Westpac to build 'private cloud'

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Westpac to build 'private cloud'

Consolidating more than a dozen datacentres Australia-wide.

Westpac has completed a proof of concept trial of an internal 'private cloud' of virtualised IT infrastructure based on kit using technology from VMware, Cisco and IBM, among others.

Speaking at the CeBIT datacentre conference today, enterprise architecture and strategy director Eugene Zaid said technical results of the 'cloud computing' trial -- which involved technologies from VMware, Cisco, IBM, EMC, Intel and BMC -- "were absolutely mindblowing".

Zaid said the trial was a 'private cloud' scenario as the bank was of a sufficient scale to warrant its own infrastructure.

"We are planning operationalisation of this environment," he said. "We see this as a competitive edge."

Whilst coy on the details, sources within the bank have told iTnews that the proof of concept trials included testing of Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), with a view to migrate some services off its current blade architecture onto the converged platform.

According to sources, the proof of concept trial has been put into action despite disapproval from certain elements within IBM Global Services, Westpac's current outsourced technology provider. IBM has served Westpac's technology needs since 2000 in a 10year, $2.3 billion IT outsourcing deal.

Late last year, Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly expressed some dissatisfaction with the outsourcing arrangement, telling reporters the bank was considering a "best of breed" approach rather than a return to long outsourcing deals. The bank has since been rumoured to have been in discussions with several Indian offshoring firms.

Zaid's enthusiasm for this 'cloud computing trial' was tempered by some level of pragmatism. Asked about Cisco's UCS platform, Zaid said he would not say whether Westpac was trialling the technology and added that even if it was, the bank is "not planning on being on bleeding edge of technology development."

"I would say we are fast followers," he said. "There is a lot of very exciting technology hitting the market - but we cannot just dive in and put them in production. The key message is we cannot compromise our customers just because there are some new gadgets available."

He felt the same way about the use of containerised data centres.

"We'd love to have the shiny boxes Microsoft are using," he said. "But we have quite a diverse range of equipment in our data centres. We will still have mainframes and tape libraries that take up space and you won't fit that in a container."

Data centre consolidation

Zaid said Westpac was also consolidating and retrofitting its "dozen" data centres across Australia.

"A lot of facilities are quite old and at their limits of power, space and cooling," he said. "Our business transformation announced last year requires a lot of space and power and the current facilities cannot support it."

Zaid said the bank would prefer to refurbish existing data centres over building new ones. The bank had come up with new designs for raised floor computing and new cabling design and was also trialling "free cooling" techniques.

Zaid hinted that a refurb project is currently underway at a Westpac data centre in Sydney.

"We are working very hard to refresh our data centres - for example, if you look over the bridge here in Sydney, you'll see its not just the cars packed in, but trucks lined up outside the building."

Go inside the Cisco proof of concept centre to see what blew Zaid's mind.

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