Digital Disruption in the Twin Cities: ServiceNow Cloud Summit


Written by Chenxi Wang

Minneapolis, MN – Despite the snow here, quite a few folks showed up for the ServiceNow cloud summit last week to explore cloud adoption trends and discuss strategies for governance and risk mitigation while moving to the cloud.ServiceNow summit

The Twin Cities are home to the headquarters of many companies on the Fortune 500 list, including 3M, Ameriprise Financials, Best Buy, Cargill, United Health, and Target. Such companies have well-funded IT operations and draw upon a wealth of local IT talent, but the cloud remains of great interest, thanks to the way it helps accelerate the introduction of new functions and services into the organization. The participants at the summit discussed a slew of lively topics including how cloud enables greater innovation and business agility. A big discussion point at the summit was a strategic approach to cloud migration, including strategies to prioritize cloud investment and risk mitigation. As KPMG’s Bernard Brunsman said in his summit keynote, “93 percent of organizations are going through an IT re-tooling exercise because of the digital disruption brought on by cloud and mobile,” but “only 21 percent are confident that they have a good strategy moving to the cloud.”

The twin-cities area is, in many ways, a hub of technology innovation. Fifteen of the “StarTribune 100,” the Minneapolis StarTribune‘s ranking of the 100 largest publicly held companies headquartered in Minnesota, are in the technology sector, and the atmosphere at the summit was one of lively interest. I participated in a panel discussion with Allan Leinwand, CTO of ServiceNow, and David Baker, CISO from Okta. We had the pleasure of answering many questions like the following:

Audience: What is the one myth about cloud that we should debunk?

  • Leinwand: “Cloud is not a big white fluffy myth. It is an infrastructure for which you can understand its location, its algorithms for data storage, migration, and protection.”
  • Baker: “We welcome audits to our infrastructure. We welcome questions on our operations. You can test the service response time very easily.”
  • Wang: “Don’t think of cloud as a black box, think of it as an extension of your IT department. Whatever requirements you have for your internal IT, you should extend that to the cloud. You may not get everything that you want, but it’s worth the time to ask and investigate.”

Audience: What are the challenges on data discovery with respect to cloud computing:

  • Leinwand: “We run eight pair-wise data centers for a total of 16 data centers globally. Each pair acts as a backup for each other. We have a guarantee that your data will stay in the closest data center that we operate, and often there is one in your region.”
  • Wang:Data discovery across international boundaries is a complex issue, as illustrated by the US Government vs. Microsoft in Ireland case. You, as the cloud customer, must get in the decision loop for discovery. Don’t let the cloud provider be the sole decision maker on how and whether your data could be discovered.”

Audience: What data is not suitable for the cloud?

  • Wang: “Everything is, provided that you have the appropriate controls around it and select the right cloud provider partner.”
  • Baker: “We are seeing more and more critical workloads moving to the cloud. Those that were off-limits before are now being considered for cloud. No matter at which pace you are moving toward cloud adoption, you will end up at the same place as others at some point.”

Audience: What are some of the questions you haven’t seen end users asking cloud providers?

  • Leinwand: “Not many ask me how often I test my disaster recovery processes. Many ask what my availability metrics are, but very few asked about disaster recovery. That should be one of the first questions you ask your cloud provider.
  • Wang: Many want to know what clouds I should use, but forget to ask what I shouldn’t use. Organizations don’t know what cloud services/shadow IT services are in use by their information workers and how their information may be at risk because of that. Gaining visibility into that is one of the first steps of cloud governance.”

The Twin Cities area has world-class IT operations. The CIOs and IT talents of the region are looking to cloud computing to optimize their game. ServiceNow is seeing a ton of momentum in the area. Similarly, KPMG reported that they are doing many cloud migration projects in the vicinity. Those that call this area a laggard in cloud adoption are sorely mistaken. I left the summit energized and excited about the future of cloud security momentum in this area. CipherCloud anticipates more customer conversations and movement in the great Twin City areas in the near future.

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