Parametric Portfolio Associates (Parametric), a wholly owned subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, is a registered investment adviser. Parametric provides investment advisory services to individual and institutional investors around the world. Parametric manages over 100,000 client portfolios with assets under management exceeding $400B (as of 9/30/21).

As a registered investment adviser, Parametric is subject to numerous regulatory requirements. The Parametric Compliance team conducts regular reviews on the firm’s portfolio management activities. To accomplish this, the organization needs both active and archived audit data to be readily available.

Parametric’s on-premises data lake solution was based on an MS-SQL server. They used an Apache Hadoop platform for their data storage, data management, and analytics. Significant gaps existed with the on-premises solution, which complicated audit processes. They were spending a large amount of effort on system maintenance, operational management, and software version upgrades. This required expensive consulting services and challenges with keeping the maintenance windows updated. This limited their agility, and also impacted their ability to derive more insights and value from their data. In an environment of rapid growth, adoption of more sophisticated analytics tools and processes has been slower to evolve.

In this blog post, we will show how Parametric implemented their Audit Surveillance Data Lake on AWS with purpose-built fully managed analytics services. With this solution, Parametric was able to respond to various audit requests within hours rather than days or weeks. This resulted in a system with a cost savings of 5x, with no data growth. Additionally, this new system can seamlessly support a 10x data growth.

Audit surveillance platform

The Parametric data management office (DMO) was previously running their data workloads using an on-premises data lake, which ran on the Hortonworks data platform of Apache Hadoop. This platform wasn’t up to date, and Parametric’s hardware was reaching end-of-life. Parametric was faced with a decision to either reinvest in their on-premises infrastructure or modernize their infrastructure using a modern data analytics platform on AWS. After doing a detailed cost/benefit analysis, the DMO calculated a 5x cost savings by using AWS. They decided to move forward and modernize with AWS due to these cost benefits, in addition to elasticity and security features.

The PPA compliance team asked the DMO to provide an enterprise data service to consume data from a data lake. This data was destined for downstream applications and ad-hoc data querying capabilities. It was accessed via standard JDBC tools and user-friendly business intelligence dashboards. The goal was to ensure that seven years of audit data would be readily available.

The DMO team worked with AWS to conceptualize an audit surveillance data platform architecture and help accelerate the implementation. They attended a series of AWS Immersion Days focusing on AWS fundamentals, Data Lakes, Devops, Amazon EMR, and serverless architectures. They later were involved in a four-day AWS Data Lab with AWS SMEs to create a data lake. The first use case in this Lab was creating the Audit Surveillance system on AWS.

Audit surveillance architecture on AWS

The following diagram shows the Audit Surveillance data lake architecture on AWS by using AWS purpose-built analytics services.

Figure 1. Audit Surveillance data lake architecture diagram

Figure 1. Audit Surveillance data lake architecture diagram

Architecture flow

  1. User personas: As first step, the DMO team identified three user personas for the Audit Surveillance system on AWS.
    • Data service compliance users who would like to consume audit surveillance data from the data lake into their respective applications through an enterprise data service.
    • Business users who would like to create business intelligence dashboards using a BI tool to audit data for compliance needs.
    • Complaince IT users who would like to perform ad-hoc queries on the data lake to perform analytics using an interactive query tool.
  2. Data ingestion: Data is ingested into Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) from different on-premises data sources by using AWS Lake Formation blueprints. AWS Lake Formation provides workflows that define the data source and schedule to import data into the data lake. It is a container for AWS Glue crawlers, jobs, and triggers that are used to orchestrate the process to load and update the data lake.
  3. Data storage: Parametric used Amazon S3 as a data storage to build an Audit Surveillance data lake, as it has unmatched 11 nines of durability and 99.99% availability. The existing Hadoop storage was replaced with Amazon S3. The DMO team created a drop zone (raw), an analytics zone (transformed), and curated (enriched) storage layers for their data lake on AWS.
  4. Data cataloging: AWS Glue Data Catalog was the central catalog used to store and manage metadata for all datasets hosted in the Audit Surveillance data lake. The existing Hadoop metadata store was replaced with AWS Glue Data Catalog. AWS services such as AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, and Amazon Athena, natively integrate with AWS Glue Data Catalog.
  5. Data processing: Amazon EMR and AWS Glue process the raw data and places it into analytics zones (transformed) and curated zones (enriched) S3 buckets. Amazon EMR was used for big data processing and AWS Glue for standard ETL processes. AWS Lambda and AWS Step Functions were used to initiate monitoring and ETL processes.
  6. Data consumption: After Audit Surveillance data was transformed and enriched, the data was consumed by various personas within the firm as follows:
    • AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway were used to support consumption for data service compliance users.
    • Amazon QuickSight was used to create business intelligence dashboards for compliance business users.
    • Amazon Athena was used to query transformed and enriched data for compliance IT users.
  7. Security: AWS Key Management Service (KMS) customer managed keys were used for encryption at rest, and TLS for encryption at transition. Access to the encryption keys is controlled using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and is monitored through detailed audit trails in AWS CloudTrail. Amazon CloudWatch was used for monitoring, and thresholds were created to determine when to send alerts.
  8. Governance: AWS IAM roles were attached to compliance users that permitted the administrator to grant access. This was only given to approved users or programs that went through authentication and authorization through AWS SSO. Access is logged and permissions can be granted or denied by the administrator. AWS Lake Formation is used for fine-grained access controls to grant/revoke permissions at the database, table, or column-level access.


The Parametric DMO team successfully replaced their on-premises Audit Surveillance Data Lake. They now have a modern, flexible, highly available, and scalable data platform on AWS, with purpose-built analytics services.

This change resulted in a 5x cost savings, and provides for a 10x data growth. There are now fast responses to internal and external audit requests (hours rather than days or weeks). This migration has given the company access to a wider breadth of AWS analytics services, which offers greater flexibility and options.

Maintaining the on-premises data lake would have required significant investment in both hardware upgrade costs and annual licensing and upgrade vendor consulting fees. Parametric’s decision to migrate their on-premises data lake has yielded proven cost benefits. And it has introduced new functions, service, and capabilities that were previously unavailable to Parametric DMO.

You may also achieve similar efficiencies and increase scalability by migrating on-premises data platforms into AWS. Read more and get started on building Data Lakes on AWS.