Commonwealth Bank to take OpenStack approach to its public cloud environment

After building on OpenStack in some basic container environments, the Australian bank has revealed plans to take the same approach to its public cloud environment.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

A survey from the OpenStack Foundation has highlighted the growth of users among mainstream, non-IT industries, with the financial services sector one of the fastest growing.

To emphasise the importance of open source in the Australian financial services sector, head of systems engineering for analytics and information at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) Quinton Anderson detailed his bank's journey, starting with OpenStack in some basic container environments before layering additional open-source technologies.

CBA started its OpenStack push four to five years ago, and Anderson revealed to the OpenStack Sydney Summit on Monday that the bank is planning to take the OpenStack approach to its public cloud environment.

"We started with OpenStack as being the basis ... and over time, we're taking the same approach to our public cloud environment, because we very much have the hybrid cloud strategy," Anderson said.

While from a technology point of view CBA largely operates in clusters, it also has some fairly traditional data warehousing technology. Anderson said that when the bank started its OpenStack journey, it was entirely based on physical servers in its datacentres.

"That worked in the beginning, but, as you can imagine, it comes with inherent constraints that we had to work through," he explained. "So we departed on a journey to try and find how to cloud-enable some of these technologies so that the process of experimentation was a lot faster for our business, but also a lot cheaper and more deterministic."

CBA first turned to OpenStack in an attempt to find how to enable new technologies to progress its vision to "enhance the financial wellbeing of people, communities, and businesses". But Anderson said the bank needed a way to enable faster experimentation processes, as well as cost reductions.

"The technology stack that we landed on is not all that unique; it's fairly typical. We've got OpenStack at the bottom, and we run Ironic for that. The reason for Ironic for the initial set of use cases is the big data processing," he said.

"On top of that, we run Ubuntu, we use Docker for containers, Calico for container networking, Vault, and then moving up we use Mesos and Marathon for resource orchestration -- effectively a PaaS API -- and on top of that, we run our big data application and our end applications."

Anderson said it is a typical stack as it is essentially a container cluster on top of a cloud. Within its overall stack, CBA has since composed a large number of open-source projects.

"What we feel like we've done uniquely is we focused on continuous delivery at all layers of the stack. We also focused on versioning through codification, and immutability at all layers of the stack," he added.

"With those basics in place, there's a fair number of open-source projects that we've integrated in order to achieve some of the outcomes we have.

"It's been a really interesting journey to start with OpenStack in some basic container environments and work through the entire process of composing the rest of these open-source technologies using a strong approach of getting the basics right first."

In addition to financial services being a sector experiencing significant growth for OpenStack, the User Survey Report highlighted government users, as well as telecommunications and research sectors, as heading down the OpenStack path in increasing numbers.

The report [PDF] was compiled from 1,052 surveys and nearly 600 deployments that were recorded from June 1, 2017 through August 21, 2017.

In addition, OpenStack said there were nearly 1,000 unique OpenStack deployments logged in 2017, reflecting a 95 percent year-on-year increase.


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