A 'leap of faith': Whirlpool Corp.'s journey to the cloud
What runs on data centers can be a mystery, tangled in a dark web of application interdependence.
Picture a data center. Rows of computers whir in a cold room, running corporate operations in residence floors above. Almost always on, data centers often are an afterthought to executive leadership — until something goes wrong.
The allure of transitioning off hardware into a virtual environment drives cloud adoption, with companies across sectors racing to keep up with peers and migrate from legacy foundations.
"When you have a large organization that has a lot of history, there's just a lot of stuff in your data center," said Mike Berendsen, vice president of IT for Whirlpool Corporation, in an interview with CIO Dive.
What runs on those data centers can be a mystery, tangled in a dark web of application interdependence companies have to unwind. Whirlpool Corp. tapped IBM Services to manage its global cloud operations for its SAP on HANA environment, helping sort through the nest of applications woven throughout its infrastructure.
Part of the global CIO's team, Berendsen is responsible for security compliance, infrastructure and network operations, as well as the productivity and collaboration platform that's an aspect of the company's "Winning Workplace" initiative. Among other things, the effort tackles the future of work, marrying internal company culture to technology.
More than 100 years old, the traditional manufacturing organization has worked to convert itself, changing thinking and DNA to evolve into more of a consumer packaged goods company, according to Berendsen.
With its manufacturing roots, Whirlpool Corp. suffered from technical debt, with many older compute systems and home-grown applications built decades ago but still running the business.
In 2013, the company hit an inflection point and decided to replace its productivity tools — including solutions like calendar, mail and chat — and replatform them in the cloud.
The shift to the cloud allowed Whirlpool Corp. to get rid of decades of old equipment and reduced its physical infrastructure footprint. It also served as an example of how the company could become more future ready, making strategic investments that boosted the flexibility, reliability and performance of technology.
As we think about our organization now, "we want to be cloud first, we want to do it in a safe manner and we want to enable the organization to learn fast and move forward quickly," Berendsen said.
Moving to the cloud may seem like old news, but for many companies it was — and still is — an effort requiring a leap of faith.
There is still a pervasive fear relative to the cloud from the board level, according to Michael Guggemos, chief information officer of Insight.
Much of the hesitation is tied to a lack of understanding. Ultimately, some companies will make the cloud shift and others won't, said Guggemos, in an interview with CIO Dive. The quicker companies are able to adapt, the easier it will be for them to shift to microservices and more agile technology.
It's the layered approach modern IT requires. With a solidified foundation, companies can iterate and expand core services, creating a more technically adept organization where technology is a partner rather than a roadblock.
The transition to cloud and service architectures, offerings provided to Whirlpool Corp by IBM, take some getting used to.
"We used to be able to go downstairs, look at that equipment, push the buttons, pull the wires, manage it ourselves and if we're having an issue we have complete access and visibility," Berendsen said. "Now you're in a service and that equipment is somewhere else."
It's a leap of faith because Whirlpool Corp. had to work with IBM to really understand what areas internal IT wanted to influence and engage vs. what to let the service provider manage.
Safety is always there in the cloud, Berendsen said, but the technology also introduces agility and flexibility.
The big challenge for Whirlpool is to understand how to operate cloud environments predictively, at scale and in an as efficient manner and most cost effective way as possible, he said.
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