During the last three years, cloud has been a key priority at Monsanto for three reasons. As a digital company, we knew our data needs and volume would expand rapidly over time. Secondly, we knew that where we wanted to go – in terms of high-end modeling, IoT, and workplace productivity – required the use of scalable, leading-edge hardware and technology. And third, and perhaps most importantly, our value proposition depended on it.
Our value lies in delivering digital tools, analytics, and technology to enable our growing business internally and externally. As a large company, it would take a significant investment in infrastructure to stay current. But keeping infrastructure evergreen isn’t our goal – it’s leveraging that infrastructure with modern technology to achieve business outcomes. For that, cloud-based computing was the only solution.
Public, private, or hybrid cloud?
Currently, as part of our cloud strategy, we have a big footprint with multiple public cloud providers and are exploring others as part of our “not one public cloud provider approach.” We also maintain a private cloud for things we want to keep internal.
When we first set out to make a decision around the cloud, we knew we wanted to get out of owning our own data center and migrate to a combination of private and public cloud. We consciously decided not to go all in on public cloud because there were things we wanted to keep internal, as well as things we didn’t want to re-platform to make cloud-ready. We needed to get up and running with a hybrid model to support our core business, and it gave us flexibility to make public-or-private cloud decisions along the way based on the specific strategies we wanted to apply.
This model worked especially well for us because we’ve been around a long time. We have a lot of technical tasks, which would be hard to maintain without a massive infrastructure budget. The hybrid private cloud model enables us to get the best of both worlds. We can keep what we need to keep internal, but we also get better continuity management, better resiliency, and more modern capabilities that are maintained over time.
On the other side, we do as much as we can in public clouds in order to achieve scale. It also allows us to take advantage of the continual evolution of modern technology that’s happening in the infrastructure space. And because we’re not confined to one vendor, we have the ability to shift based on who’s leading. Our hybrid cloud environment provides the flexibility to make these decisions based on our overall strategy.
Starting with strategy
This is an important benefit, because all cloud providers are currently looking for ways to differentiate themselves. If you’re just looking for Infrastructure-as-a-Service, you could go with a number of vendors: There is certainly a long list of highly credible providers. Or you can develop a more articulated strategy based on where you see each vendor evolving its strengths. At Monsanto, we select cloud providers based on their strategic fit to our digital strategy, i.e. IoT, workforce compute, decision science, etc.
For other CIOs considering their cloud approach, I highly recommend starting with the overall digital strategy and working backwards – evaluating each offering the marketplace against your value proposition. What do you need to fulfill your strategy in the most effective way that gives you both the financial return, but also the capabilities that you’ll need as you go forward? The more refined your strategy is, the more tailored your cloud environments can be. For us, taking a hybrid approach has given us the best of both worlds.
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