ING Americas, the U.S. arm of Dutch banking giant ING (US$1.7 trillion in total assets), first became interested in cloud computing when it began estimating the current and future cost and time required to run certain applications, according to Alan Boehme, SVP, IT strategy and enterprise architecture, at ING Americas. "We looked at: Can we run the jobs faster and give our analysts and others more time to make business decisions, and can we do that at a cost that's equal to or less than it is today?" he relates.
Based on research and analysis, Boehme reports, he projected that the bank could cut processing time and costs by as much as 50 percent by using cloud services.
ING performed cloud proof-of-concept work last year and early this year, porting an existing core application over to several compute and storage cloud providers, including Rackspace, Amazon and Salesforce.com. "We actually connected those environments together -- we created an environment where we could run computing in Amazon and Rackspace in parallel," Boehme explains, stressing that the cost and time to recreate a similarly capable environment internally would not have been worth it.
Now the bank is learning from its external cloud computing experiments and building an internal cloud in its labs. "Our next goal will be to connect the lab and the external cloud environments together," Boehme says. "We should be able to store data and/or compute resources anywhere and access any information we have."
ING also is testing reporting applications in the cloud, according to Boehme. And last year it rolled out cloud-based virtual desktops. "We have a lot of different cloud initiatives going on, from infrastructure to the retirement services business to the life business," Boehme says.
"Different parts of ING will be able to take advantage of cloud computing at different rates," he continues. "Some of the business units will be able to move 50 to 60 percent of their processing to the cloud without a doubt because of where the technology platforms are; others may be in the 10 percent range."
ING is moving to a service-level-agreement-driven IT model, Boehme says. "Instead of saying, 'We're putting this in our data center, and it will cost this much to run it,' we'll be able to go to the business and say, 'Here are three different deployment options for your application with varying levels of benefit, cost, performance, quality and flexibility -- which one do you want?' " he relates.
The business side's intense interest in what it pays for IT services, in fact, is the reason some cloud services, such as Salesforce.com, got started in the first place, Boehme notes. "Sales organizations were frustrated with IT not being able to provide CRM applications," he says. "As an IT practitioner, you have to have all these things in your menu -- software as a service, platform as a service, internal hosting, external hosting -- it all becomes part of your service catalog. As long as it's done safely and securely, you can monitor and manage it, and you have metrics in place, it doesn't really matter which one you use."