ING Direct uses in-house expertise for cloud deployment

The Australian arm of ING Direct used the experience of previous cloud builds to deploy their own private cloud environment, and the efficiency is already paying dividends.

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ING Direct Australia COO Simon Andrews Image: ING Direct

Online banking provider ING Direct offers everything from savings accounts to home mortgages to 1.5 million Australian customers without operating branches, all customer transactions and business done over the phone or online. In April 2014 the company completed their 12 month long project to move all operations to an in-house private cloud solution, the first Australian bank to do so.

Called Zero Touch, the project comprises all the capabilities of a public cloud environment including platform and software as a service (PaaS, SaaS). Chief operating officer Simon Andrews says the company operated data centres under older management model but that it was across 'way too many technologies'.

"You get financial efficiency in mass standardisation," Andrews says, who notes the whole bank can be run on 40 servers today versus the 800 or more legacy systems that were needed before. And instead of five different computing environments, now ING Direct is run on standard rackable x86 boxes that handle everything.

In 2012, ING Direct took its first step into cloud computing with a product called Bank in a Box, which Andrews says was the genesis of developing a private cloud solution.

"We virtualised test and development environments," he says. "There are massive benefits to be able to spin up copies of the bank within half an hour to deploy to anyone who wanted to test projects without the complexity or overhead of running physical environments. It's about agility and cost."

When Andrews and his IT team realised they could build and manage such a system all by themselves, ING Direct engaged systems integrator Dimension Data together with partners Cisco, Microsoft, and NetApp, and today everything is done between the Sydney head office and two call centres in suburban Sydney and the NSW Central Coast. It's meant low data latency between the three offices, a capability Andrews says has improved performance considerably.

"Cloud technology is a real enabler," Andrews says. "The project has opened up space for us to innovate and create rather than just operate and maintain the supporting infrastructure. For customers, it means improved service standards and an increased capacity for the bank to deliver product and service enhancements."

Though private cloud computing isn't normally a competitive advantage of a bank, Andrews' stance was that when he realised he had the means, he did it.

"It's somewhat of an innovation that we've developed," he says. "It's not a core competency for banking but within my IT function, there are definitely people who have this as a core skill."