North American retail banking outfit TD Bank is using OpenStack among a range of other open source cloud technologies to help catalyse cultural change as it looks to reduce costs and technology redundancy, explained TD Bank group vice president of engineering Graeme Peacock.
TD Bank is one of Canada’s largest retail banks, having divested many of its investment banking divisions over the past ten years while buying up smaller American retail banks in a bid to offer cross-border banking services.
Peacock, who was speaking at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver this week, said TD Bank is in the midst of a massive transition in how it procures, deploys and consumes technology. The bank aims to have about 80 per cent of its 4,000 application estate moved over to the cloud over the next five years.
“If they can’t build it on cloud they need to get my permission to obtain a physical server. Which is pretty hard to get,” he said.
But the company’s legacy of acquisition over the past decade has shaped the evolution of both the technology and systems in place at the bank as well as the IT culture and the way those systems and technologies are managed.
“Growing from acquisition means we’ve developed a very project-based culture, and you’re making a lot of transactional decisions within those projects. There are consequences to growing through acquisition – TD is very vendor-centric,” he explained.
“There are a lot of vendors here and I’m fairly certain we’ve bought at least one of everything you’ve ever made. That’s led to the landscape that we’ve had, which has lots of customisation. It’s very expensive and there is little reused.”
Peacock said much of what the bank wants to do is fairly straightforward: moving off highly customised expensive equipment and services, and moving on to more open, standardised commodity platforms, and OpenStack is but one infrastructure-centric tool helping the bank deliver on that goal (it’s using it to stand up an internal private cloud). But the company also has to deal with other aspects a recent string of acquisition has left at the bank, including the fact that its development teams are still quite siloed, in order to reach its goals.
In order to standardise and reduce the number of services the firm’s developers use, the bank created an engineering centre in Manhattan and elected a team of engineers and developers (currently numbering 30, but will hit roughly 50 by the end of the year) spread between Toronto and New York City, all focused on helping it embrace a cloud-first, slimmed-down application landscape.
The centre and the central engineering team work with other development teams and infrastructure specialists across the bank, collecting feedback through fortnightly Q&As and feeding that back into the solutions being developed and the platforms being procured. Solving developer team fragmentation will ultimately help the bank move forward on this new path sustainably, he explained.
“When your developer community is so siloed you don’t end up adopting standards… you end up with 27 versions of Softcat. Which we have, by the way,” he said.
“This is a big undertaking, and one that has to be continuous. Business lines also have to move with us to decompose those applications and help deliver against those commitments,” he added.