For five years, Alan Boehme has pushed The Coca-Cola Company to embrace cloud computing. Now that he’s making progress, he advises other companies looking to follow to embrace a multi-cloud approach that doesn’t focus on the cheapest price.
When Boehme joined, Just 3% to 4% of Coke’s more than 2,000 applications were hosted on the cloud, the rest on the beverage giant’s own centers around the world. Today, Coca-Cola has just one center, near its headquarters in Atlanta. “And it’s for sale right now, we’re selling it off,” Boehme says.
Coca-Cola’s had to migrate hundreds of apps to get to that point. First were 600 consumer applications; next up the first roughly one-quarter of the remaining business apps that help run Coke around the world. Then over the next two years, Coke plans to shut down about 40% of its remaining apps and move over half of the rest.
Five years from today, Coca-Cola’s CTO expects the company to be as cloud-based as it will ever be. About 10% of the business, Boehme says, is too proprietary and regulated to live on the Internet. “I can’t imagine the secret formula ever being in the cloud,” he says.
It’s still a major shift, from data centers and server rooms in nearly every country in which Coca-Cola does business down to whatever its local partners have to offer. Moving such a large corporation onto the cloud, says Boehme, takes a considerable amount of time. Every migration must be mapped out carefully and tested; APIs have to be made to make sure data can flow properly where it needs to go.
So it’s a significant vote of confidence for Google’s burgeoning cloud business that Coca-Cola’s trusted Google Cloud with a substantial part of that move. “At Google, you get the Google brain,” says Boehme. “They’re starting to open up a bunch of the services they’ve been using internally for year. As they make those available, I can be more creative in how I create new offerings.”
Coca-Cola’s relationship with Google, which Boehme appeared onstage Wednesday to discuss at Google Next, the company’s annual cloud platform conference in San Francisco, is one that evolved over three years, in part from Coca-Cola’s marketing relationship with the online search leader. Recently, the partnership led ot the creation of the largest digital “mosaic” ever, Boehme says, called The Happiness Flag (the project is powered y Google Apps).
A year and a half ago in November 2014, Coca-Cola was onstage with one of Google Cloud Platform’s biggest rivals and the market leader in the space, Amazon Web Services. Boehme is unapologetic. Coca-Cola has carefully adopted a “multi-cloud” strategy for its migration from on-premise servers. “We are split between three at this point in time,” he says, though he wouldn’t confirm which three, presumably Microsoft, the second-largest in the market after Amazon, IBM or another challenger.
A multi-cloud approach has major benefits for a large corporation to go cloud, Coca-Cola’s CTO argues. First, there’s coverage. Say a company loves Google’s emerging presence dozens of countries, with a dozen data centers planned to open in upcoming months. The company still isn’t in China. “I get a different solution there,” says Boehme.
The other trend Boehme says Coca-Cola noticed in the market at its scale: price doesn’t really matter. None of the companies Coke works with offered it financial incentives to do so, the executive says, and their competition has meant that prices quickly level out as roughly equivalent. Where the companies do compete—and where their potential customers should look to get value back—is in the engineering talent they can share. As a major partner, Coca-Cola is in many of Google’s alpha programs for new cloud tools, which its developers get to test out for free. That arrangement is nothing new for tech providers, Boehme adds, but it’s where being on the bleeding edge of cloud infrastructure can reap benefits. “It’s about intellectual capital. I’m much more interested in that than I am the price.”
With Google (Boehme’s host for the event), that means new ways to manage information and using Google’s platform to speed up development times. But Boehme says what mix a company chooses has to depend on its long-term approach. “There’s a reason Apple splits iCloud into three businesses with Amazon, Microsoft and Google all getting a piece,” he says. Companies can ask themselves whether they’re smarter about the cloud than Apple. And while free credits or other kickbacks might make a difference for smaller companies and startups, Boehme argues that businesses moving to the cloud need to avoid price sensitivity for frugality’s sake.
“Don’t look choosing a cloud provider as purely a cost play,” he says. “If you do, you’re no better off than the next guy.”
This article was written by Alex Konrad from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.