back to article Bank of America wants to shove its IT into an OpenCompute cloud. What could go wrong?

Selling hardware to the financial industry used to be a cash cow for big-name server makers, but they will be getting short shrift from Bank of America, which is shifting its IT into a white-box-powered, software-defined cloud. "I worry that some of the partners that we work closely with won't be able to make this journey," …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge


    I no longer have a BoA account of any kind. They were nice enough to cancel my credit card after paying off the balance and keeping at zero for many months.

    I can think of another meaning for the acronym BoA... Hope this doesn't end well for them.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "I worry that some of the partners that we work closely with won't be able to make this journey,"

    I wonder how many of those partners have big banking accounts with BoA. Maybe they'll make their journey elsewhere.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    This piece of idiocy should be hilarious

    Although not for the account holders.

  4. Lost In Clouds of Data
    Big Brother

    A new form of scope creep?

    Granted I'm not privvy to their operations,l but one would have thunked that the moment they put anything in the cloud that even gazed upon PHI, that everything else in the same cloud would be then in scope for the next PCI audit.

    We had it bad when all the internal desktops were suddenly all in the crosshairs for an upcoming PCI audit after a small change in the DMZ put them in scope. So how would BofA manage to not place every single solitary server, both physical and virtual on whatever OpenCompute cloud they use, under the gaze of their ever increasing team of PCI auditors...

    Sounds like a disaster of mammoth proportions waiting to happen - and no doubt the bean counters looked at the bottom lines and told them to go for it.

    It's Outsourcing, part deux.

    Yet, no fucker ever seems to outsource the executives or bean counters...

  5. thames

    Public or private cloud?

    It doesn't sounds they intend to get rid of their data centres and put everything on AWS. It sounds more like they intend to create a "private cloud" in their own data centres. They are simply making use of the newer sort of software architectures which have been developed in recent years. We will probably be seeing a lot of this from other big companies as well.

    The vendors who will have something to worry about are the high priced storage and switching providers. This bank will instead be using "software defined everything" to replace those. The companies that will suffer will be the ones who are either dedicated box shifters or ones who only sell licenses for the sort of software that is now becoming a commodity (operating systems, databases, etc.). Companies like IBM will sell fewer hardware boxes, but they have the opportunity to sell more services to integrate the new software. The revenue will shift away from hardware and more towards services and support.

    The big thing to take away from this story is that this isn't about shuffling the data off to to Amazon or Google. Comments based on that premise are off base. Instead, it's about a changing hardware and software platform for running systems inside your own premises. If we want to look for an analogy, I would compare it to moving from running every application on its own server to consolidating everything into VMs, except the scale and depth of the change here is much greater.

    People working at the coal face in the IT industry will need to upgrade their skills. The nice thing about open source is that you can download the common "cloud" platforms and install and run them on commodity hardware in your own home to play around with it. People really need to recognize that this is happening. Sticking your head in the sand isn't a realistic option unless you are planning on retirement or a career change in the near future.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: Public or private cloud?

      Can't read ?

      "and wants to have 80 per cent of its systems running in off-premises data centres within the next three years"

      1. MotionCompensation

        Re: Public or private cloud?

        Off-premises doesn't necessarily mean they don't own the kit. Still, we give our money to the banks so it's not on our premises, but safely stored on theirs. And then they put it in a no-name white box in a cloud on someone else's property. Virtual money, now stored in a virtual location, strange world we're creating.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

          Re: Public or private cloud?

          The article says that they want 80% of their compute power in software-defined datacenters, with no mention of off-site.

          Still, I would hope that a lot of this 80% is private cloud.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Yes, people can read. "off-premises data center" doesn't mean "Amazon" or "some random cloud provider." It could still be their very own privately purchased systems and their own private LAN, just off-site.

    If they plan to use some cloud service provider, I do think they may be in for a rude surprise. I would not want my banking info just floating around somewhere. On the other hand, it sounds like they *may* just be planning to buy their own hardware -- with the bits they DON'T need removed to save cost per machine -- installing the stuff in a secure facility, and relying on "cloud" style software. This is reasonable now -- why invest on an expensive SAN, deduplication, backup hardware, and so on, when the "cloud" software will ensure at least triple-redundancy, recovery of "deleted" and overwritten files, and so on, all on it's own? (And they can still back up to an external backup system if needed.)?

