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IT Execs Tackle Cloud Integration Issues

The IT Media Group brought together 17 Toronto-area IT executives on October 8 for another of its popular CIO Master Series Roundtables. The topic for the lively and insightful discussion was “Tackling the Tough Cloud Integration Issues”.

The roundtable looked at challenges CIOs are facing with Cloud integration, and strategies for ensuring the integrity, accessibility, security and manageability of data in a hybrid environment.

Participants represented various industry sectors, including financial services, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, retail, entertainment, legal, transportation and education. The sponsor for this private, invitation-only breakfast session was Salesforce, represented at the table by Chris Makkreel, Head of Solution Engineering. The IT Media Group’s John Pickett, VP of Executive Programs, facilitated the discussion.

Is Cloud safe enough?
Security in the Cloud was one of the key issues throughout the session. A major concern CIOs have is whether or not their Cloud vendors are rigorous enough in their measures to safeguard information. “Vendors are telling us they are PCI compliant, but how do they keep our data separate? In my opinion, security isn’t mature enough for us to put credit card information in the Cloud. If the vendors put skin in the game – if they would assume liability – that would make a difference,” said Ali Moghadan, Divisional VP, Information Technology Services, Sears Canada.

Noted Chris Makkreel, “Not every Cloud is created equal. On a regular basis, we have security teams come from all the banks and evaluate our data centres to ensure that they’re safe and secure. They do complete audits on a regular basis to say, ‘These are our internal requirements which you have to meet.’

“Salesforce spends over $250 million dollars a quarter on R&D to ensure that we have all the things that are necessary when it comes to security,” he added. “We’ll do everything possible to protect your data and I think that’s something that needs to be evaluated.”

How Cloud is Changing the Organization
It was also acknowledged that Cloud is changing the way organizations work with IT, changing it from a top-down approach. “Now it’s coming from the bottom up,” said Brian Turpin, Director, Information Technology for Greenwin Inc. “IT works with the end user and that gets filtered up to management, and again up to the executive. And they’re now seeing that IT isn’t just break/fix anymore; it’s working with the business to build these solutions, led by the end user.”

John Comacchio, SVP and CIO of Teknion, noted that his IT organization is actually engineering the cultural change by having conversations with user groups around providing Dropbox-like services quickly. “If IT can do that, why would you want to go around it?”

The Devil in the Details
Contractual issues were also discussed at length. Andre Robillard, Head of IT for Dairy Farmers of Ontario, pointed to inflexible contracts as an inhibitor to undertaking Cloud engagements. “Many Cloud vendors do not want to change clauses in contracts,” he said. “IT organizations have to get better at negotiating.”

John Comacchio said his organization has a contract department and he has developed a good working relationship with his firm’s chief legal counsel. There is now a three-way conversation between the vendor, the chief legal counsel and the user, and this has enabled the firm to change a lot of Cloud contracts to its benefit.

Mark Keating, CIO at Peel District School Board, said that clauses in contracts need to have more teeth. “We don’t want the penalty, we want the service,” said Comacchio. “Sometimes the vendors would rather pay the penalty than provide the service.”

“Tackling the Tough Cloud Integration Issues” is one in a series of Cloud computing roundtables produced by The IT Media Group. We will explore more topics around Cloud in future sessions. If you would like to join us, please complete the VIP membership form.

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