BlackRock, which has assets under management (AUM) of $5.7 trillion as of June 30, 2017, was looking for a way to provide more dynamic access to resources, including the widely used Aladdin platform, a.k.a. Asset Liability and Debt and Derivatives Investment Network. Aladdin offers investment managers risk analytics combined with portfolio management, and trading and operations tools.
Toward that end, Michael Francis, managing director and head of core data for the Aladdin Product Group at BlackRock, put together a cross-sectional team of 20 to build an investor research web app using the Kubernetes open-source system. Kubernetes facilitates the creation of containerized applications that among other aspects are cloud native.
The effort via Kubernetes, which got its start via developers at Google, led to the birth of the “Aladdin Data Science” web app deployed internally at BlackRock, which “will evaluate if these capabilities could be valuable to our Aladdin clients,” a BlackRock spokesperson explains. FTF News got time with Francis who provides more details about the cutting-edge project.)
Q: Will there be other deliverables in addition to the Web app? Also can asset manager clients of Aladdin use the Web app and/or offer it to their clients?
A: We see Kubernetes as a strategic platform for building and deploying investor-focused applications.
During 2017, we deployed a number of applications on the k8s cluster including on demand Spark Compute clusters and distributed Python optimization, building on the Python Dask framework.
We are currently in the initial stages of deploying Kubeless as server-less compute support for data enrichment and federation. We foresee more in future.
These applications are currently being deployed internally at BlackRock for researchers and portfolio managers.
Over time, we will evaluate if these capabilities could be valuable to our Aladdin clients.
Q: How does Kubernetes facilitate the Web app?
A: Kubernetes provides a higher level framework where the development team can focus on the application structure versus building shared services to manage state and resources.
This has allowed us to provide on-demand compute support beyond the capabilities of a desktop while managing resources.
Q: What was the time-frame for the project? When did it start? Is the project ongoing?
A: The initial implementation of the project kicked off in early 2017.
We were production live with the first application in roughly 100 days.
Since this time, we have added a number of additional application on the same stack.
We will continue to develop and deploy additional applications going forward.
Q: What disciplines are part of the cross-sectional team of 20?
A: The disciplines include Core Development, Development Operations, Production Operations, Project Management and Technology Infrastructure.
Technology Infrastructure includes experts in Information Security, Networking, Compute and Storage.
Q: What was the data access before the Web app?
A: Desktop deployments of Python and R and a number of shared servers running distributed workloads with the primary challenges being scalability, isolation and management of resources.