An inside look at how America’s Test Kitchen navigated their multi-cloud journey
The outset of a new year (and a new decade) is prime time for IT teams to reevaluate their environments and scope out new data management strategies. And yet, with talk of digital transformation and cloud journeys saturating the air at tech conferences and consuming Twitter feeds, it’s also prime time for IT leaders to catch a case of the buzzword blues. The amount of information and choices available can be more paralyzing than freeing, leaving IT teams trudging into 2020 without any energy or motivation to enact change and modernize their infrastructure.
But before all the buzzwords have you spinning into an existential crisis, consider taking a page out of Dustin Brandt’s book. Brandt, Director of IT at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), saw a relocation in ATK’s headquarters as an opportunity to reduce their data center footprint and overhaul their entire IT infrastructure. Despite challenges of re-platforming and re-provisioning infrastructure, ensuring consistent security, and navigating complex network integrations, Brandt also seized this opportunity to transition to a multi-cloud model.
Take a look at how Brandt and his team made these changes as painless as possible, and what lessons he would share with others considering a similar transition.
There’s Never a Good Time: Food for Thought
Much like changing careers or moving to a new city, there’s never a good time to lead a multi-cloud transition. No matter how you slice it, something could always get in the way, and at some point, you just have to take the plunge. If moving to multi-cloud is a change you’re considering, look for other cycles of change you can piggyback off of to make the transition as seamless as possible.
“When ATK relocated to a new headquarters and production facility,” Brandt reflects, “we took that opportunity to refresh nearly all of the infrastructure from the ground up– network, compute virtualization, storage, backup, and disaster recovery.”
Some might argue that one major transition, like a company’s headquarters relocating, might be enough to handle. But for Brandt, the shift in ATK’s physical environment paved the way for a change in its virtual environment.
“We knew we wanted to rely less and less on our on-prem gear, so when this facility move came up, we thought, why prolong the inevitable? The longer you wait to modernize, the farther you have to go,” Brandt advises.
Get Back to the Basics: A Pinch of Salt, a Dash of Pepper, a Heap of Backup and Recovery
The decision to make a change can be daunting enough. Make it easier on yourself by starting with the basics.
Brandt and his team focused on backups and archives early on in figuring out their multi-cloud presence, in part because it’s so foundational, but also because that was one of their biggest needs.
“Our decision making is really based on cost from a business standpoint. Spinning up production environments (wherever they are) is cost, and since we put a lot of presence into AWS, egress costs are always something we have to watch carefully,” says Brandt. “On top of that, with such a lean team, my number one priority is operational efficiency. Improving our backups helped us meet these business and personnel needs.”
Simplifying your backup and recovery solution is a perfect place to start when modernizing your data management stack, and can make the multi-cloud move far less intimidating. In Brandt’s experience, “Multi-cloud started very tentatively, but because of the cloud integrations with Rubrik and ease of use, we skipped the walking stage and started running with respect to using the cloud for secondary archive targets and DR instances.”
Jump Right In: You Gotta Risk It to Get the Biscuit
The stakes of transitioning from on-prem to the cloud, and then to multi-cloud, are not to be discounted. If your company has been relying on tape for years, it has probably been serving you well (or at least well enough), and you might feel that you can hide from the cloud just a bit longer. But for Brandt and many IT leaders, the risk is worth the reward.
For example, one of the biggest challenges ATK faced was pivoting from traditional print media and preparing their content for multiple digital channels. Their legacy environment wasn’t flexible enough to support this level of agility, which prompted them to explore alternative solutions.
“We first used Rubrik for cloud archival and backing up NAS volumes, and the policy-driven simplicity helped us significantly reduce our backup management time,” Brandt reflects. By reducing ATK’s backup management time from 5-6 hours per week to a mere couple of minutes, Brandt and team added 32 days of additional productivity back to the business.
When such a necessary IT function like backup management becomes less time-consuming, IT teams have the freedom to shift some of their focus from maintenance to innovation.
“Once we simplified our backup and recovery processes,” Brandt attests, “we started moving at breakneck speed in transitioning not only our NAS, but now also our virtualization. We’re using cloud-out, we’re doing pre-conversions to AMIs, and we’re able to spin those things up in testing environments.”
For ATK, new capabilities for test/dev enabled the IT team to experiment with new methods of content delivery, and expanding their infrastructure into the cloud enabled them to improve the speed with which content is delivered.
Ultimately, Brandt and his team saw the transition to a multi-cloud environment not just as a check box, but as an opportunity. One of Brandt’s strongest recommendations to others considering a similar transition is simply to “just start tinkering.”
“Talk to your engineers to figure out what their ambitions are and what will make their lives better,” advises Brandt. “If you can help, do it–even if it’s a big move and you have to try something you’ve never done before.”
For example, your engineers might tell you there’s an API integration that would save them time and simplify their work, that they’re struggling to access cold storage, or that they’re feeling restricted by one particular vendor. In such cases, a multi-cloud infrastructure could yield greater operational efficiency and productivity for the business as a whole.
So if the new year or some other change in your company has you wondering whether it might be time to give multi-cloud a serious chance, it might be time to start exploring what’s possible.
To learn more about how to prepare your company for a multi-cloud transition, tune in to our upcoming webinar: Implementing Multi-Cloud Data Control.