CIOs adopt down-to-earth cloud strategy

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Amazon and Google have come a long way toward being enterprise-friendly, and corporate legal teams have come a long way in their understanding of cloud, Heim says. IT’s role is to communicate and demonstrate how the cloud meets business requirements. “People worry about risk and security — [but] you improve security and de-risk your environment with cloud. I also believe you improve your ability to compete,” Heim says.

Wayne Shurts, CTO at food distributor Sysco, echoes that sentiment.

“Cloud providers understand legal and security issues are some of their biggest obstacles, so they’ve really concentrated on it and focused on it. They have pretty good answers,” Shurts says.

Sysco recently completed a major cloud project: Deploying Microsoft Office 365 for 20,000 users. “There’s nothing in my managing email that’s a competitive advantage. I’m perfectly happy having someone else manage that for me,” Shurts says.

One piece of advice from Shurts? Feed the network.

“Your network has got to be Class A,” Shurts says. Sysco is in the middle of a three-year network upgrade project to increase bandwidth, provide more complete redundancy and improve traffic prioritization. “The network really becomes even more important and a huge point of failure in your infrastructure than it ever was before.”

Data movement is also a concern for Family Dollar, whose cloud deployments include HR applications, SharePoint and the website.

In general, the systems that lend themselves to cloud need to be used most of the day, don’t have a batch processing cycle and aren’t terribly data intensive, says Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett. For this reason, much of the retailer’s IT resides on premises. ERP and data warehousing, for example, are internal largely because so much data runs through these systems that “there isn’t a good business case” for passing it in and out of the company continuously, Jewett says.

“You have to move it through a skinny pipe. That takes a lot of time, and partners may charge by the megabyte or terabyte. If you’re talking about close to a petabyte of data, not only is it hard to move but it’s cheaper to keep it on premises,” Jewett says.

Cloud skills in demand

On the skills front, CIOs are in agreement that companies need to reexamine the traditional roles and capabilities in their IT shops to be successful in the cloud.

Greg moran

Greg Moran

“IT today is more of a broker of hosting services—both internal and external—than a purveyor of specific tech platforms. It’s changing the nature of the work across IT,” says Greg Moran, CIO at Nationwide.

Nationwide’s cloud efforts so far have been largely internal, built on a virtualized infrastructure with Linux running on mainframes. That approach provides the company with many of the benefits associated with cloud — flexibility, standardization, manageability — but in a private setting, Moran says.

Cloud is a big change for people and organizations, says Randy Spratt, CIO and CTO at McKesson. There are “different skill sets, different relationships with vendors, different ways of deploying and provisioning services.”

Change management becomes an “evangelical” function, Spratt says. “Just building and deploying isn’t enough. You need to educate businesses about what they have. It’s like an internal sales job.”

Understanding virtualization is essential; if it can’t be virtualized, it can’t go to the cloud, says Bob Fecteau, CIO at systems integrator SAIC. In general, Fecteau sees a path away from pure skills (coder, network manager) and toward information brokers. Tomorrow, IT will be asked, “how can you get me the info we need to make key business decisions?” he says.

For more on how these companies are embracing cloud computing, check out the rest of our Giants in the Cloud series:

* What giant companies WON’T put in the cloud
* CIOs share must-have cloud skills
* 13 tips to achieve cloud success
* CIOs face cloud computing challenges, pitfalls

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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