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Jumping all-in with cloud

Jumping all-in with cloud

Three IT leaders discuss the challenges and benefits of moving their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud

Although deploying hybrid cloud infrastructure seems like the most popular strategy, some CIOs have decided to go all-in with the public cloud as they don't see any value in maintaining even part of their infrastructure on-premise.

Public cloud was the answer for job management software company, simPro’s global client base. Before moving its infrastructure to Rackspace data centres about a year and a half ago, the company was running on colocation hardware in a number of Australian data centres.

“We are dealing with a client base spread across Australia, New Zealand, UK and the US. And Rackspace has point of presences or data centres in pretty much all of those locations. That means we can actually spread our application out globally and make sure it’s locally accessible to clients," said simPro CTO, Jonathan Eastgate.

That’s a real struggle to try and do in a colocated environment, he said.

“For example, the biggest struggle [with colocation] we had when dealing with international clients was the latency between Australia and UK - it's just horrendous. So it’s almost impossible to serve an application over the Web to a client in the UK out of an Australian data centre. And because of the reliability of bandwidth into Australia as well, the risk for outage was also a lot higher," he said.

“Now we’ve been able to put nodes of our system in each of the Rackspace cloud data centres across the UK, US and Sydney. So UK clients by default connect into the UK cloud, and if the UK cloud has an issue of goes offline, we can automatically re-route that data into say, the US data centre or any one of the other data centres. That gives us a lot of redundancy we just didn’t have before,” he said.

Security was top of mind for Eastgate when moving everything to the cloud as it meant not being able to lock down his own private network. He said he was able to get around that by using Rackspace’s private network allocation, where he could set up his own private network within each data centre.

The level of support was also a key factor to Eastgate, as he made sure he had his own dedicated account manager that would be on call before making the all-in cloud move.

“Rackspace put a data centre in Sydney about a year and half ago. We were one of the first clients into that data centre, and it prompted our move from the hybrid solution to full cloud. We have some clients who have a requirement to have data hosted within the country, so that was always an issue for us in the past when we were colocating and had moved some of those data centres outside Australia.”

For Lonely Planet’s head of cloud services, Darragh Kennedy, all-in public cloud is more cost effective than the hybrid approach because “you don’t have to have to have those very expensive links between yourself and the cloud provider”.

Kennedy has been running the company’s travel websites with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for about two years now, gradually moving over parts of the business one-by-one rather than taking a big bang approach.

“From a risk perspective, we didn’t have to fully commit ourselves to the cloud. We were able to start with a test and integration environment, where we run our build agents, and we were able to migrate that environment first to run it in parallel, to soak it in and make it acceptable from a performance perspective.

“And then we were able to move on to the next environment and follow that same process. At any stage in this process we could of reverted back to our on premise environment because we weren’t investing a huge amount of capital into the public cloud,” he said.

Property group, GPT was one of the first top 50 ASX companies to go all-in cloud. Before moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in November 2013, the group was running on a virtualisation model but wanted greater flexibility to manage its growing assets. At the end of last year, for example, it acquired a major asset in Melbourne for its office portfolio, which required quick scale up of infrastructure.

Before moving to the cloud, GPT was spending quite a significant portion of its IT budget on new capital infrastructure, said CIO, Sharmilla Tsourdalakis. Since moving everything to the public cloud, the company has seen an overall 20 per cent cost reduction of its infrastructure, she said.

“Whilst we could scale [our IT infrastructure] pre-cloud, the time to deliver that was certainly longer, whereas now we are in a position we can stand up a new environment within minutes,” said Tsourdalakis.

She said the company is now spending more time on other strategic initiatives.

"It’s given the infrastructure team an opportunity to reinvent and refocus. So our infrastructure team is more and more focused on the digital space and enabling that with our business.

“A lot of people talk about the cloud, but I think the real payoff of the cloud is what happens [after moving to] the cloud. So it’s the ability for our team to focus on innovation, R&D and supporting the business on strategic initiatives. And to me that is the holy grail of IT, where IT can be seen as truly adding value and being seen as providing true business technology,” she said.

When public cloud is not appropriate

Public cloud is not for everybody, said Lonely Planet's Kennedy. For enterprises with a lot of legacy apps or those that just need to be quite close to their data, going all-in cloud is probably not appropriate.

“With public cloud it’s really important to build the correct architecture for the cloud. Simply forklifting something from on-premise and sticking it in a public cloud is not going to give you that benefit. Picking up a large legacy application and dumping it in is not going to give you much benefit, it’s probably going to cause you trouble,” he said.

Training is another issue to consider, GPT's Tsourdalakis said. It does require retraining and reinvesting in your team to be able to properly manage the transition to the cloud and get used to working in a new environment.

Moving everything to the cloud might not always result in cost savings, so you also need more of a reason to go ahead such as looking at the productivity and efficiency gains, simPro's Eastgate said.

“For us, we didn’t actually save any money going to the cloud. The cost per instance was actually lower in the cloud, so we used that as an opportunity to actually scale up at the same time. So we are spending the same amount of money we were in colocation, if not a little bit more now because we’ve scaled since. We weren’t looking at the cloud as a cost saving measure, we were looking at it as a way of expanding and having that global reach,” he said.

Kennedy said public cloud makes it easier for people to consume more infrastructure. If you make something easier for people to consume, they are going to consume more of it, he said.

However, the price of cloud continues to go down, he added.

“Previously when we had our on premise environment and when dealing with vendors, usually the negotiations were around how much your cost was going to go up when renewing licenses for new equipment. Whereas without us even asking, the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google, are all reducing prices because of the scale that they are building,” he said.

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