The lack of a well-crafted enterprise cloud computing strategy has the potential to stall a company’s cloud adoption journey. When crafting a cloud strategy, businesses should first be cognizant of the outcomes they are trying to achieve, according to Ralph Loura, senior vice president and CIO at Lumentum.
Loura, who until recently was CTO of Rodan + Fields, has also held CIO positions at Clorox and the Enterprise Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In a recent conversation, he shed light on the key benefits of moving to the cloud — including enabling business connectivity, collaboration and flexibility –and explained why the CIO role shouldn’t include establishing an enterprise cloud computing strategy. He also highlighted the downsides of adopting a multi-cloud strategy.
Editor’s note: The following interview had been edited for clarity and length.
What’s your company’s current cloud computing strategy?
Ralph Loura: Like most companies, we have some things that remain on prem for various reasons, historic and otherwise. Our ERP platform is a hosted platform — it’s in a colocated or a hybrid cloud environment. We have a number of assets that are on site — for instance, in our fab locations — but we very much leverage the public cloud for long-term data storage, analytics capability and for connecting and collaborating with others.
Most of our current public cloud workload sits in AWS, but we have a toehold in a few other places. I won’t say we have a multi-cloud strategy; we have a primary cloud platform and then we’re trying to understand where there’s value or differentiation in some of the other clouds.
Our largest use case is test data that comes out of our silicon fab environments and that test data is accessed by multiple parties. It’s a large volume of data and, right now, it’s stored largely in a Hadoop infrastructure. That’s our primary public cloud use case.
What’s the CIO role when drafting an enterprise cloud computing strategy?
Loura: The cloud is a tool that’s used to solve business problems. I don’t think the CIO’s job is to determine the enterprise cloud computing strategy; the CIO’s job is to add value to the company and to provide that value against the strategic initiatives of the company. There is a set of tools that the CIO applies for solving those problems or generating the greatest value and one of those tools is the cloud based platforms and solutions available in the marketplace.
As the CIO, I think of how the cloud is best used and where its value is. A lot of people think, ‘I want to go to the cloud because it’s cheaper,’ and on a unit volume perspective they are right. But rarely over time has that been true. Over time, a lot of people wake up one day and find their cloud spend is actually far larger than they ever dreamed it would be, and that’s in part because they’re not managing it correctly.
The real value of cloud isn’t the cost. The real value of cloud is connectivity; it’s the network effect.
Ralph Lourasenior vice president and CIO, Lumentum
The value of the cloud for us, for instance, in our factory use case is that I’m pushing very large volumes of data up into a shared cloud environment where it is easier for me to have a contract manufacture partner or a downstream enterprise customer interact with that data and have access to that data, versus the old way of providing a VPN tunnel into my on-prem piece of hardware where they’re competing with me from a resource perspective to access that data.
The cloud allows for collaboration and connectivity to occur in a way that the old on-prem model really doesn’t. In addition to that, [it enables] agility, scalability and flexibility. The other big difference is on prem is an asset — there’s a capital buy and capital depreciation schedule and a fix commitment, whereas the cloud allows the flexibility to move up and down in volume as needed.
What are some key factors to consider when setting up an enterprise cloud computing strategy?
Loura: Understand what you are doing this for. Not all clouds are created equal and the cloud isn’t the answer to every workload. You should be using the cloud for what it is good for: Collaboration and scaling.
The right answer to every question isn’t, ‘Put it in the cloud.’ Be thoughtful; understand your value equation and the outcome you are looking for. The cloud is just one of the solutions you should look at and evaluate.
When it comes to enterprise cloud computing strategy, what’s your take on multi-cloud strategy?
Loura: If you look at it abstractly, you say, ‘Oh, I can take this workload and I can run it in any of the large public cloud environments really easily.’ Because of that, these workloads are very portable, so it’s easy to have a multi-cloud strategy and then use that to de-risk some of your some of your long-term planning. But that’s only one part of the equation.
In fact, I would argue that the switching cost of taking a workload from one cloud to another is almost never in the platform itself or the application itself. The switching cost has to do with your run environment. The run book is fairly tied to provisioning in a cloud, managing in a cloud. It is tuned and optimized to a certain environment.
To pick up a workload and to move it to another environment is somewhat easy; the hard thing is then to go retune, rebuild all your runbooks and optimize for that experience. That’s why I think some of these cloud orchestration solutions are interesting, but they also have tradeoffs. I think the jury’s still out on whether people are going to truly move to a true multi-cloud environment.
Read more about the mistakes to avoid when building an enterprise cloud computing strategy.