Australian bank opts for unified data warehouse

To get an edge over its online banking rivals, the National Australia Bank has embarked on an ambitious project to combine 12 years of business data spread out in various locations on a single platform.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) has unveiled details of a plan to unify its current fragmented data warehousing system onto a single platform as it fights to remain competitive with new online banking rivals.

Under the bank's Global Data Framework program, separate data warehouses spread across multiple locations and covering 12 years of operational business data will be combined into a single platform.

"The whole thing will be service-based, end-to-end," architect Nigel Thornton, who works in the bank's institutional markets and services division, told attendees at last week's Business Objects Insight conference in Queensland.

"It's quite an ambitious program with many years to come," Thornton said. "It will eventually replace the warehouse as it stands."

Traditional data warehouse population techniques such as extract, transform and load (ETL) needed to be adapted for modern business practices, Thornton said. "ETL is becoming more real-time, and we need to go real time."

"Real time data warehousing is very difficult, [but] you can get a massive jump on your competitors," he added.

NAB has committed to an AU$1.8 billion (US$1.3 billion) investment in new technology and systems. To date, most of the attention in that area has focused on plans to enhance its customer relationship management software.

Improving data storage systems will help both in reducing costs and in creating new revenue opportunities. "We want to give our customers innovative products, but there's no way we can do that with our current systems," Thornton said, noting that it had taken the bank two years to roll out an Internet-based account to compete with online-only rivals such as ING.

The project will also see NAB commit to a series of XML-derived data formats. "We see a big future in having everything XML-based," Thornton said.

Angus Kidman reported from Queensland.