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Where Public and Private Clouds Meet
An Interview with Peter Buonora, Enterprise Architect, BJ’s Wholesale Club
THE ENTERPRISERS PROJECT: What’s the history of cloud technologies at BJ’s Wholesale and what has your role been in that?
BUONORA: My role has been to define the strategy of how we look at cloud computing and which areas of cloud we do look at. Over the course of last year we have really focused on the framework and how we’re going to deliver cloud services to meet the goals we have with the business. We’re not a company that says we’re absolutely doing everything. We’re open to all the options, but we really try to figure out what the business value is and what we’re trying to accomplish with each initiative.
THE ENTERPRISERS PROJECT: Are you moving more toward public, hybrid or private?
BUONORA: There are obviously some things that we need to run in a traditional sense, but as we slowly get projects and initiatives to replace those, we’ll be placing a much higher priority on public cloud software-as-a-service offerings and maturing our private cloud capabilities. I think I’ve seen this across the industry. Most of the adoption in Public Infrastructure-as-a-Service has really been in the DevOps area within smaller companies that do innovative development work, so for example companies that are doing a lot of groundbreaking work using public cloud, like Netflix. That’s kind of what we’re gearing towards. We really want to have much more flexibility to be able to experiment and innovate.
THE ENTERPRISERS PROJECT: Are there particular business initiatives that are a good fit for hybrid cloud and others that are just a better fit for a private cloud strategy?
BUONORA: I don’t think they quite fit together that cleanly for us. There are adjustments and security costs, and things you have to figure out in terms of how to best address the business need while also evolving our IT capabilities to support these cloud models. But if it’s something where we really want to have ultimate flexibility and be able to just build on the platform, we look more at the Infrastructure as a Service approach in a hybrid model. We do also think a lot about the data we want to go outside of our walls at this point. Not to say that public cloud environments can’t be secured, it really just depends. What we’ve also tried to avoid is creating a rigid checklist for one or the other that is going to just be a limiting factor for us as we mature in this area and as new cloud capabilities come into play.
THE ENTERPRISERS PROJECT: Do you find that companies can spin their wheels trying to decide on which flavor of cloud?
BUONORA: They can. I’ve seen that whether it’s in one of those different cloud modes or both. That’s why we created business-driven cloud principles and a framework to avoid the endless debate and churn with every new initiative. Anyway, these terms ‘public’ and ‘private’ are becoming fuzzier every day. Public clouds are starting to put in technology that enables that delivery mechanism to become more like private cloud in terms of capability. They’re putting in virtual private cloud, isolating networks, and putting encryption services in. Every day the public cloud is starting to look more and more like your own data center. On the other hand you see private clouds building in the capability to extend out to the public cloud on an as-needed basis or demand driven circumstances. All these things are starting to blend. At some point in the near future we won’t be talking about migrating to “the cloud” anymore. It will be like when we used to talk about “getting on the internet.” Now we only talk about the valuable services that are delivered on the internet.
Whether it’s private or public cloud, though, the hybrid approach is really just an extension of what we can do. These are just two modes of delivery and we bring them together to decide on the incredible business value we can build on top of them. It’s really a way for us to get from point A to point B much more quickly and with more flexibility.
Peter is a change agent driving alignment of business IT functions while evolving IT organizations from operational cost centers to a catalyst for competitive advantage. His extensive experience includes global technology strategy, architecture, cloud computing, and information security. Peter currently works as Enterprise Architect at BJ’s Wholesale Club, was formerly Senior Global Enterprise Architect at Ahold Corporation, and has held positions at John Hancock and other companies.