How the Cloud Changed World's Oldest Newspaper

Take a look at the all-in cloud strategy of the Telegraph Media Group. It's an instructive lesson in how rapidly the business world is changing and why IT must take an approach that supports it.

By Bernard Golden
Tue, July 06, 2010

CIO — Recently I was in London, speaking at the Cloud Computing World Forum. From my perspective, it was an ideal event: large enough to have a critical mass of interesting vendors and attendees, and small enough to support quality conversation. If you've been to any of the large U.S. cloud shows, you'll know how hard it is to accomplish the latter quality at them — they're packed and conversations are reduced to sound bites. Of course, the conference being located in Britain, there was less tolerance for over-the-top claims and marketing hype, which was also a refreshing relief.

I participated on a panel chaired by Mike Spink of Gartner; the topic was switching cloud suppliers. Pretty much the conclusion of the panel is that cloud computing migrates the lock-in point, but lock-in is pretty much a fact of life in IT. My own contribution was to offer the recommendation (certainly not a unique insight and not one generated by HyperStratus) that lock-in can be reduced by good software engineering practices that partition apps and encapsulate interfaces.

The most fascinating presentation of the event was by Toby Wright, CTO of the Telegraph Media Group, publisher of the Daily Telegraph, the oldest continuously publishing newspaper in the world. Wright presented a cloud adoption strategy that was compelling, to say the least.

As background, it's no secret that the newspaper business is in a terrible state. My local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, suffered something like a 30% drop in circulation over the past five years. The Telegraph is also suffering a continuous shrinkage in circulation as well. So when Wright took over responsibility for IT, his first task was cost-cutting. His next was changing the way IT works at the Telegraph, and cloud computing is a central part of that process.

The Telegraph's IT approach can be summed up as "let someone else run operations." Wright outlined his firm's use of SaaS applications:

• Salesforce for customer interaction
• Google (GOOG) apps for email and collaboration
• Ooyala for video distribution
• Disqus for blog comments
• Cordys for business process management and workflow

The Telegraph also uses AWS to run analytics.

Essentially, Wright wants to get out of the business of running kit, recognizing that specialized providers operate less expensively than he could in a self-hosted data center. Moreover, he feels that security has improved, in that the cloud providers implement a far higher set of security practices than the Telegraph had in place or could afford to implement.

The Telegraph also executes a SaaS-forward IT strategy, preferring to pay for application services rather than leveraging IaaS, which would leave it still managing infrastructure, albeit non-physical infrastructure, which Wright refers to as "virtual tin."

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