Skip to main content Skip to search
Brandon Bowman
Posted by
Brandon Bowman on
March 29, 2022

Fireside Chat with USAA

Key takeaways from USAA Principal Architect Jason Larrew’s session at INS1GHTS 2021: Build the Better Future

USAA was founded in 1922 and proudly offers financial services to the military community and their families, including banking and auto insurance. USAA strives to be the military community's provider of choice and truly respects military members' sacrifices for our country. Therefore, USAA takes all its applications' performance, availability, and security seriously.

The military community is spread across the globe. This means that unilateral reliability is crucial to USAA's success. Their applications need to be as fast as possible with flawless performance. Innovation is also very important to keep members reliably connected across the globe.

USAA does not offer brick-and-mortar locations for its users. It's an entirely virtual online experience - 90% of their transactions today are entirely digital. They have always looked to innovation to improve the experience with that in mind. For example, USAA was one of the first to adopt mobile check deposits, using a mobile phone's camera to scan the check and deposit it in real-time. Without the right IT infrastructure, this could make it challenging to ensure reliability and security for their members.

Digital Branches

One of the biggest challenges for USAA is to meet its customer requirements while also offering new features as quickly as possible. Older companies can sometimes struggle with digital infrastructure, especially around newer applications. Having a software-defined infrastructure is one of the big challenges. The developer and application teams have been in this realm for a long time. USAA prioritizes working with vendors who are API-first - like NS1 - to tie everything from zones and domain names together, giving their developers the control to spin up what they need.

Watch the Fireside Chat with USAA from INS1GHTS 2021

Check out Jason Larrew’s session, Fireside Chat with USAA here

Infrastructure As Code

Typically DevOps and application teams know their charter. They are tasked with making more available and resilient applications with consistent updates as quickly as possible. When building a stack, they need to spin up and spin down at the same speed, as new features are slated for delivery.

Applications can't go down for extended periods - ever. In an imagined scenario, a USAA member stationed in Korea can't get the application to work on their phone or computer. They don't have the option to go into a bank to deposit their check physically. This can be extremely damaging to the brand.

To prevent this, USAA uses multiple layers of high availability, routes, and locations where these applications are developed and deployed. Everything always needs to be 100% available and secure.

'Always On, Always Secure'

Availability & Security

When discussing operations infrastructure at USAA, the architecture is built with security in mind. As USAA is both a bank and insurance company, that is truly the biggest and most important thing. Availability is the ability to supply the application teams' infrastructure when they need it. The idea is better to deploy the private cloud vs. the public cloud.

Switching to fully remote work during the pandemic was particularly challenging for USAA. Legacy roles were particularly difficult to transition over. However, new technology helped make what they saw as five years of future reality today.

An Intuitive, Resilient & Redundant Future

According to Jason, the USAA team is excited to see what happens as software-defined infrastructure and infrastructure as code becomes more mainstream. Having the capability to have a data center with a certain capacity and know-how many racks it has is exciting too. Finally, making the private cloud feel like the public cloud for end-users is another thing on the horizon, which will make networking cool again.

For more customer stories like these, check out:

Further Reading