The Cloud: Aggressive Adoption, Accretive Benefits

Many organizations have gleaned huge benefits from high degrees of virtualization and aggressive cloud computing adoption.

Revlon and SAP are two companies that recently participated in a VMware-organized media roundtable event in San Francisco. The event, attended by industry analysts and journalists, demonstrated how mission-critical applications supported by advanced virtualization strategies are transforming businesses.

The discussion examines the full implications of IT virtualization and how accretive benefits are being realized — from bringing speed to business requests, to enhancing security, to strategic disaster recovery (DR), and to unprecedented agility in creating and exploiting applications and data delivery value.

Our guests are David Giambruno, senior vice president and CIO of Revlon; and Heinz Roggenkemper, executive vice president of development at SAP Labs. The chat is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast (30:53 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner: What’s going on with your internal cloud at SAP, and why is the speed and agility so important for you?

Heinz Roggenkemper: If you look at SAP, you find literally thousands of development systems. You find a lot of training systems. You find systems that support sales activities for pre-sales. You find systems that support our consulting organization in developing customer solutions.

From a developer’s perspective, the first order of business is to get access to a system fast. Developers, by themselves, don’t care that much about cost. They want the system and they want it now. For development managers and management in general, it’s a different story.

For training, it’s important that the systems are reliable and available. Of course again for management, it’s the cost perspective. For people in custom development, they need the right system quickly to build up the correct environment for the particular project that they’re working on.

Also these requirements are much better supported in the virtualized environment than they were before. We can give them the system quickly. We can give them the systems reliably. We can give them the systems with good performance, and from a corporate perspective, do it at a much better cost than we did before.

Our business agility and ability to respond to market drivers is greatly improved by this.

Gardner: How does the training application demonstrate some of the more productive aspects of cloud?

David Roggenkemper: The most interesting part about that is that you don’t need a vanilla system, but a system that is prepared for a particular class, which has the correct set of data. You need a system that can be reset to a controlled stage very quickly after the end of a training class, so that it’s ready for the next training class.

So there are two aspects to it. One is the reliable infrastructure on which the systems run, and second part is to get the correct system for that particular class ready in a short period of time.

Gardner: Are there unintended consequences or unintended benefits that come from this cloud model?

Roggenkemper: The thing that comes to my mind is that it allows us to take advantage of new computing infrastructure more quickly. We reduce the use of power, which is always a good thing.

Gardner: This idea of agility when producing these applications proves this concept of IT as a Service. Do you see it that way?

Roggenkemper: Absolutely. And obviously, what we use internally benefits our customers as well. To have these systems available in a much shorter period of time for the customer’s development environment is as important for them as it is for us.

Gardner: And a question about future plans. It sounds as if this works for you. Then the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach of delivering entire client environments with apps, data, and full configuration would be a natural progression. Is that something that you’re looking at or perhaps you’re already doing?

Roggenkemper: Some things we’re already doing, We have a hefty set of terminal services in our environment, as well, which people, especially if they are on the road or work from home, take full advantage of.

Gardner: David, I was very interested to hear you say that advances in pervasive virtualization and cloud methods are transforming how IT operates, giving you the ability of, as you said, saying “yes” when your business leaders come calling. What have you have been able to say “yes” to that exemplifies this shift in IT?

Giambruno: We’ve increased our project throughput over the past couple of years by 300. So my job is to say, “yes.” I’m just here to help. I’m a service. Services are supposed to deliver. What this cloud ecosystem has delivered for us is our ability to say yes and get more done faster, better, cheaper.

The correlating effect of that is we have seen not only this massive increase in our ability to deliver projects for the business, because that’s really what business alignment is. I do what they want and I give them some counsel along the way.

The second piece is that we’ve seen a 70 percent reduction in the time it takes us to deliver applications, because we have all of these applications available to us in the task and development site which is part of our DR.

So this ability to move massive amounts of information where everything is just the file, bring that up and let our development teams at it, has added this whole speed, accuracy, and ability to deliver back to the business.

It’s probably easier to quantify it this way. We have 531 applications running on our internal cloud. Our internal cloud makes roughly 15,000 automated application moves a month. Our transaction rate is roughly 14,000 transactions a second. Our data change rate is between 17 and 30 terabytes a week. Over 90 percent of our corporate workload sits on our internal cloud, and it runs most of our footprint globally.

Gardner: We’re talking about mission-critical apps here — ERP, manufacturing, warehousing, business intelligence. Did you start with mission-critical apps or did you end up there? How did you progress?

Giambruno: I have a couple of “isms” that I live by. The first one is “Crawl, Walk, Run” and the second one is “Trust, but Verify.” When we started our journey roughly five years ago, we started with “Crawl” — very much “Crawl” and “Trust, but Verify.” At Revlon, we didn’t spend any more to put this in. We changed how we spent our money.

We were going through a server refresh, and instead of buying all the servers, we only bought roughly 20 percent. With the balance of that money, we bought the VMware licenses. We started putting in our storage area network (SAN), and although core component pieces, and we took some of our low-hanging fruit file systems and started moving all that.

As we did that, we started sharing with the business. We showed them what we’re doing and that it still worked. Then, we started the walk phase of putting applications on it. We actually ran north of six nines.

System availability went up. Performance went up. And after this “Crawl Walk Run,” “Trust and Verify,” it became “Just Keep Going.” We accelerated the whole process and we have these things that we call “fuzzies,” things that we can do for the business that they weren’t expecting. Every couple of months, we would start delivering new capabilities.

One of the big things that we did was that we internalized all our DR. We kept taking external money that we were spending and were able to give it back to the business and essentially invest in ourselves, because at Revlon I’m not going to be a profit center.

For Revlon, the more money R&D has to develop new products to get to our consumers and for marketing to tell that product story and get it out to our channels and use the media to talk about our glamorous products, that really drives growth in Revlon.

What we’ve done is focused on those things, taking the complexity out, but delivering capability to the business while either avoiding or saving money that the business can now use to grow.

Dana Gardner

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: VMware sponsored this podcast.

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