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Unplugging the data center

John Dix | May 2, 2014
Nathan McBride joined AMAG Pharmaceuticals in 2008 with an ambitious goal: to rebuild IT using as little internal infrastructure as possible. He succeeded.

Have you had to switch a supplier that was housing a lot of data?

Yes. We moved off of NaviSite over to AWS. We wanted the greatest amount of flexibility for our cloud stack and no one was even coming close to what AWS could offer. Additionally, the cost differences is just too substantial to overlook. That was a very, very big drop. But it was really a backside IT thing. None of the people out here noticed a thing when it occurred.

How do you go about that? 

It was a very structured plan. It wasn't just one night we thought about it and decided to do it. Going into 2013 there was a clear process developed to migrate off of NaviSite to AWS successfully and we executed it in a short amount of time. 

Sometimes you change because new options emerge. We may find a vendor who's the cream of the crop and then a month later find out there was another vendor sitting there that was just waiting for a Series C round of funding and suddenly emerges. 

A great example is this new security model we're building. We have five vendors working together to build a model that eliminates passwords and creates a document classification process. One of the vendors allows us to eliminate passwords by using our smart phones as a token. When that smart phone is within proximity of another trusted device, it passes through a hash token that allows that device to immediately log in to any service we've approved. 

Now we've been looking at this company for seven or eight months already, talked to them extensively, they've been our little darling. We helped them through beta, helped them through pilot and now we're piloting them internally. Then I get an email that the No.1 telecom in Canada, TELUS, had partnered with a company who came out of nowhere that offered the exact same service. We'd never heard of them, and all of our diligence had never come across them because the whole time they were secretly working with TELUS on this pilot and came out of the blue with a press release.

It just goes to show you how all the diligence and research you've done can be upended by somebody who just pops out of the blue. 

Is it hard to get cloud companies to work together to solve your problems?

For this security effort we've had to adjudicate some kerfuffles, where one didn't want to talk to another, and so on. But ultimately it's been a matter of us saying, "We don't really care whether you like this vendor or not. This is what we want you to build for us." Some vendors are a little bit more entrepreneurial and see this as an opportunity for something that they could capitalize on. Others have decided to wait and see how it turns out. But from my standpoint, what matters most to me is that by December 1 no one in this company outside of IT will need to know a password for anything. That's the goal.


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