Top-tier Australian bank Westpac this afternoon revealed it had over the past year deployed its own private cloud computing facility within its operations, working closely with the VMWare, Cisco and EMC cloud consortium to do so.
“Out of all the banks, we’re the only ones to have built a private cloud,” the bank’s group executive of Technology Bob McKinnon told journalists in Sydney this afternoon. “We’ve been building relationships with VMWare, EMC and Cisco — we’re done a lot of work with them in the past 12 months on mid-range [servers].”
The bank’s move comes as the term private cloud — referring to internal infrastructure which has many of the extensible benefits of cloud computing facilities — has swept Australia’s technology sector by storm over the past few months. IT services giants such as CSC and Fujitsu are pushing heavily into the space, and even telcos like Telstra and Optus are getting into the act, deploying their own cloud computing infrastructure and making it available to corporate customers.
McKinnon said the bank couldn’t let its data go offshore, which meant its choices were limited when it came to utilising cloud computing, as most large cloud computing providers — such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, for example — do not operate dedicated facilities in Australia.
Much of the hardware for the facility is brand new, with McKinnon saying the bank had deployed the equivalent of hundreds of virtualised servers. The project has been driven by the bank’s general manager, Engineering & Sustainability; Technology, Randy Fennel. And Cisco’s Unified Computing System is core to the Westpac vision. The bank already had a close relationship with the US networking giant courtesy of an IP telephony deployment several years ago.
Some of the aims of the Westpac deployment have been the ability to quickly provision new processing capacity when needed, and cost savings gleaned through avoiding capital expenditure for each new internal technology project that required computing power.
Westpac chief technology officer Sarv Girn said the bank had already cut down the time it took to provision a new server “from weeks to days”. The organisation has first shifted much of its testing environments into the cloud, with Girn pointing out that it couldn’t afford to build a complete new traditional processing environment whenever a new technology project needed to be tested.
“There’s a big application in testing, a big application in development, a lesser application in production,” said McKinnon.
Girn sees the cloud deployment as just the latest generation of outsourcing — highlighting earlier types of financial services processing that had seen punchcards shifted around on trucks — and then the application service provider model which had been hyped a decade ago.
“Risk aspects haven’t changed in those three generations,” he said — and the process was still “all about end to end service delivery” for the bank.
Girn said it was a “no brainer” that applications such as corporate email and collaboration would eventually make their way into the cloud as well. Fellow financial services giant AMP has already shifted its corporate email platform onto a hosted Exchange implementation managed by outsourcing partner CSC, and Coca-Cola Amatil is following suit.
Not all organisations will be able to afford their own private cloud infrastructure. But those who can appear to be highly interested in the solution at the moment. “We’re a large organisation — spending $2 billion on transformation over five years allows us to have our own cloud when it comes to testing,” said Girn.
Look out for more coverage of Westpac’s broader IT operations over the coming days.