Move to Windows 8 inevitable, but alternatives welcome: CBA

Having been a Microsoft client for a long time, CBA is locked into a Windows environment unless a viable alternative comes along, according to the bank's CIO, Michael Harte.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has little choice but to eventually adopt the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, but it is still keen to find a challenger that will free the bank from its Microsoft prison, according to CBA CIO Michael Harte.

While Microsoft's position as a top technology player has slipped in recent years, the vendor remains prevalent in the enterprise space. CBA has been using Microsoft offerings to run its business for some time, but it's not entirely by choice, Harte said.

"On one hand, Microsoft helps us be more productive, but on the other hand we're kind of locked in," he said. "Until we have a credible competitor in the likes of Google Enterprise or somebody else, it's hard to think of a world where we're not destined to keep upgrading as Microsoft upgrades us.

"I'd quite like to see companies like Google step up and be in the enterprise to provide some real competition to Microsoft — I don't know too many companies that have a choice other than Microsoft."

At CBA's Sydney headquarters, most if not all staff members work off notebooks, specifically MacBook Airs running Windows. Some of the machines are already running on an early release version of Windows 8, but the bank has yet to commit to a wider rollout.

"We're still in negotiations, and we're still looking for credible alternatives," Harte said.

But holding off on upgrading to Windows 8 forever is not an option, according to the CBA CIO, since hardware vendors will eventually stop supporting older versions of the operating system, which will drive up IT maintenance costs.

"You have thousands of applications dependent on it, and you have to keep up to date with the service packs and so on," Harte said. "When you fall behind, it becomes expensive from an integration and maintenance perspective.

"So you have to keep up, because ultimately you can't keep delaying these decisions, since it becomes increasingly expensive to upgrade and keep current."

Overall, Harte isn't particularly thrilled about Windows 8, as he views it merely as "plumbing." He also doesn't think that the new operating system will bring any additional value to the bank.

"If Microsoft is just enjoying its incumbency in locking us in and adding little value, then it gets a little frustrating," Harte said.

Windows 8 officially launches on Friday.

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