CBA striving for 'pure cloud' amid vendor garbage

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO Michael Harte has brushed aside concerns over companies moving to the cloud as excuses and garbage.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) CIO Michael Harte has challenged local businesses to ditch the "garbage" excuses they are fed and move into the cloud.

"The security excuses, the regulatory excuses, the financial excuses; we've heard it too much," said the CIO at yesterday's AWS Customer Appreciation Day in Sydney.

"The favourite [excuses] I used to hear when I used to talk to the big household names in infrastructure equipment was, 'It doesn't look very secure, Michael, you can't do that.' And 'there's data sovereignty issues, you'll want to look very carefully at that.' And 'this on-demand price, we just can't do that — we've got rules that say we specifically should not do that.' And I'm here to say that is absolute garbage."

Harte told ZDNet that it is frustrating for CIOs to look at the cloud offerings made by traditional vendors, because when you look closer, they are not "true cloud" offerings. A lack of unit pricing and an ability to move to alternative providers were two issues that Harte cited.

There are at least 10 million reasons why Harte is a fan of the cloud. CBA has managed to halve costs across certain areas and is looking at savings of at least 40 percent from services.

"We've saved tens of millions of dollars in the small initiatives that we've done, and we're looking forward to saving hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "We've halved storage costs, we've halved most of our app testing and app development costs.

"As a general rule of thumb, we're looking for 40 percent improvement in pricing across all the things that we consume as a service."

Harte challenged local organisations to stop talking and start moving into the cloud.

"I don't think that Australia, as a buying community, has moved fast enough. [In] 2006 to 2007, we started talking about cloud here, and there's still not sufficient numbers of businesses queueing up to buy all manner of services on demand," he said.

"It's incumbent upon all of us to get in front of the executive committees of your business and talk to them about the ways that we can free up spending and make IT a valued partner."

If local technology heads cannot come up with a good enough business case, they are always welcome to use Harte's approach.

"Make the case, and if you want to hear the case that we made, you want to reuse that business case; I'm happy to share that as open-source software that you can take to your CFO, that you can take to your head of Risk, that you can take to your head of Operations and say, 'this is a smart way to do business, and we're going to take full advantage of it.'"

While Harte is an unabashed advocate for the cloud, there is a line drawn when it comes to customer data. In defending this stance, Harte told ZDNet that CBA's private customer data would never be used in any third-party services, and that "privacy and security are paramount."

"We have greater security than many government departments," said Harte.

While not everything within CBA's infrastructure will find its way into the cloud, the advantages are clear to Harte.

"If you were to provision internally, and no disrespect to any of our people, a server — it would take $10,000 and three weeks. We can do that now in 90 minutes for $150. It's what we call acceleration," he said.

Amazon launched an Amazon Web Services (AWS) node in Sydney yesterday amid concerns that it would be subject to the controversial US Patriot Act.

"We're headquartered in the US, and we are subject to US law, [but] the reality is that the Patriot Act is actually less severe than data-access laws in many of the countries with which we do business. If you look at what has happened so far, really, none of those data-access laws have had any meaningful impact on our customers or our business," said AWS vice president of Product Management Adam Selipsky.

"It's really a bit of a red herring; it's not a factor that customers typically use in determining a technology infrastructure provider, mainly because it simply hasn't been an issue in practice."

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