DebateTech: ABN AMRO banks on network, storage convergence

ABN AMRO is relocating its data center from its current office premises to an external location to comply with security requirements, and will take the chance to upgrade its network infrastructure for fully native connectivity.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

ABN AMRO, headquartered in the Netherlands, has some 24,000 employees worldwide with about 700 based in Asia, the bulk of which is in Singapore. The bank generates around US$10 billion in annual revenues.

In recent years, the bank has had to transform its IT infrastructure partly in response to mergers and acqusitions such as its absorbtion of Fortis Bank Nederland in Asia in 2011, and the acquisition of ABN AMRO's business in Asia by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2009.

Dirk Sibiet, ABN AMRO's Country Technology Officer for Singapore and UAE, is now leading the financial institution into its next phase of transformation — relocating its data center from current office premises at One Raffles Quay in the Singapore business district to an external location to comply with Threat Vulnerability Risk Assessment (TVRA) requirements as requested by the regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore.

"As part of that relocation, we are also upgrading our network infrastructure and will be moving to full native connectivity," said Sibiet. "That will, one, replace footprint, reduce cost, cabling and also enable us from a couple months from now [to] potentially move to metroclustering at a storage level."

One clear message from ZDNet's talk with Sibiet is the extent to which different businesses think differently about converged (or unified) infrastructure. For some it means "out-of-the-box" hardware from a single vendor combining compute, storage and networking in a pre-integrated stack and housed in enclosures.  Usually there's an associated "single pane of glass" management capability. This is a definition that's closest to what Gartner terms "integrated systems" while some of the major IT vendors use terms like unified computing system or converged infrastructure.

For others, converged/unified infrastructure refers to a more loosely-coupled approach where resources from a range of IT vendors are pooled using virtualisation and systems management software.  This approach doesn't include a pre-integrated stack.

ABN Amro's approach towards converged infrastructure is for the bank itself to select the underlying components and take care of the integration of the underlying components, rather than choosing a boxed product. As Sibiet explains: "There are two key components in the converged infrastructure and that's storage and networking, and that storage and networking solution needs to be supported by the software component on top of it."

"One of the reasons why we decided not to move forward with converged infrastructure as an out-of-the-box build solution, is that ultimately my guys needed to be able to manage the environment, and then take care of it, because going through the architecture and design phase also increases the knowledge of what they are doing, increases the knowledge of the capabilities, and to a larger extent the incapabilities of the solution we are putting in place," he explained.

As for his vision for how his data center will be like in 2020, Sibiet expects it to be affected by the increasing demand by end users to use their own devices. "You will see in the data centers of the future, a segregation between external and internal security layer, which will to a certain extent mean we will be building private clouds in my view, but private clouds which are very much segregated for internal use and external accessibility to the internal environment."

"I don't see that you're going to have a split between external and internal connectivity, but you will have an internal environment and a separate environment to manage and control the connectivity to the external internal world, and that's more of a concept, not of preventing things from coming in, but more of preventing things of going out," Sibiet added.

Click the video above for a summary of the interview, to view the full version click here.


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