With digital transformation in full swing, three top IT executives said Monday they have made the move to faster and more agile DevOps public cloud platforms with the help of GreenPages Technology Solutions.
The three IT executives kicked off GreenPages Cloudscape 2017 conference – an annual gathering aimed directly at helping customers drive competitive advantages with cloud technologies – with real world scenarios and testimonials to the national strategic service provider's consulting prowess.
The client panel, titled "Accelerating Time to Market With Cloud First Strategies," was hosted by GreenPages Senior Vice President of Client Services Simon Johnson, who set the stage by emphasizing that the IT industry is at an "inflection point where leaders and boards are mandating cloud-first strategies."
That reality has challenged the in the trenches IT executives – including the 100-plus attendees at the conference – to work out how to make that cloud-first transition. "It is disrupting the way we do business and traditional Capex-based purchasing," Johnson said, reiterating the "Mastering Speed In the Digital Era" theme of the conference. "It is holding up traditional IT acquisitions. It is really changing the way IT is bought and consumed," he said.
Rich Cleary, senior director of development operation for Liberty Mutual IT, which has implemented a DevOps public cloud model over the last year, said GreenPages provided the $38 billion insurance giant with "agnostic" real world industry knowledge on how to make the public cloud and DevOps digital transformation.
"Not only did they help us frame what our strategy should be and what some of our decisions should be, but to think about things differently, not just assume things are going to work that way," said Cleary. "I think that has been the best part of the partnership."
GreenPages, No. 207 on the CRN 2017 SP500, has also provided hands-on, high-level technology leadership in the infrastructure applications model in areas such as "mob programming" (software development where the whole team works on programming at the same time), said Cleary. "They have taken us through the evolution of what it means to be infrastructure developers and what are the responsibilities that we have now," he said. "It has been a great partnership. I would highly recommend if you are just starting this journey that you have someone with you that makes you think about things a little differently. Not everything is the way you think it is going to be."
Cleary, a 30-year IT veteran, said Liberty Mutual is using the DevOps model to "outpace" the competition with new insurance offerings. The Liberty Mutual "mindset" with the DevOps revolution is: "Why can't it go in the public cloud?" said Cleary. "Tell me why it can't go there? If it can't go there for either security reasons or customer security of the information and the data then, okay, let's talk about something that is on-prem, but still cloud based. Every application we build from here on out has got to be cloud native."
Liberty Mutual, in fact, is building everything based on a cloud native infrastructure that is API (application programming interface) driven both internally and externally, said Cleary. At the heart of the DevOps transformation is providing instant infrastructure, and application services, via the public cloud, with open source support, he said.
Under the private cloud model it takes a "month or two" to provision a service versus just an hour on a public cloud, he said. "It really comes down to speed," Cleary said.
The advantage of the public cloud DevOps model is the developers get instant service provisioning. "The developer never has to call an operations person, never has to call anybody," Cleary said. "That is really what is driving this."
C. Kenneth Holmes, CIO for Madison Industries, a Chicago based equity holding company that provides agile based IT systems for the companies it acquires, said GreenPages had been key to helping navigate the fast moving cloud services landscape. "For us, they have been our core team," said Holmes. "To try to keep up with what is going on in terms of cloud services makes my head spin. It changes almost weekly with the new services available."
Holmes said GreenPages' advisory planning and execution services have been essential to bringing agile technology to Madison Industries' companies. "We have a very, very small team and we rely heavily on GreenPages," he said.
The public cloud has provided "huge" advantages as Madison acquires companies and moves them to faster more agile IT environments, said Holmes. "Everything that we have is in Azure," he said.
Under the legacy model, it required huge planning and Capex investments to buy servers, send people out into the field and get software installed, said Holmes.
An overseas company that Madison recently acquired, with a Windows ERP system, was up and running on Azure in just four hours, said Holmes. That would have been an eight to 12-week project without the benefit of the cloud first model, he said.
The cloud first model has been a "huge" benefit as Madison Industries acquires companies, said Holmes. "Working with our team at GreenPages we have a methodology now for how we first assess them on Day 1, what is going to be involved and then how we migrate them," he said. "As soon as the network infrastructure is ready, we start migrating them."
Robert Walden, CIO for Epsilon, a data-driven global marketing services company, said GreenPages has been critical in providing a "self-assessment" of the organization with regard to digital transformation. "They came in and provided a lot of insight around helping us get organized when we were going through our plan of attack around strategy from a transformation standpoint," he said. "They helped us in providing that measure of our maturity on where we are and where we needed to focus some of our efforts and investments."
Walden said he sees his IT organization as an enabler for the company's independent organizations with their own profit and loss responsibility. "We need to be enabling these businesses at the pace they need to move," he said. "We really need to get to a point where we are enabling the business, and we stand back and get out of the way and let them move based on the velocity of their business."
Walden said he sees his IT organization as building processes, so the "canoes" from the businesses don't have to be pulled out of the water, he said. "We try to build processes so that we are not pulling those canoes out of the water so people can continue to move," he said.
GreenPages CEO Ron Dupler said the three scenarios are a testament to how far GreenPages has come as a strategic service provider. He said 50 percent of the company's services revenue is now tied to enabling digital transformation with cloud based technologies with a focus on application agility and velocity.
Dupler said the disruption of all industries from the digital transformation phenomenon is accelerating, with a focus on application agility. "There are amazing things that are going on around us; those things can be threats to our present enterprises or opportunities," he said. "It is moving through industries of all types right now including old line industries like banking, insurance, retail and health care. The main point is we are leaping into a period where no industry is safe. People are coming in looking at how to leverage these technologies and disrupt industries."
The key for GreenPages, said Dupler, is to continue leading customers to higher ground through digital transformation. "What we do is a means to an end: to drive business results, drive revenue, increase productivity and profitability of organizations and, most importantly, help our clients serve their customers better," he said.