There's quite a lot activity in the cloud space these days, what with Amazon, Google, and a pile of others entering the market. And it is probably quite true to say a few institutions are considering how they might use these services in substantive way down the track.
Let me make my own thoughts on this clear. In 10 years, 2 decades at the most, I believe banks will own neither data centres or networks. Networks are expensive things, and you always run out of money before you can provide enough bandwidth to everyone who wants to use them. At least, that's what happens when you build your own ones. Public networks are quite a different story, though.
And today's data centres, fixed to specific location, are almost never efficient to run. But new ones are springing up with access to environments useful for cooling, and lovely green hydroelectric power.
Let us now imagine the imposition of a national carbon emission tax on IT, which some countries are already considering. The impact is that inefficient data centres would get expensive very, very quickly. Why on earth would you own one with all that kind of uncertainty about it's future?
And a bank of any scale owns several data centres, not just one.
In any event, it will be economics of running infrastructures in a climate of energy price instability and regulatory uncertainty about carbon that force institutions to use cloud resources for core processing. I'd not be surprised to see banks putting their processing in locations that optimise the cash return per cycle, and switching locations around rather often.
You will be able to do a virtual data centre soon, one with all the security and enterprise operations features that banks presently demand from their private infrastructures.
But the point is that once you have a virtual data centre, able to move its physical location around as needed, you then need some certainty about its future costs of operation. Data centre operators are subject to significant variability in their cost of operation: their key input is energy, which is price-volatile (and becoming increasingly so).
So, where is the emerging traded exchange for cycles? Where are the futures contracts we'll want to get a price optimised across the decades we have to run systems? Are data centre operators even thinking about the financial instruments we'll need to have in order to use their shiny new facilities for anything at all mission critical?
I don't think so. At least, I haven't seen much evidence of it. But one thing I can say: bankers I've spoken to in lots places around the world are wondering at their absence. Perhaps it is an opportunity we -as in financial institutions collectively – pursue independently of the data centre providers?