NAB standardizes 33,000 desktops on XP

After some five years of successfully resisting unnecessary upgrades from Microsoft, the National Australia Bank has revealed it will finally retire Windows NT for a Windows XP standard operating environment - more than 10 years after the product was first launched.

The move comes as part of a three-year $1.8 billion dollar overhaul of the bank's operations, which aims to reduce complexity and standardize systems across multiple franchised business units in Australia and the UK.

Head of technology for NAB's projects division, Paul Burgin told Computerworld lengthy duration between upgrades for the bank was necessitated by a critical need for stability across the branch network, with the NAB unwilling to take chances with customer services until upgrade stability was well and truly proven in the field.

"We run a very large branch network and we have to put a value proposition against stability and our ability to provide certainty in customer service. In that sense, going to an established operating system rather than the brand new thing actually has appeal.

"That said, in the lab we have been testing remote upgrades to Vista (the next iteration of Windows) and we know that when we are ready and comfortable Vista is stable - and it suits us to make the move - we can actually do the upgrade as a remote refresh," Burgin said.

The project is also estimated to require an upgrade of about 20,000 PCs for the bank, with a request for proposal understood to be ready for release to the market as soon as the NAB completes a requirements audit of its existing hardware.

While no decision has been made in terms of which OEM will supply the bank with desktops, HP secured the NAB's server-side custom in October.

Asked what guidance Microsoft had given the bank in terms of when a full version of Vista would be available, Burgin described the situation as "an ongoing conversation", but with a strong to preference to get XP bedded down before attempting any further work.

In terms of negotiating maximum value from Microsoft's licensing regime, Burgin confirmed the bank had evaluated Linux as a potential alternative.

"We have a good relationship with Microsoft. It continues to develop. If Microsoft could shrink wrap [integration] ...that would be fantastic. But I think that's a utopia. I don't know whether that aspiration will be realized."

Burgin declined to specify the cost of the upgrade.

Computerworld requested comment from Microsoft, but none was received by deadline.

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