Australia: It’s not just beaches, beer and BBQs: Agile Infrastructure meets Agile Development

By | November 27, 2012

BBQ-on-beach-300x201We have a lot of customer showcase stories up on our web site (here). Our clients believe they chose wisely by implementing NetApp within their data centers and many are prepared to tell the world about it,  hence the large number of case studies on our web site. Most are very worthy and informative. Occasionally one reads about the benefits the implementation of NetApp has afforded a customer and it takes your breath away.  One recent example was the use that CERN has made of NetApp to support the Large Hadron Collider research in Geneva. You can read about it here. To think that NetApp can claim some involvement in the quest for the origins of the universe is awesome.

But we have to be realistic and this type of implementation is rather atypical of most of our mainstream clients. So when a customer implementation comes along that is more representative of the normal range of our client base, and when the benefits that the customer is getting are truly ground-breaking, I believe it is my duty to tell you about it.

In this case, it is ING Direct in Australia. What they are doing is something very special but is open to all to achieve. They are massively cutting their development cycles by implementing a converged infrastructure based on FlexPod and Microsoft technologies. In short they are a very innovation online bank with very limited resources but a passion for doing things differently. As you can read about in the case study, they have quickly established themselves from a standing start in 1999 to being the fifth largest mortgage provider in the country.

ING Direct have a staff of less than 1000 and 15% of them work in IT, with approximately 50 developers. Those developers were facing a major barrier to delivering new products and services for the business to go and sell. In essence they were unable to keep up with all the innovative ideas coming from the business. To develop and test against the bank’s data was taking too long. It took 8 people 3 months to provision a complete set of the bank’s applications and data for a test & dev team. Obviously no new product would be launched on the website without thorough proving, regression testing and impact analysis across the whole infrastructure. However, the business was telling IT that a built-in delay of 3 months for any project, before even starting, was unacceptable. So what they needed was a way to slash that provisioning time to free the developers and test teams so that they could get new applications to the business much more swiftly.

They found a way to achieve that through implementing a converged infrastructure based on FlexPod (NetApp & Cisco) and Microsoft at the application layer. In so doing they were able to cut the time to provision a full set of the bank’s data, applications and configurations down to a staggering 10 minutes – a percentage increase which I can’t even begin to calculate. They call it the ‘Bank in a box’ and they have achieved the goal of giving anyone in the bank the capability to get it within that time-frame. This has allowed them to deliver projects lightning fast, to avoid saying ‘no’ to the business and exploit the creativity inherent in their culture.

In fact, this is an agile data infrastructure working in anger. The benefits of an agile data infrastructure are there to be seen in scale-out, non-disruptive operations and the really advanced storage management functions like instant cloning (using NetApp FlexClone). But also visible are the effects that this infrastructure is having on agile development. Read more about the case study here.

In fact this is an important aspect of agile data infrastructure and potentially can have a very significant impact on organizations with large IT development teams. Most very large banks have IT departments numbered in the multiple thousands and many hundreds of developers and testers. If implementing an agile data infrastructure can have such significant impact on a relatively small in-house team as that in ING Direct, the impact could be even greater in those companies. Similarly, many large IT projects are outsourced to Global and Local Systems Integrators and for those players, the promise of much more rapid test and development cycles in an agile framework is a reality.

Agile development is a methodology finding a lot of traction right now and NetApp’s agile data infrastructure is a natural complement to it.

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