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By Arnoud Campman, Chief Technology Officer, FrieslandCampina Consumer Products Asia
Being on Cloud Nine generally refers to some state of euphoria or wellbeing. Will moving to the cloud bring us to Cloud Nine? As global IT lead for my company, I realize I need to have an opinion on, or even better, a holistic strategy for “The Cloud”.
I am by no means a Cloud expert and merely share my current thinking in this article. And, of course I appreciate input as well.
At FrieslandCampina, we developed a deliberate Cloud strategy, for a number of reasons. First of all: agility and scalability. Secondly: cost and quality.
Cloud hosting and computing provide tremendous Agility
Companies who are in a global SAP template roll-out will recognize that having test environments available with fresh (master) data is paramount to success. Because of complex roll-out schedules we oftentimes found ourselves in situations where project A could not afford a “systems refresh” while project B needed one. In the past this led to never ending negotiations between projects, while today we are able to spin up new test environments in weeks rather than months, and decommission them when no longer needed. All at very affordable cost. Thanks to the cloud.
Another angle is Business Intelligence or Digital in general. In the area of data analytics our teams are now using scalable services to analyze large datasets, implementing data lakes, in which we can store enormous amounts of data securely. And app development nowadays goes fast and is sometimes business led. For IT to then be able to run whatever our business partners come up with (or ask us to deliver) requires agility in computing and hosting power. The cloud offers this. And the business value this brings is real and measurable!
Cloud hosting and computing will decrease Cost and increase Quality
The cloud is not just another hosting environment, although I initially thought about it like that. Additional services include security, for example built in DDOS protection, as well as many others. Quality and (cyber) security are important and more readily available in the cloud. On top, life cycle management and back-ups (in case things go South) is something you don’t need to worry about much aging physical servers, OS license management, daily insertion of back-up tapes etcetera are history.
Companies who are in a global SAP template roll-out will recognize that having test environments available with fresh (master) data is paramount to success
Yet another area is marketing initiated web sites. Often times, marketing agencies offer an end to end service for campaigns and persistent web presence. All good, but in my experience security aspects are oftentimes overlooked and maintenance is close to non-existent. Leading to friendly and sometimes not so friendly hacks. Creating a central Cloud based webhosting platform from within IT allows for better security and controls. With this platform we control security globally, and new sites can be deployed within a day. The related processes are largely automated.
Of course this requires a different organization (and people capability) versus traditional Server Operations. So we established a dedicated global cloud team. This team owns the architecture and ensures standardization across the cloud infrastructure globally. They are in close contact with suppliers and stakeholders in the organization and take care of financial and operational controls plus optimizing cost & performance. The cloud offers tooling such as automated budget management, detecting systems that are underutilized, automating systems & data base management. Net this delivers much more proactive and agile services versus traditional hosting environments, at a better cost.
Worry about the Vendor eco-system
So do we move everything to the cloud? No. When crisis hits, you typically rely on your vendor eco-system to help resolve these. While hosting applications in the Cloud is very attractive, you also need to take into account how important you are for your Cloud partner. Will they really go the extra mile for you when your global critical systems are down? For that reason we decided to keep our global critical systems with traditional hosting partners for now. That might change in future but only after we gained sufficient experience with the vendor eco-system in the cloud. On top, some applications require local servers (for latency reasons for example). We are looking into solutions for this, such as provisioning Citrix or remote desktop services from the cloud as well. My definition of Cloud Nine for this area is to have zero local servers, or if they are needed, that they are managed by an IT company (not by the Dairy Company we are).
And worry about the impact on your network
In our network environment we typically have primary leased MPLS lines and secondary Internet break-outs. Moving to the Cloud forced us to relook at our network strategy, rebalancing primary and secondary line capacities (for quality and cost) and starting our Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) project to be able to better balance all types of traffic over the bandwidth we have contracted and pay for. As an example: when we initially moved On-Premise Outlook e-mail and SharePoint to the cloud and added capabilities like OneDrive we needed to really upgrade our secondary lines. Offsetting this by decreasing primary line bandwidth was hard work but also saved quite a bit of cost in the end. Our SD-WAN strategy will ultimately prepare us for the future: an internet and cloud centric IT environment with user experience as the core success measure versus traditional up-time / bandwidth discussions.