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Enterprise IT, Sponsored Posts - Written by External Contributor on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 15:25 - 3 Comments
Three lessons ING’s private cloud teaches us
sponsored post If you could provision a new copy of your organisation’s entire internal application environment for development purposes in just ten minutes, and you could do whatever you liked with it, what sort of new systems and processes would you build?
That’s the question which ING Direct’s team of software developers are now facing, after the bank successfully (with the assistance of Microsoft, Cisco, NetApp and Dimension Data) implemented a private cloud solution to virtualise its entire banking platform. Combined with automated deployment tools, what this means is that the bank is literally able to provision a new copy of itself — a so-called ‘bank in a box’ — within minutes.
Now, I don’t want to go too far into detail about that deployment for this blog post; it’s already been comprehensively covered in articles on iTNews, The AustralianIT and Delimiter, as well as in a case study produced by Microsoft.
However, what I do want to do is start a bit of a discussion around what the implications are for other major organisations from this new style of deployment, and why it’s so different from the kind of advanced virtualisation or Infrastructure as a Service solutions which are what we’ve mainly been talking about in Australia over the past several years, when we talk about the term ‘private cloud’. With this in mind, here’s three things we can learn from ING’s recent private cloud deployment.
1. The cloud argument isn’t always about cost
ING Direct’s private cloud rollout wasn’t about taking cost out of the business, which is often the argument around cloud computing. Instead, it was a project driven to address a higher level business issue.
ING Direct’s basic problem was that it had a team of developers which wanted to innovate: Fixing bugs, developing new online banking features, and launching new customer applications. To do so, those developers needed development environments that were segregated from the bank’s production systems. ING Direct was capable of deploying such environments. But, given the complexity and interconnectedness of any modern banking platform, it used to take three months and eight full-time staff to deploy them. Not exactly an ideal situation.
This had created a situation where the bank’s ability to innovate and progress its systems had become stifled, with an extensive backlog of development work pending. It wasn’t easy, but through its private cloud deployment, the bank was able to get around that issue and provide a new copy of its platform to any developer who wanted it. This unlocked ING Direct’s ability to be agile and innovate; it sped up its time to market. Consequently, the project was viewed internally as a strategic business enabler, and received top-level executive support right throughout its life, rather than being viewed merely as another infrastructure project.
2. It’s OK to think big
Every time ING Direct provisions a new ‘bank in a box’ for a developer, it switches on around 220 new virtual machines in total, and duplicates around 5.5 terabytes of data. IT departments are now pretty much used to the concept of provisioning new virtual machines — even dozens of them — and allocating storage to them. But hundreds of new virtual machines? Every time a developer needs a new testing environment? Most IT managers would run in horror from such a concept. To many, it would seem like using an axe to fix a problem requiring a scalpel.
But when you consider how much effort it took ING Direct previously to stand up testing environments of this nature, the axe starts to look like a good idea. The reason this is possible is the increasing maturity of automation tools like Microsoft’s System Center 2012, which let you provision large numbers of new virtual environments in a much more streamlined fashion than was previously possible.
Right now, a new class of ‘workflow’ or ‘automation’ developers are emerging, who are building solutions on top of platforms like System Center. Their work is unlocking the value of such automation tools in sizable environments so that others can make full use of them. This means that it’s becoming increasingly possible to provision very complex environments — such as a whole ‘bank in a box’ — in an automated fashion. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
3. Focus on where the pain is
Now sure, not every company has a whole banking platform sitting in their datacentre, and a team of several dozen developers who need to test against it. But there are still immediate implications from ING Direct’s style of private cloud deployment for many other types of organisations, both in Australia and globally.
In the manufacturing and retail sectors, for example, IT organisations are struggling with similar questions regarding development around their enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms. Many government organisations operate giant databases and record-keeping systems which need to interface with each other and with the private sector. In telecommunications, it’s often billing and provisioning systems which sit at the core. Dynamic education environments such as universities sometimes have to stand up new systems in only a short period as a new campus or faculty opens, or as a new wave of courses come online.
In all of these sectors, there are times when laborious work regularly slows down organisations’ time to market. In ING’s case, it was provisioning new development environments. In other sectors, the business might have different requirements, such as provisioning a new environment for a new brand, geographic storefront rollout, or product launch. In all of these areas, automation might be able to save effort and cut the time to market. But in each case, focusing on where the pain is will help elevate the conversation around private cloud deployments beyond a discussion about IT infrastructure and towards one about direct business benefits.
Often, as was the case with ING Direct, early successes in this area can also unlock future projects. The bank’s successful private cloud rollout in Australia has stimulated an internal conversation about how the technology can be deployed globally. And it’s also looking at how it can further automate other internal applications and processes, taking advantage of the techniques it’s already developed with its banking platform. It’s this kind of ongoing revolution that cloud computing should be all about.
What good examples of cloud deployments have you seen in Australia? What do you think are the most interesting aspects of cloud computing? Click here to find out more about Microsoft’s private cloud solutions.
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Enterprise IT, News - May 20, 2013 14:16 - 0 Comments
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