“Utility moves entire IT infrastructure to the Cloud.” Wouldn’t that be a headline worth savoring for cloud evangelists across the country?
Much news coverage has been published on pitching cloud to the CIO of a utility company – low TCO, convert capex to opex, reduce operational costs and the usual advantages. While all these advantages hold true, one must understand that the CIO is most likely to adopt a realistic approach to the cloud, not an idealistic one.
Utility companies occupy a slightly different space in the world as compared to your regular enterprise. Utilities govern infrastructure for a public service and are subject to many forms of public control and regulatory monitoring. In this scenario, they maintain a lot of sensitive data on capacity, locations and customers that they would protect dearly and are mandated to protect dearly. However, they do face the same challenges as the regular enterprise in terms of having legacy IT systems in one hand and having to expand and provision capacities as their network or grid expands.
But the cloud provides numerous undeniable advantages – offers economies of scale, reduces TCO, allows rapid deployment of applications cost effectively, all of which cannot be ignored.
Here are 5 Ways a CIO of a Utility Company Can Take a Realistic Approach to the Cloud
1. Separate Corporate from Operations: In other words, operations infrastructure and applications is the core of a utility’s business process. These can be kept away from the cloud, whereas corporate applications like intranets and collaboration platforms can be moved to the cloud
2. Determine Computing Requirements: Once the back office applications have been identified, a CIO would determine how much of computing resources those applications consume on a day to day basis. For instance, trouble ticketing applications can see spikes when there are issues with the grid, but low volumes when operations are smooth. When these are linked to social platforms to listen to customer feedback in real-time, the spikes get more pronounced. If an application consumes computing resources intermittently, then those are ideal candidates for cloud.
3. Focus on Providers with Cybersecurity focus: Cyber Security and Reliability is a combination that any provider of cloud solutions for a utility needs to master. CIOs can form expert committees comprising representatives of all applications that would interface with a cloud-hosted application to ensure that cyber security and reliability standards are met. In meeting Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards, Utility CIOs have strong cyber security teams working for them
4. Integrate with In-house applications: Once the decision to move some applications to the cloud has been taken, it is important to seamlessly integrate those systems with in-house applications. Here again, choosing a vendor who can understand complex business process and legacy systems and integrate with a cloud-based system would be preferred by CIOs.
Utilities are not averse to cloud adoption. They would just want to do it realistically keeping in mind their security and regulatory context.