    1. thames

      You've hit the nail right on the head in your comment in what they're doing and how they intend to do it. Other articles that I've read all say that it's definitely a private cloud operating in their own data centres. The "off premises" bit seems to be referring to consolidating the data centres in fewer locations which are not co-located with the business units using them. I understand that currently each group within the bank has their own servers in their own server rooms. Part of the point of having a private cloud is to bring all that under central management and run it on a common platform.

      This bank has been working on this project for a couple of years. There are stories in the press from last year which discuss the general goals in detail. The real news in the current story seems to be that they've decided on OpenCompute kit as their standard hardware platform.

      Last year they were apparently evaluating two "cloud" software platforms, one proprietary, and one open source. I haven't seen anything which says if they have decided on that yet. However, I won't be surprised if they pick the open source one in order to avoid vendor lock-in.

      The other stories that I've read said that when the project is up and running the bank intends to have far fewer administrators, but they will expect the ones they do have to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than is required of them now. This adds weight to my previous post where I said that people working in the IT industry need to start becoming familiar with this technology. Downloading some of the open source cloud stacks and playing around with them might be a pretty important career necessity for a lot of people.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

        Hit the nail right on the head

        The "off premises" bit seems to be referring to consolidating the data centres in fewer locations which are not co-located with the business units using them.

        "Consolidating," maybe. Not co-located? "Not co-located with the business units using them," has always been the case. Banking data centers are typically housed in their own facilities, so this is nothing new, although local banking and back office centers often have their own mid-tier servers. They have some serious requirements to deal with being able keep operations up when they are unable to phone home.

        The real news in the current story seems to be that they've decided on OpenCompute kit as their standard hardware platform.

        For you, perhaps. For me the real story is that they consider the tech involved to be mature enough to use in their production environment. Banks are extremely risk-averse when it comes to tech. Bank of America (or at least its legacy NationsBank bits) for example kept OS/2 on life support far past the time it died a natural death elsewhere.

      2. calmeilles

        Pretty certain that you're right here if for no other reason that public cloud just won't satisfy the regulatory regime.

        We all know how much more efficient commodity and VM can be in all sorts of areas (and how it can be messed up!) right? The financials for a cloud solution could look very attractive. The scale at which banks use hardware make that important to them and similarly their scale makes it practical; it's not an SME's half rack of blades but distributed data centres full.

        For many it'd not be conceptually a great leap. Surely we're used to sitting at a desk in London running a "machine" in Weymouth with a hot shadow in Frankfurt and its backups in Houston and Vancouver. Financial institutions have been doing this sort of stuff since the 60s.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          The most important takeaway is probably going to be extensive reliance of the automation aspect of "Cloud Computing" than anything else. At least from the staffing perspective.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    You really can't...

    ... fix that kind of stupid.

  8. tempemeaty

    I hope it's not a cloudy window dressing on an Achilles Heel.

    I don't find comfort in the thought that all data in one location means all offices could be offline if that location has trouble or is cut off.

    That said I hope, for their customers' sake, up time is unlike Azure.

  9. ckm5

    They have been doing this for years

    Someone I know quite well is responsible for a large chunk of BofA's infrastructure. They have been moving to virtualization & cloud-like infrastructure for at least 5 years. Most of the 'on-demand' systems are currently provisioned in a private-cloud infrastructure today, this is just the next step - shifting it to someone elses real estate.

    Really nothing new & nothing to see - for all of you who are freaked out about it, too late - it was already pretty much this way 3-4 years ago. The only real change is who owns the 4 walls & the roof.

  10. david 12 Bronze badge


    Who said anything about Amazon? This has IBM service bureau written all over it.

  11. KR Caddis

    Today I just happened to close my accounts...

    My wife and I happen to go to the local BofA branch today to close our three accounts, two savings and one Money Market, after not adding or withdrawing for many years. We deal with three other banks, two regularly and one when in HI - where there are apparently only two banks.

    Closing out the accounts and getting a check for the majority of funds, cash for 1/4th, took visits to a teller, a Manager,and back to the teller, each filling out many forms by hand after verifying our ID's - two forms, that part is reasonable, filling out more forms, then cutting up the ID card (no credit cards or debit card accounts). Total trip time was on the order of two hours. There was no waiting in line, TG, as it was early on a Monday and the town is merely 14k people. Heaven forbid that we would have tried this in any of the cities we lived in during the past 15 years which, BTW, was the last time we used any of the accounts... The Cashiers Check will take at least a week to clear... WHAT?

    Last month we transferred 10X that amount from a brokerage account to a checking account with a phone call at our regular bank so we could buy a house. It was there immediately.

    Never more, BofA...

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