For Jim Fowler, CIO of General Electric, there\u2019s a simple reason he is marching the company toward the cloud: \u201cI\u2019m not going to sell another aircraft engine because I run a global compute factory very well; I\u2019m not going to sell another locomotive because I figured out how to engineer the user experience really well for my developers; I\u2019m not going to sell an oil and gas pump because I\u2019ve figured out how to do self-service,\u201d he said at last year's Amazon Web Service\u2019s re:Invent conference. \u201cThat\u2019s AWS\u2019s differentiator. That's what they do well.\u201d\u00a0\n\n\nGE, the 123-year-old staple of the global industrial sector, is going all in on the cloud. The company plans to migrate 9,000 applications to public IaaS over the next three years. It is reducing its data centers from more than 30 to the single digits.\n\n\nBut for a company with $117 billion in annual revenue; tens of thousands of apps; hundreds of thousands of servers; petabytes of storage and networks in hundreds of countries around the world, migrating to the cloud isn\u2019t as easy as lifting and shifting.\n\n\n\nVice President and Chief Technology Officer of GE Information Technology Chris Drumgoole says it\u2019s been a complicated process with many bumps along the way. And Drumgoole says there\u2019s more that vendors, regulators and members of the open source community could do to help ease this process for others.\n\n\n+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Inside Bank of America\u2019s IT Transformation | +\n\n\nGE is a multi-billion dollar buyer of IT services, so what their executives say has sway in the market. But teaming up with other customers only amplifies that voice. That\u2019s why Drumgoole has joined the Open Networking User Group and specifically ONUG\u2019s recently formed Hybrid Cloud Working Group. The group is preparing a list of recommendations that it will take to leading cloud and technology vendors. Drumgoole is hoping that aggregating concerns from customers across different industries will help alleviate some of the leading issues that companies moving to the cloud are facing.\u00a0\n\nVendors thrive in a complex world \n\n\u201cWhat we\u2019re using to drive IT here is simplicity,\u201d Drumgoole says. But fundamentally, many IT vendors thrive on complexity and helping customers manage it. \u201cWe\u2019ve taken a step back and said instead of trying to manage the complex environment better, why don\u2019t we simplify the environment?\u201d\n\n\nGE isn\u2019t alone in advocating for a simpler world of IT. Facebook three years ago founded the Open Compute Project, which gives big users a way to assemble their own customized hardware instead of buying into proprietary hardware stacks. \u201cThe money is following simplicity,\u201d Drumgoole says. \u201cWe don\u2019t want to buy complexity we don\u2019t need.\u201d\n\n\nJust because GE\u2019s executive team made a strategic decision to embrace the cloud years ago doesn\u2019t mean that its regulators, internal operators, partners and customers have been on board.\n\n\nSome of GE\u2019s core industries \u2013 energy, health care and finance \u2013 are heavily regulated by protocols that were written for a different era. \u201cThey assume the construct of a client-server world,\u201d Drumgoole says. \u201cThe regulations are written in a way that assumes there\u2019s a server, a hypervisor and a physical data center that you control. Fundamentally, those don\u2019t apply in the cloud world.\u201d\n\n\nThe whole point of the public cloud is that vendors \u2013 like AWS - provide those components as a service to customers. \u201cThe constructs of the regulations haven\u2019t taken into consideration the advances in technology,\u201d he adds. Through the ONUG working group, Drumgoole is hoping a single, more modern nomenclature across various providers that regulators can use could be developed for the next generation of policies.\n\nIf you build the cloud, will they come? \n\nEmbracing a cloud-first mentality across the organization required adjustments internally, too. Drumgoole arrived at GE two years ago to find the traditional angst between software developers and infrastructure operators. Devs can\u2019t get the infrastructure they need; ops folks don\u2019t know what the software teams need. Cloud seemed like the natural answer to this problem.\n\n\nGE invested in building tools, creating systems and processes for managing it and ensuring regulatory compliance. When GE\u2019s IT team introduced the cloud services, some of those software developers and ops teams didn\u2019t want to use it. \u201cSome of the legacy, single-technology developers struggled with deploying and moving apps when we took away the support envelope of a traditional infrastructure team,\u201d he says, adding that the challenge has largely been overcome, though it required a shift in mindset.\n\nTake matters into your own hands\n\nSo on the one hand, GE wants to enable developers to work as quickly as possible creating new applications and not being held back by needing infrastructure. At the same time, that has to be done in a sanctioned way that complies with regulations and customer priorities. Developers can\u2019t be running up unnecessarily large bills for IaaS public cloud services, or being exposing sensitive data without proper protections.\n\n\nDrumgoole says there aren\u2019t good tools in the market for this. Many cloud management platforms amount to putting up gates and checks, with people checking those processes and other people checking the checkers\u2019 work, creating audit logs that basically amount to overwhelming data dumps. \u201cThat wasn\u2019t going to work,\u201d Drumgoole says.\n\n\n+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: How Notre Dame is going all in on Amazon\u2019s cloud+\n\n\nSo what did GE do? It made its own tools called the Bot Army. It\u2019s a series of small software components developed internally that automatically enforce behaviors behind the scenes. The Reaper Bot is one, it searches cloud environments for customer, financial or other sensitive data and takes immediate actions of shutting down a cloud service or quarantine the data or a user.\n\n\nDrumgoole says the Bots work, but he\u2019s disappointed the market doesn\u2019t have better proprietary or open source tools to manage these issues.\n\nWhere you really save money in the cloud \n\nSome people may assume that going to the cloud is a substantial cost savings. But Drumgoole says it\u2019s not significantly less expensive to use the cloud for a company the size of GE. \u201cAnd if you do it wrong, the cloud can be a lot more expensive,\u201d he says.\n\n\nGE has found a way to save up to 35% or more by running in the cloud though. The key is that it\u2019s not just infrastructure savings. Drumgoole says users can only achieve those savings by fundamentally changing the process involved in managing infrastructure and applications. \u201cInstead of 10 people involved in a deployment cycle, it\u2019s one, with a Reaper Box making sure they\u2019re doing it right,\u201d he says. \u201cWhen you take out all of that outsourced contract labor, that\u2019s where the real savings come in.\u201d\n\nThere\u2019s more vendors could do \n\nInstead of having to build the Bot Army, Drumgoole says he would have loved to have been able to use an open source project, backed by a major technology vendor, that manages those issues.\n\n\nThere are other things vendors could be doing better too. Software makers are taking too long to evolve their platforms to a true SaaS model, he says. Just hosting the application and charging for it monthly does not make it a true cloud app, Drumgoole contends.\n\n\nOn the IaaS public cloud side, Drumgoole still believes AWS is a more feature-rich platform compared to any other in the market, but Microsoft has been investing heavily in Azure, making the gap between the two \u201csmaller rather than bigger.\u201d\n\n\nStill, given GE\u2019s international presence, Drumgoole says he\u2019d like to see another non U.S.-based cloud provider of significant scale in the market to satisfy customers, particularly those in foreign countries, who may not be comfortable with the company\u2019s cloud provider being subject to U.S. law.\n\n\nIf there\u2019s one thing Drumgoole has learned, it\u2019s that when it comes to the cloud, it pays to go all in. \u201cIf you want to stick your toe in the water, then you\u2019re probably going to be disappointed,\u201d he says. \u201cIf we weren\u2019t all in, we wouldn\u2019t get the real benefit of the cloud.\u201d Now, through ONUG, Drumgoole is hoping to make this process easier for others to decide to go all in too.