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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Doug Menefee, CIO of Schumacher Group (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Jan 22nd 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: With respect to the security concerns, I am hearing the same from a lot of other people. I think that the cloud vendors have a better capacity to provide solid security than what you can provide in your internal IT operation.

DM: I have said this for the past five years. As a mid-sized company, I can’t justify having a full-time security person with the salary that a full-time security person should cost. Security is not a one-person operation. For an IT team, dealing with security for a mid-sized company becomes a part-time job for all of our IT personnel. For a typical cloud provider, their reputation is on the line if they have a security breach. So, they have a team of dedicated security experts and individuals whose only job is to be able to deal with security. As a mid-sized company using a cloud service, I get the same security value as one of the Fortune 100 and Fortune 10 companies on Salesforce.com. That is how seriously they take it.

SM: Yes, absolutely.

DM: In addition to these, I have other thoughts on security. We need to deal with compliance, too. Not really in terms of SOX compliance as we are not a publicly traded company, but we have HIPAA to deal with. So we have to review all of our SaaS providers and cloud providers from a HIPAA perspective in order to ensure that we have met all the compliance obligations with respect to those organizations.

SM: I couldn’t agree more! Could you talk a bit about your Platform as Service (PaaS) strategy?

DM: Sure. The key thing there for us is, as we are looking at our applications, we are looking at different platforms. We view Salesforce and Amazon as the most formidable PaaS platforms out there today. There is Google, too. We are less inclined toward Google as a platform because they still don’t have Salesforce or Amazon kind of business focus when it comes to application development. It is great for independent software development vendors, though. We get huge value out of Google associated with what we are doing with Google Apps on spreadsheets, e-mail and those types of things. But they just don’t have the same business mentality as Salesforce and Amazon in terms of their service offerings. I love working with Google. At the same time, I don’t have insight into their product roadmap and their offerings live in beta stage for an unknown period. It is one of the things that you accept in working with Google when you deal with them. That is the reason why we have not done a lot of platform work with them. However, like I said today, we are exploring and looking to shift toward the Amazon environment for business continuity. We are heavily invested in Force.com as a platform. For the rest of the cloud-based services that we are partnered with, they are not really going down the path of being platforms. They are sticking to the pure SaaS environment and saying, We will interface with you if you write a custom application on the Salesforce.com platform.

SM: When you moved to Google Apps for your office applications such as e-mail and spreadsheets, did you move from a previous system to Google?

DM: No. On the work that we did with Google, we brought up a ‘net new’ with our physicians. What we are doing now is bringing up Google Apps in parallel for all of the employees who work at Schumacher Group. Google Apps and Google Mail will be in parallel to our Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office environments. What I find with Google Apps is that it is a great collaboration tool. But is not quite the replacement for the Office environment and a lot what we do within our business intelligence and our on-premise enterprise data warehouse. For all those types of functions, I need to do those within an Office setting based on how we opted to architect our business intelligence environments.

SM: I see. So you are running Google and Microsoft Office in parallel?

DM: Yes. That is why I can’t really put a cost savings on cloud-based technology adoption because some people may say that in many instances I’m probably paying a third more than what an average company would pay out there. This is because I am giving our users two or three choices to be able to go after. As a CIO, I prefer to give options to users to be able to go after and use what they prefer to the fullest as opposed to bottlenecking them and saying, This is the one solution, you have to use it and deal with the limitations it has.

SM: Interesting! Your primary reason for bringing Google in to the environment is to address the need for collaboration?

DM: Yes. The reason we opted to go with Google for our physician community was purely cost savings. With their kind of licensing model close to $50 a year per user that Google offers, I couldn’t match that in bringing up an Exchange environment with the disk space and all the value that we get from Google.

SM: Right!

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Doug Menefee, CIO of Schumacher Group
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