Financial services giant KPMG Australia is in the early stages of a massive infrastructure overhaul that will replace an end-of-life information management infrastructure with a private cloud environment based on technology from Cisco Systems, EMC and VMware.
Over what is expected to be a four month implementation, KPMG will work with the three vendors to implement VMware's vBlock, a cloud platform that consolidates virtualised servers, storage and computing inside a centrally secured and managed environment that allows resources to be commissioned and allocated on an as-needed basis.
The decision was taken after the recent appointment of current CIO Chris Robinson, who entered the company with a mandate to update a technology infrastructure described as "end of life" and facing an "extensive server refresh program".
KPMG director of IT David Banger, who was appointed by Robinson, said today at the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne that the decision to go with a cloud infrastructure was far from a slam-dunk, given the company's high governance and security requirements and the fact that KPMG is the first of the traditionally risk-averse "Big Four" accounting firms to embrace the model.
"When you mention the word 'cloud' people think about things being posted and about Wikileaks," he said. "Some of the information we deal with is extremely commercially sensitive, so when we said 'cloud' there was apprehension from many levels in the organisation. I came to the conclusion early on that we had to position our cloud story appropriately within the organisation."
That meant branding the initiative — it is known internally as the "Infrastructure Optimisation" program — and positioning it as directly relevant to the information access challenges facing the company. With a 6500-strong workforce that's 80 per cent mobile, this meant offering an infrastructure that can scale to offer anytime, anywhere access to critical information.
"[Cloud] storage enables us to maintain client records in a centralised repository that can be accessed across the organisation. And if we do push something out to a trusted internet based cloud that we deem suitable, we can bring it back in if we have to."
Banger said the new infrastructure will dovetail with KPMG's roll-out of 3000 Apple iPhones, with vBlock support allowing users to access internal systems such as SAP for entering timesheet information on the fly, among other things. IT staff can also manage the vBlock infrastructure via their mobiles anywhere they happen to be.
In the short term, the project will have much in common with conventional virtualisation efforts, with the current level of 20 per cent virtualisation expected to increase to 70 per cent in the short term. This pool of virtualised resources will, Banger believes, drive the push towards abstraction that will form the basis of KPMG's information management strategy into the future.