DISRUPTION AND THE PACE OF CHANGE IN THE BANKING DATACENTRE

By Jon Leppard, Director at Future Facilities

Jon Leppard
Jon Leppard

If you’re doing new things with tech – it’s called innovation. If new tech is taking you by surprise, it’s called disruption. Innovation is just better – not only do you win the PR battle, but you can plan for it ahead of time. Few organisations can say they were genuinely prepared for disruptive trends ahead of time, even if they did cope well.

It’s fair to say that there has been a great deal more disruption going on in banking than there has innovation in the past decade. Big banks especially have focused more on disruption-management than they have on genuine innovative projects.

The mobile trend, and the demand for 24/7 access to personal and financial data in particular, has seen banks scrambling to cope with the new demands this places on their infrastructure.

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What this does is create pressure to change. Either through competition (see the UK’s rising ‘challenger-banks’) or through consumer dissatisfaction seeping into politics (regulatory intervention). Banks, for survival, must move quickly and intelligently to adapt to disruption. For this to happen, they need to invest in their back-end.

But, when the pressure is on to make a change, most datacentres – banking or otherwise – are slow. There’s a lot to consider, especially when we are talking about larger facilities with mission critical workloads, multiple systems, failsafes, cooling setups etc. to take into account. The fact that a budget might be large doesn’t save them from some very complicated headaches – room may be limited, some workloads very sensitive, etc.

There is also the privacy factor to consider. Due to the extremely sensitive information that banks deal with, they are much less able to “move to the cloud” than other institutions.

Banks need to get the most out of what they have when there is little obvious room for improvement within their own private infrastructure. What this means in reality for most data centre managers, is that they are now answering questions like “do we have the capacity?” or “are we exposing ourselves to too much risk?” from senior figures in the business.

Answering them is often a combination of historic trends, experience and, well, a bit of educated guesswork. Therefore, quite rightly, the IT team, and the Facility Management team that support them, will appeal for time to assess and get things as close to “right” as possible – who can blame them? The datacentre is dealing with mission critical applications, SLA’s and customer financial data, so failure is unacceptable-but so is being unable to react to the disruption happening in the market.

The pressure is on and there’s no easy way out – it’s a trap. The banking datacentre has been disrupted, and doesn’t have enough time or resources to solve the problem. Failure is inevitable, and has at times been very public.

Ok, I told a slight lie, there is a big get-out-of-jail-free card coming on the horizon: New designs for software-defined, homogenised facilities look like they will be just the ticket for banks – able to shift workloads rapidly and intelligently without introducing unacceptable risk. The only problem here is that for the most part, the software-defined datacentre is between five and 10 years away.

So what should you do in the meantime? One option is to use Computational Fluid Dynamics to accurately map out and then predict accurately what a change will do not just in the room, but the knock-on effect that would have on the wider facility. It’s the tech designed to predict what would happen when an aeroplane moves quickly through the air, repurposed.

We call a datacentre that deploys this tech a Fluid Datacentre. It allows datacentre managers to start to get some of the preparation time back from being disrupted – able to answer accurately whether adding capacity introduces too much risk.

This might mean being able to add capacity – or saving money by turning off redundant cooling systems. But principally for banking datacentre teams, it lets them answer quickly and accurately questions that need quick and accurate answers. When IT is able to stand its corner, the question of where the industry will go next is pushed back up the chain of command to the business owners, and not being held back by lack of clarity.

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