Something to ponder: a data center-free enterprise

Pharmaceutical CIO ditches the data center, takes advantage of cloud buyer's market: 'Our business continuity plan is now one bullet: go home.'

Is it possible to run an enterprise without a data center -- not a startup or small firm, but an enterprise that once had a data center?

Cloud computing at keyboard 2 Photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the grand experiment undertaken by AMAG Pharmaceuticals, as explained by CIO Nathan McBride to Network World's John Dix. AMAG had annual revenues of about $81 million in the most recent year. In the Q&A, McBride explains how he was able to slash the company's $2.8 million IT budget in half by shutting down its data center and moving to cloud and BYOD.

McBride says he accomplished this with a team of three IT professionals -- "a project manager, somebody who had experience with agile and Scrum and PMP development, and a data center master." The team set out to pare down the five major pillars of IT -- backups, email, file servers, security and service -- and move it all out to the cloud. This IT staff is now actively working with vendors to address security.

One might see this kind of infrastructure-free approach as extremely risky. However, McBride says the company's risk is low, since it primarily relies on 24 different vendors for business IT services. And McBride makes it known that the company expects stellar performance from vendors, noting that "it's a buyer's market" for cloud users. "Our loyalty only extends to those who innovate the fastest. My vendors know this. And if something’s been going wrong we’ll generally switch to somebody else."

Just as amazing is McBride's disaster recovery and business continuity plan: "Our business continuity plan is now one bullet: go home. Because if the whole building shuts down, just go home and keep working, or don’t come in, or go down to Starbucks."

This has interesting implications for IT professionals and managers. McBride's model is truly that of cloud service broker, a term increasingly being applied to the IT leader of the near future. IT leaders connect business users with the technology services necessary to do their jobs.