Commonwealth Bank of Australia is recruiting international banks to an alliance designed to break the hegemony of computer giants such as IBM, Microsoft, HP and Oracle and lead a move to a shared tech infrastructure based on cloud computing.
In a recent speech to the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA) CBA chief information officer Michael Harte lambasted legacy tech vendors for their slow embrace of cloud-based computing and preference for solutions that lock-in users to a never-ending spiral of costly maintenance and upgrades.
"We're saying that we will never buy another data centre. We will never buy another rack or server or storage device or network device again," he told his audience. "I will never let any organisation that I work for get locked into proprietary hardware or software again. I'll never tell my teams in the business that it will be weeks to get them hardware provision. I'll never pay upfront for any infrastructure and certainly would never pay for any, or rent any, infrastructure that I would never use."
Harte estimates that the bank spends almost $500 million on infrastructure, and only $150 million on customer "interactivity". He vowed to take actions that would accelerate a reversal of this trend, saying: "I will never implement an internal solution for a common problem that I could procure on subscription across the Web."
The bank has already developed a small internal cloud for storage of common applications across the Web, but has set its sight on much bigger goals. Industry rumours suggest that a big announcement is planned for 17 May, which will see CBA align with Bank of America and Deutsche Bank to create a global syndicate which will initially use its collective buying power to push down prices charged by tech industry heavyweights and encourage take-up of shared applications through the cloud.
In December last year, both Deutsche Bank and CBA signed up to a new global Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council (ECBC), set up by the TM Forum to promote cloud technology.
There are signs that the message is getting through. Speaking at a recent conference in Las Vegas, Kristof Kloeckner, CTO for cloud computing at IBM, calculated that the technology had the potential to slash 50% off IT labour costs, improve capital utilisation by 75% and reduce provisioning times from weeks to minute.
"It's a fundamental shift in how you can deploy and deliver IT services," he said.