‘Keen’ NAB joins global cloud alliance


National Australia Bank has become the latest Australian banking giant to flag an interest in the emerging cloud computing space, joining a global alliance of customers and vendors last week to help steer data centre requirements for the cloud.

The Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) appears to be an initiative created by chipmaker Intel, but it has a steering committee composed almost purely of end users, including BMW, China Life, Deutche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Shell, Terremark, UBS — and Australia’s NAB.

“NAB has a keen interest in cloud computing,” the bank said in a statement this week. “We see some opportunities and already make use of some ‘cloud’ services. It’s also fair to say that ‘cloud’ is only at the beginning of its journey; there is a long way to go before the industry is mature and the purported benefits are realisable.”

The bank said it had joined the alliance as a founding steering committee member because it saw in the group “a unique opportunity” to work together with other global IT leaders to shape standards and best practices so that businesses could create value from cloud computing.

“We’re please to be part of the ODCA which has been described as “likely to be the most important, powerful, and useful industry association in information technology within two years”,” the bank said.

Not much is currently known about NAB’s major strategic IT initiatives — including what projects it’s pursuing in the cloud. At its annual results session last week, the bank included very little information about its current IT strategy — noting only that it was increasing its spend on infrastructure as it ramped up its five-year Next Generation Platform project to overhaul its legacy platforms internally.

The bank kicked off the project several years ago with a small deployment of Oracle software to support its UBank project, focused on savings accounts accessed through the internet.

“Investment in infrastructure projects have increased by $212 million or 85.1 percent since September 2009,” the bank said in its annual results session last week. “This increase was mainly driven by the group’s NGP investment and the transformation and convergence of key technology and operational infrastructure.”

The news comes as other Australian banks have also recently been publicly discussing their cloud computing initiatives. Commonwealth Bank of Australia technology chief Michael Harte, for example, said in April that there was a major transformation going on in the technology services market, especially to do with cloud computing.

One way to address the issue would be to get three banks together internationally and agree on how data could be stored and processes — and then take that as a standard to regulators.

And Westpac, too, has been getting stuck into the cloud. Several weeks ago the bank revealed that over the past year it had 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 at the time.

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