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Selling cloud to the board

Byron Connolly | Oct. 28, 2014
"I’ve never viewed cloud as being necessarily cheaper, but I’ve always seen it as being more efficient," says carsales.com.au's CIO Ajay Bhatia.

Cloud computing has moved from the edge of IT and into the heart of how CIOs procure and deliver technology services, with hybrid cloud deployments, in particular, leading the way. IDC says that nearly 50 per cent of enterprises worldwide would have deployed a hybrid cloud solution by 2017.

But to make sure your hybrid cloud strategy works, you need to have a conversation with the rest of the executive team about the benefits and potential risks of moving infrastructure to the cloud.

At last week's CIO Summit in Melbourne, Ajay Bhatia, CIO at online vehicle seller carsales.com.au, discussed how to sell hybrid cloud to the board.

He also discussed strategies to explain the business impact — financial and reputational — if something goes wrong.

Three years ago, online automotive, motorcycle and marine classifieds company carsales.com.au's on-premise servers were struggling to handle the sheer number of images that were being uploaded to its websites in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea.

Bhatia says carsales.com.au initially asked several hardware companies to provide quotes for additional servers that would enable the organisation to serve more images per advertisement.

"The quotes that came back were in seven figures — disaster recovery added another seven figures," Bhatia says. "It started to get very expensive, so we needed to explore the public cloud."

In 2012, caresales.com.au has been hosting 12 billion images per month on cloud infrastructure provided by Azure in the United States. The Akamai content delivery network (CDN) software runs on top to deliver these images quickly to users across its sites.

During evening peak times, the organisation uses 90 servers at the Azure data centre, which is scaled back to five servers during slow periods in the morning, under a 'per hour' billing agreement.

Initially, board members expressed concerns about not being in control during an outage and being low on the priority list of customers who would need services restored, says Bhatia.

"The conversation started with board members asking 'what happens if Azure is down — it's in the public cloud — isn't that a risk?'" says Bhatia.

"One of the board members said 'if we deal with a local company, we might be the biggest company dealing with them and we will have the number one priority [if there's an outage]'. But dealing with Azure, you're right down the pecking order," he says.

Bhatia explained the virtues of the Chaos Monkey tool, which enables carsales.com.au to constantly test the resiliency of cloud services.

"It was really explaining what that means," he says.

Incidentally, carsales.com.au experienced a couple of outages in the Azure public cloud last year.

"In one case, we moved all of our image infrastructure [from the US West Coast] to Brazil within minutes. Akamai CDN shields us from outages up to one hour — we have a 95 per cent offload on Akamai — it offloads the majority of our images and caches in Australia.

 

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