By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: The scenarios that you have described where the workflow has changed significantly, do you see those as opportunities for other small vendors to come in and solve some of these problems with technology? Are there any vendors that are offering you ways to manage these kinds of transitions to the cloud?
JD: We have not seen any vendors that offer that type of service to a company of our size. Maybe there are those that operate on the smaller end or larger ends of the market. As someone in a mid-tier company, I have not seen companies approach us directly about assistance in migrating from a traditional environment to a cloud-computing environment. Certainly, the cloud-based solution vendors themselves offer that as a service. However, I have not really seen anything that is available for our use; it is a great question, by the way. There maybe a niche market there that I have not thought of yet.
SM: The next question is from the cloud computing vendor’s perspective. With cloud-based solutions now, there seem to be more things that need to be measured. For example, you need reporting on some of the metrics and statistics that are actually sitting on the cloud computing vendor’s side of the fence. You need to report and funnel those back to your other software component vendors to manage their billing and their license management – that is a complex workflow, right?
JD: It certainly is, and I can see from the cloud computing vendor perspective a need for new product and services to help them manage those workflows and compliance.
SM: I think so, too.
JD: Frankly, I have not looked at that side of the equation, but it is an interesting perspective.
SM: It sounds like something that somebody should develop solutions for rather than trying to do all customized stuff for each such cloud move.
JD: I agree. The one thing that we found interesting is that this move to the cloud really changed my thought process about our own internal staffing. Many of us probably grow up in a day and age where you assume you need your own DBAs and network administrators as part of your own data infrastructure. This is really the first time that I have been able to step back and say, that is such as hard commodity to come by any way. In every IT environment that I have ever been in, you struggle to find enough DBAs, network administrators, and good infrastructure people. All of a sudden, it really allowed me to rethink our staffing model and think about where I can redeploy resources when I can use a cloud environment as opposed to a traditional environment. Earlier I had to have those people in the seat. We had to recruit them and pay their benefits, and we always struggled to find enough of them with the right skills. Therefore, it has also allowed us to rethink our overall staffing model and to leverage the cloud environment from a staffing perspective.
SM: What have you done differently because of this shuffling?
JD: We redeployed resources. In this case, in the order to cash arena, we have very few DBAs and network administrators in comparison to our traditional environment, where we have a fully dedicated staff.
SM: Have you taken that as cost savings or have you redeployed that budget?
JD: We have redeployed that budget into other areas such as integration, security, and operations. We redeployed not in network or computer operations but in applications services.
SM: Let’s talk about integration. What is your strategy? You have brought together many components and now they are all going into cloud mode. It sound likes there is a fair amount of integration going on here, is that correct?
JD: I would say that integration work is really the core of what we do now. Our task now is mostly to do with integration work and workflow management. If I were to blow it down to what is our central mission, it is to be very good at integration between applications and very good at workflow management.
SM: Do you do this integration in-house or do you use external resources?
JD: We use external resources as well. The majority is in-house, but we certainly use a couple of boutique firms that are working in telecom space as well as large system integrators (SIs). We have worked with Capgemini often over the course of the past ten years.
SM: Has cloud computing changed the integration requirements? Have these requirements increased?
JD: I do not think that they have increased; I think it changed them, though. For the first time we are not talking about private closed environment and integration within, and that certainly was the dialogue that took place between our integration team and SunGard in this case. Earlier, such a conversation was not even necessary, now it is.
SM: What about security? Is security a big part of your cloud environment? What is the security strategy, and which are the vendors involved with it? Can you share your philosophy of security?
JD: I can probably give you the philosophy easier than I can name the vendors. I do not know that one area vendor by vendor. We are able to specify our security requirements because we are a public company that requires soft compliance on an annual basis to address PCI compliance, CPNI compliance, etc. We were able to give stringent guidelines to our cloud computing environment vendor on how they need to handle the security aspects of our data environment both for cloud and for the dedicated facilities in Aurora, Colorado, and in Arizona.
SM: Does the cloud vendor implement security for you based on the specifications that you provide?
JD: We have done some of both. In cloud environment, we provide specifications and they provide the security. In the case of our dedicated facilities, in some cases we provide both software and the specifications. We have more involvement in the dedicated facilities environment from a security perspective than in the cloud environment. In the case of the latter, we simply provide the specification and requirements. Our cloud environment provider provides the validation and proof of meeting those security specifications