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NAB pools data to save power

Date

Mahesh Sharma

And then there were two ... NAB is switching out the lights at more than 20 data centres across the country as it amalgamates them into two centres in Melbourne to save power and $22 million over the next decade.

And then there were two ... NAB is switching out the lights at more than 20 data centres across the country as it amalgamates them into two centres in Melbourne to save power and $22 million over the next decade. Photo: Glenn Hunt

National Australia Bank will officially open a new data centre in Melbourne this week, hoping to eventually save the financial institution $22 million over decade.

The bank's 23 existing data centres, ranging in size from small broom closets to large computer rooms, will be amalgamated into the new facility at Deer Park, 17 kilometres west of the Melbourne CBD, as well as an existing building across town at Knox.

When completed and fully operational in seven years, the downsizing will cut NAB's power usage by 40 per cent, its chief technology officer, Denis McGee, said.

McGee claimed the move would save 9.1 million kWh over 10 years, enough to power 222 houses, and eliminate 3200 tonnes of carbon.

The average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the bank's 20-plus data centres is 2.5. PUE measures the total energy use of a facility divided by the energy used by the ICT equipment within. 

McGee hopes the Deer Park facility will almost halve the bank's PUE, to less than 1.3, a coveted goal for data centre owners and users. Google claims a PUE of 1.12 across all of its data centres

"That's a quantum shift in power efficiency," McGee said at NAB's George Street headquarters in Sydney, where one of the soon-to-be decommissioned data centres is housed in the building's basement.

The scale of the new facility, and the bank's promise to meticulously manage its power usage, allowed it to negotiate near-wholesale rates directly with the electricity supplier, data centre transformation senior manager Tim Palmer said.

In the case of a power outage, six diesel generators will provide a back-up source. An underground concrete tank holds enough diesel to fuel the engines for three days.

Free cooling will regulate the temperatures at Deer Park for half the year, where ambient air cooler than 30 degrees will be used instead of airconditioning.

The Deer Park centre will house NAB's "internal cloud", the infrastructure on demand (IOD) platform built by IBM, which in the next two months will host the first production applications.

"That's in shakedown and lockdown now because we want to get it right," McGee said.

The bank is also embarking on a virtualisation strategy improve server usage rates from 12 to 60 per cent – or a five fold increase in the return on investment.

"We have about 10,000 physical and virtuals, and 55 per cent are virtualised, and we have an ongoing program to virtualise more," McGee says.

The bank is four years into a decade-long, multibillion-dollar technology transformation, which aims to remove complexity and inefficient legacy systems that have crept through the business over the past 40 years.

It has contracted services from Telstra, IBM, Infosys, Oracle, Accenture and Satyam, and also moved to a pay-for-use model so that it only pays for technology capacity as it's required.

"We're not carrying capital and DNA on the balance," McGee says.

"Through our major partners, for example Oracle and IBM, we get access to $10 billion worth of R&D spend."

Last November NAB decommissioned the KIBO system that contained code written in the 1970s and used older programming languages including Assembler and COBOL.

"It was quite a workhorse," McGee said. "It was an old green screen but we've turned it into a proper GUI [graphical user] interface."

8 comments so far

  • Mahesh Sharma please explain to me what COBAL is?

    Commenter
    Joe
    Location
    Geelong
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 5:55PM
    • NAB is to be commended for this. Obviously there are efficiencies to be realised through virtualisation and IaaS, but it would have been great to have heard a word about renewables in the article.

      Commenter
      daveinbalmain
      Location
      balmain
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 8:13PM
      • Like anyone, I'm happy to poke fun at the banks when they stuff up. But equally, this should be called out because it's good. Well done NAB.

        Commenter
        TechHead
        Location
        in your base
        Date and time
        February 11, 2013, 9:07PM
        • I see the NAB is still hooked on IBM crack thirty years since I worked there. Sad. They wouldn't know value for money if it hit them in the face.

          "Last November NAB decommissioned the KIBO system that contained code written in the 1970s and used older programming languages including Assembler and COBOL."

          I wonder if they still used some of the Assembler and COBOL code that I wrote? It was an overpriced, clunky and anachronistic system when *I* worked there, and they have only just replaced it recently? Scary stuff!

          Commenter
          Robert
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          February 11, 2013, 11:01PM
          • Yep, still hooked on IBM (never what it's cracked up to be). Incredible that they are were still using Cobol in 2012 (probably written and being used on an IBM system 38). Boy talk about security holes!

            I am glad I never used NAB for my accounts.

            Commenter
            John Bull
            Location
            Bulli
            Date and time
            February 12, 2013, 3:50PM
        • Itpro? Obviously a young itpro. It's COBOL, not COBAL.

          Commenter
          Stevo
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 12, 2013, 5:33AM
          • The inability to spell COBOL makes me worry about the accuracy of the rest of the article

            Commenter
            Duh
            Date and time
            February 12, 2013, 7:45AM
            • Save only $22m? And how much is the amalgamation project costing? I'd bet a lot more than $22m, probably hundreds of millions. This figure seems far too low, particularly when spread over a decade.

              Commenter
              WillD
              Date and time
              February 13, 2013, 12:54PM

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