What CIOs Can Learn From Bank of America’s Trip Into The Cloud

Bank Of America is slowly moving into the cloud
Bank Of America is slowly moving into the cloud

Image Credit: Mike Mozart

Just imagine if you were David Rilly, chief technology officer at Bank of America. There you are, in charge of the IT infrastructure for one of the biggest banks around when all of a sudden the IT world starts to undergo yet another one of its transformations. What would you do – stand by and stick with the tried and true solution that you have in place or would you dare to change things up? It turns out that David is willing to make changes, but he’s got to move carefully.

Why Change Now?

Let’s face it, if you were the person with the CIO job at a major American bank, then you would have a lot going on. A modern bank has many different moving parts: commercial banking, loans, investment management, and consumer services. In order to keep everything operating as it should, and to track everything for the regulators, you are going to need to have an extensive IT infrastructure. You didn’t just build this infrastructure overnight, instead you’ve been building it up for years.

What this means is that you are currently sitting on a number of older technologies that are being used to run your business. Yesterday’s client / server infrastructure is what most of your major applications were built to use. What this means for you is that a great number of your IT support staff are spending their time keeping both your hardware and your software versions up-to-date.

If you were to take a look inside the data centers that Bank of America is currently operating, you’d discover that the hardware that they are using has been segmented. Right now hardware is typically allocated for each line of business. This approach has led to a great deal of waste and inefficiency in the data center. The mortgage arm of the bank may only need a lot of processing during the main home buying seasons and that capacity will go unused for the rest of the year.

What Bank of America Wants From The Cloud

Bank of America has been carefully watching what has been going on in the rest of the IT industry. As Facebook and Google have opened up new data centers in order to support their growing need for more and more computing capacity, the bank has studied how they have gone about doing this. What Bank of America really wants is a way to grow their IT infrastructure while at the same time lowering their cost of providing it.

The goal that Bank of America has is to create a shared IT infrastructure for all of its different banking units can use. The thinking is that the shared infrastructure will allow the bank to do more computing using less hardware. Bank of America also thinks that they are going to be able to replace their legacy hardware with cheaper computers that are based on the x86 architecture and which run more modern software. This new architecture will allow the bank to re purpose servers when they turn off an application.

One big issue that Bank of America needs to work out is how they are going to be able to prove to their auditors that they are securely handling sensitive data. In their new architecture their data will no longer be located in one place and will instead be spread out over the entire infrastructure. Another goal that the bank has is to make better use of its staff. They currently use one system administrator to manage roughly 300 servers. They want to become more like Facebook which uses one system administrator to manage 20,000 servers.

What All Of This Means For You

The CIO at Bank of America finds himself in a unique position. He has created an IT infrastructure that is serving the bank well. However, the handwriting is on the wall – the world of IT is changing and if the bank wants to keep up, they are going to have to be willing to make some dramatic changes. The goal is to find ways to allow the bank to do more at a lower cost.

The way that the Bank of America’s data center IT infrastructure is currently designed, hardware is allocated to specific bank functions. This does not allow hardware to be shared between different parts of the bank. The bank wants to create a new shared infrastructure that will allow them to better utilize their hardware. They hope to use new, cheaper hardware that will allow them to replace their legacy systems.

The good news is that the bank is moving in the right direction. It is not going to be an easy task to replace their working IT infrastructure with a brand new shared infrastructure. However, if the bank is willing to invest both the time and the money to do this now, then they will be well prepared for whatever happens in the future.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that Bank of America should switch to a new infrastructure all at once or do it bit by bit?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the most important parts of your job is communicating with the people who are looking to you for guidance. Just exactly how to go about doing this in an effective way is a big challenge that every CIO faces every day. The great thing about living and working in the 21st Century is that we have a number of different ways to accomplish this task: email, phone calls, text messages, and making presentations. Of all of these different techniques, making a presentation is the technique that has been shown to be the most effective.