Cloud vendors that bypass IT departments risk creating integration problems at a later date and could ultimately destroy their customer relationships, warns Jaguar Land Rover’s head of IT.
JLR’s Alex Rammal told delegates at Cloud World Forum that public cloud suppliers which sell services directly to the wider business fail to address the architecture problems that can occur after a system is deployed.
“One of the things that is normally enough for me to stop a relationship with a cloud provider is when they go directly to the business with a sales pitch, effectively saying they can this without involving the IT department,” he said.
“That sounds lovely up until they need to integrate with some of the legacy environment, and then suddenly we are left with badly architectured and badly thought-out plan. That is a definite no-no to me."
He added: “The world of IT has changed substantially, we are not the blockers that we may once have been. Cloud companies need to understand that they need to work with us on that basis.”
JLR has embarked on a substantial project to move to the cloud since it was bought by Tata in 2008 from Ford.
At this point the company had a “highly fragmented” IT landscape that was expensive to run and required a significant investment in an enterprise service bus to connect legacy applications.
“We had significant over-capacity from buying pizza boxes for every application that we needed. We had a large amount of SAN storage that we weren't using efficiently. We also had a very heavy capex budget that we wanted to change to a utility based model.”
In order to improve its IT environment, JLR began a strategy to determine which elements of its business could be put into the cloud - whether its traditional on premise environment, virtualised and automated private cloud, or with software and infrastructure as a service providers.
The firm then mapped all of its core systems to see where applications would be best placed.
"Something like our plant operations is very, very high availability and the cost for us of those going offline is substantial. That is the type of thing we are likely to retain on-premise on the private cloud," he explained.
“As the service offerings from cloud companies mature that is something we would revisit but at the moment we don't feel comfortable with moving that kind stuff away from where we can touch and feel it.”
Similarly, JLR's SAP customer relationship management system was kept on-premise due to the sensitive nature of some of its data.
At the other end of the spectrum were workloads such its test-dev, quality and assurance, and sandbox environments. These could more easily be moved out to a public provider, with JLR a customer of Amazon Web Services.
Other applications that were deemed suitable for the public cloud were its Jaguar.com and Landrover.com websites, as well as its ecommerce platform, which was placed in the SAP Hana cloud, allowing the business to scale more quickly.
Google Enterprise and Paas
JLR is also a major customer of Google’s Enterprise applications, and the company was up until recently the largest corporate user of Gmail in the UK with its 25,000 staff, as well as implementing other services such as Google Docs.
Rammal said that the company is now looking to develop more services on top of Google’s App Engine platform.
“Google is fairly important to us going forward with our collaboration suite. What we are looking at now is how we can exploit that more as platform as a service, building applications onto there,” he said.
"The way we sell that internally is the 80 percent of commonality focus. The user interface, the look and feel and investment we already have in the collaboration [tools] make it far easier to sell to the business to build applications and workflows on top of that."
Barriers to the cloud
There are some challenges in creating a wide-ranging cloud transformation strategy, however.
For example, Rammal says there are difficulties in attracting staff with the relevant skills to deal with a multitude of cloud suppliers that a large enterprise must engage with.
“One of the big issues I get is the lack of some of the skills we need in IT going forward," he said.
"Things such as vendor management I find are really lacking when we are looking at recruiting graduate and junior level staff. To me these are some of the more important skills moving forward than some of the traditional computer science type skills.”
On the vendor side, aside from the aforementioned problems with suppliers circumventing the IT department, there are also issues with ability to meet the needs of enterprise customers.
“My biggest issue when dealing with cloud companies is that they still don't always seem to have made the move away from consumer business to the enterprise business. For us to be successful with them they have to learn that different way of acting with large scale corporate customers."
Going forward Rammal expects the cloud strategy to continue to accelerate. As cloud services mature over time there will be no need for the business to determine which applications can be moved off-premise, he says.
“Eventually we would like the [cloud question] to become redundant, because investment that is done in security and data protection will mean the concerns we have around the public cloud as it is today go away.”