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CIOs adopt down-to-earth cloud strategy

Ann Bednarz | Oct. 15, 2014
For CIOs at these large companies, being selective is the key to cloud success.

"I'm not so hell-bent on cutting costs, but on modernizing the tech," says Sanjay Saraf, senior vice president and CTO at Western Union. "I can't waste too much time. Cloud providers have got it down right. It's low risk and gives me a tremendous amount of speed."

Likewise, cost savings isn't a driving factor for Campbell Soup's cloud initiatives.

"If you make it a money thing, you're making a mistake. It's an option to deliver capability," says Joe Spagnoletti, CIO at Campbell's. "You have to get it at the cost commensurate with the capability. You can't do it for cost savings or management efficiency."

Campbell's has developed formal processes, reviewed monthly, for the acquisition, management and recertification of its cloud partners. "There are no limitations to the things we're doing in the cloud, but we're also not trying to do everything," Spagnoletti says.

Cloud challenges
The burden of legacy systems is just one challenge that can slow cloud adoption. Another is concern about  vendor lock-in.

To help manage the risk of lock-in, GE is putting in the foundations of what it calls a Service Rail, which is based on as many standards and common foundations as possible. The idea is to create, for instance, a set of services around identity management so users don't need to worry about multiple IDs or passwords. Also, if business needs change, GE will be able to adopt other types of cloud services and software without having to rework its technology underpinnings.

Although some people worry about security and risk in the cloud, Whirlpool CIO Michael Heim says those issues are improved by cloud computing because the vendors stay up to date on the latest technology. Security problems arise from "how you're managing, not where it is," Heim says.

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.


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