The Amazon online retail service and Amazon Web Services have little or nothing to do with each other but the idea that the company’s IT department would not use cloud computing almost seems implausible.
Or does it? Amazon IT is really like any other IT department. It has a mix of different systems and processes that have developed over the past several years. It’s a global organization that has thousands of employees who depend on the IT infrastructure to manage finances, human resources and all the other functions in the enterprise.
For the past four years, Amazon IT has been working toward a move to the cloud. Along the way it has gone through the process that many companies are now also experiencing.
Amazon IT Director Jen Boden shared her unique story about moving to the cloud at an event this week hosted by her employer. SearchCloudComputing.com covered what she said in an excellent post on its site today.
The post provides insights into similar issues that IT directors face in moving to the cloud. It’s her special status as someone who actually works for a company that specializes in cloud computing that makes her story different.
Drinking Her Company’s Own Champagne
Boden has the luxury of working for a company with n-house expertise about cloud computing. But she still had to evaluate her employer in some ways as she would a third party vendor. What she experienced is a case study for anyone going through the process of choosing a cloud computing provider.
Boden says she did not have to adopt cloud computing. There was no directive from Jeff Bezos. She claims it was a business decision but also says she felt it was a lesson in “drinking her own champagne.” We like that analogy far more than the one we hear from other companies about eating their own dog food. Yuck. Makes Amazon appear like they are of a higher class than the competition.
In the post from SearchCloudComputing, Boden said Amazons’ enterprise portfolio includes Oracle E-Business Suite Financials software for reporting and business process needs. It also uses Appian for business process management and BMC for systems management.
Virtualization Played An Important Role
She said they decided to start internally by consolidating and virtualizing the IT environment. That’s an example of good maintenance and organization as it helped get things in order before switching to the cloud. She said the effort provided more flexibility in where and how applications could be deployed and served.
Right now, Boden is in the preliminary stages of moving into AWS. She has started with simple, homegrown applications. The more critical aspects of the IT operation will move later. Finance will be last.
The planning began a year ago. It will most likely be another 18 months before the process is completed.
She said the biggest challenge is security and compliance. She said she would not have considered moving the company’s financial applications to the cloud before last Fall. That’s when Amazon began offering its virtual private cloud service. It’s essentiailly a virtual private network, cut off from the public Internet. It also helps that Amazon has recently completed a major security audit.
But in the end, it’s the people that make it all come together. She had had to negotiate with her auditors, assuring compliance. She had to help her IT department learn how to manage applications in a cloud enviroment.
Making her Sarbanes-Oxley applications fully virtualized and certified made it all a bit easier.
The lesson? Boden lowered the barriers. Virtualization smoothed out the process. In the end, she was prepared to drink her own champagne and move to the cloud.