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Inside Antares Capital’s remarkable cloud-first transformation

Thor Olavsrud | July 25, 2017
After GE Capital sold Antares Capital, newly hired CIO Mary Cecola had to build an IT team and infrastructure from scratch. With an eye toward making IT a strategic partner to the business, she opted to go cloud-first.

"You don't realize what it means to have nothing until you have nothing," she says. "Very quickly, I had to staff up. You can hire, but you can't hire as fast as it takes to bring in managed services."

Avanade helped Antares build virtual desktops, leveraging Citrix in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Cecola and her team decided Antares wouldn't use shared drives or local drives for storage. Instead, it leverages Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft SharePoint throughout.


Cloud-first changes everything

Initially, Cecola saw the cloud purely as an infrastructure play, a way to replace her servers. But with the process underway, it quickly became apparent that it changed everything.

Three cities in to the five-city rollout, Cecola and her team realized that the specs for the virtual desktops weren't sufficient — they didn't have enough memory and the dual-core CPUs couldn't handle the load.

"In one night, we doubled the memory and put in quad-core processors," she says. "We were able to do that in two hours on a Saturday night with no disruption to the business. If those had been physical computers, the replacement would have killed me."

The cloud-native infrastructure has also changed the way Antares approaches things like disaster recovery. Typically, in a piecemeal approach to the cloud, teams move into the cloud, move test and then move disaster recovery. Architecting for cloud from day one meant Antares could build redundancy into one region, then build it into another region, and expect it all to work together.

"The speed we can do things for the business is tremendous," she says. "I can be so business-forward now. I'm able to just look forward and work directly with the business on strategic initiatives. I don't have to drag them through detailed infrastructure discussions like I'd done before [in previous jobs]. Being cloud-forward gives us so much flexibility."


Culture: Cloud-first’s most difficult shift

Being cloud-first is easy to say, but difficult in practice. Culture is a key component to success that must be established from the get-go.

"It is a cultural change," Cecola says. "The whole cloud world, and I would add digital world, is cultural. You really have to look at the team you have and ask, 'Is this the team that can get me there?' You need to hire specifically for people who are thinking that way. Culture is going to drive you there. Do it for the business, not the technology."

"It's hard to unleash that digital culture if you aren't truly embracing it," adds Mick Slattery, CEO of Avanade. "How do you bring that culture along? You need strong leadership and sponsorship from the CEO, the business, the CIO."


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