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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Paul Wilcox, CIO of HMH Publishing (Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Feb 6th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: Well, sounds like it makes perfect financial sense that a private cloud is going to be more cost effective than an environment where there is a lot of duplication, no virtualization, and all of that. I know the financial answer to this question, but the question remains. There is also this public cloud available. You chose to go directly from an on-premise, owned and operated environment with lots of wasted infrastructure to a private cloud which is virtualized and efficient. Now, that is saving a lot of money. Did you not consider the interim step of going to a public cloud?

PW: Well, we are considering that option for a lot of our services. For example, in terms of data management, deduplication of data, and archiving requirements, a private cloud does not make sense. We don’t need to invest in that infrastructure ourselves. For those things, it doesn’t need to be terribly secure; it doesn’t need to be available 24/7.

Performance is a huge issue, so we can take data storage or business continuity sites, and I think it makes a lot of sense for those kinds of performance-sensitive applications to be in a private cloud. For example, for some of our products, we do high-stakes testing with students. There, we need a high degree of security around the student data. I think there is a trade-off as to what services you would like to be secure, reliable, and very high performing and other services where there is a lower level of concern for those things. The second category of services is what we are trying to get out to public clouds and align with what we can from the set of available cloud services.

SM: I see. You basically have a hybrid environment.

PW: Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, we also have an environment with our ERP which is a totally managed service, and they use the cloud for a lot of their archiving of enterprise workflows and historical SAP data for us. In terms of leveraging cloud-based solutions, we are consuming those even if we don’t realize them as being such.

SM: Yes, absolutely. I would like to ask you a high-level directional question here. The workloads and configurations, in terms of SAP and the cloud-based services you deploy, you have some based in the private cloud and other workloads such as archiving in a public cloud. Would you go over the organizing principle behind that?

PW: Sure! You pretty much summed up what our major systems are. It is more of our ERP that is external to us, it is our product, it is more internal product, and I guess I would say our business processes are more housed in the private cloud. We have other components; for example, we use Salesforce.com. That obviously is a cloud-based service, but it is a primary enabler for our sales force. We also use Cloud9Analytics, which is business intelligence for our sales force data. That is also in the cloud. We have other services that are somewhat of a hybrid: we have customer care sites that are highly mobile because probably about 40% of our organization, or 30%–40% of our organization, is sales and they are in the field. So, we have a highly mobile organization. Whether it is the public or private cloud, we try to make it look to the end user like they are just consuming another service.

SM: What do you use for sales force automation?

PW: We use Salesforce.com.

SM: Okay! What is your collaboration environment?

PW: For our more structured collaboration, we primarily use SharePoint. Well, a more effective collaboration environment is CubeTree, from SuccessFactors. We had an amazing degree of success in a vital implementation with CubeTree, the kind of adoption that we hadn’t been able to get, in terms of individual adoption, in SharePoint. CubeTree adoption actually took off a lot quicker than we expected; we almost weren’t prepared for that kind of success.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Paul Wilcox, CIO of HMH Publishing
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