"These platforms are mission-critical to us, not a side project," Woods explains. "They affect our business engine at our core and they have to enable us to fulfill our timeline guarantees to our customers," he says.
The processes Woods refers to are those involving collecting, auditing and reviewing data and news for specific industries -- the information that SNL sells to clients, in other words.
That's not to say there haven't been some bumps on the road to the cloud. Woods says that while IT was brought in at the start of the decision-making, his process-improvement team missed the mark on making sure IT was fully informed. "We found that no matter how much we thought we were doing a good job communicating with IT and networking, over-communication is the order of the day," he says.
Building up trust in the cloud
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has a similar stick-to-it attitude with the cloud. With more than 100 terabytes spread across 10 different services, JPL's trust in the cloud built up over time.
Its first foray was in 2009, when reality sunk in that the 30-day Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission would last far longer than originally thought, and demand far more resources than the internal data center could handle. (MER is still sending data back to Earth.)
"All of our IT systems had filled up. We either needed to build new IT systems internally or move to the cloud," says Tom Soderstrom, CTO.
Soderstrom and his team of technicians and developers used Microsoft's then-nascent Azure platform to host its "Be a Martian" outreach program. Immediately, JPL saw the benefits of the elasticity of the cloud, which can spin up resources in line with user demand.
In fact, outreach has proven a fertile playground for JPL's cloud efforts, such as using Google Apps as the foundation for its "Postcard from Mars" program for schoolchildren. Soderstrom calls the platform ideal because it enables an outside-the-firewall partnership with developers at the University of California, San Diego.
External developers are simply authorized in Google -- by JPL's IT group -- to work on the project. "If we used the internal data center, we would have had to issue them accounts and machines, get them badged by JPL, and have them go into schools to install and manage the application code," Soderstrom says. "The cloud approach is less expensive and more effective."
JPL also taps Amazon Web Services for various projects, including its contest for EclipseCon, the annual meeting of the Eclipse open-source community. "All testing, coding and scoring is done in Amazon's cloud so our internal data centers don't have to take the hit," he says.
The cloud benefits internal projects, too, including processing data from the Mars missions. To tile 180,000 images sent from Mars, the data center would have to spin servers around the clock for 15 days or more. JPL would have to foot the cost of that infrastructure and spend time on provisioning specifications down to the type of power plug required.
In contrast, the same process took less than five hours using the Amazon cloud and cost about $200, according to Soderstrom.
As cloud use grows in popularity and criticality, JPL continues to beef up its cloud-based disaster recovery/business continuity, using multiple geographic zones from a single service provider as well as multiple vendors. "We always have failover for everything and consider it as insurance," he says. For the summer Mars landing, JPL instituted a double-failover system. "All cloud vendors are going to have outages; you just have to determine how much failover is required to endure it," he says.