Cloud-first strategy at News Corp requires new skills

CIO wants to have 75 per cent of compute in the cloud by 2016

News Limited CIO Tom Quinn

News Limited CIO Tom Quinn

The CIO of News Corp Australia has set a goal of moving 75 per cent of the organisation’s compute into the cloud by the end of 2015.

The transformation has required new IT skills and retraining of staff, News Corp CIO Tom Quinn said at a lunch hosted by IT integrator MuleSoft.

News Corp today has about 42 per cent of compute in the cloud, and aims to quickly increase that proportion, said Quinn.

The media company has adopted a cloud-first strategy and aims to buy only cloud services going forward, Quinn said. The company already is a customer of Salesforce, Google for Work, ServiceNow, Amazon Web Services, Google Enterprise and Microsoft Azure, he said.

News Corp has tapped MuleSoft to integrate the cloud services.

“For everything going forward, Mule is going to be the product that we use,” said Quinn, joking “unless they cock it up, of course.”

Quinn said some legacy apps will remain until their end of life because it’s not cost effective to replace them.

“We won’t waste money crashing down those old integrations that aren’t ready for the cloud. We’ll just let them die.”

“Mule’s not about rewriting the past,” he added. “It’s about creating a new future that is fast, cheaper and suits our business a lot more. Because in this game [and] in our trade we need to be fast and get the product to the market as quickly as we can.”

Quinn said the move to the cloud has required a change in the type of skills needed by News Corp’s IT workforce.

“Infrastructure becomes code. It becomes the bottom line of code on an app because you have nothing to do with it. So, the days of having storage architects and guys who are standing tin up are gone very quickly.

“You need people who are specialists at getting into the business and talking to the business about problems that need to be resolved … and then integration experts. You also need people who can get right in under the covers of Amazon and Google and Azure and Mule, and figure out the intricacies of what they do and how they do it.”

For staff not trained in the new way, News gives a chance to retrain and realign, said Quinn.

“Half of them are smart enough to see the future and take up that opportunity,” he said. “And most of that half are very good learners and we’re very happy with.”

Vendors, rather than the education sector, provides training to staff who want to learn the new skills, he said.

With new employees just coming out of university, Quinn said he usually sees at least a predisposition for the new ways of IT, even if they sometimes lack the training.

“Everything they do at university is a service. They wouldn’t look at a piece of tin … To get them from being academic to being commercial is quite easy to do.”

News Corp is gaining cost and time savings from the shift to the cloud, said Quinn. MuleSoft lets the company quickly and easily assemble different software-as-a-service (SaaS) components that make a product, he said.

For example, News Limited has just released a range of tablets apps for each of its mastheads, he said.

“We used MuleSoft to help us put together a new suite of APIs that takes content from our content engine … and allows us to automatically populate the tablet app in an order similar to the newspaper,” including text, photos, videos and related links.

“The tablet apps are then subbed by maybe one person … but generally, it’s hands free.”

The project took 10 weeks, and Quinn estimated it would have taken six months longer without MuleSoft.

“It’s drag and drop,” he said. “I can take a well-educated smart BA, put him in a training room in a week, and they can assemble [a product].”

“You’re not holding the business to ransom to detailed, intricate, costly in-house development to get things hooked together.”

Quinn noted that the business is much more supportive of the cloud now compared to when he began at News about 10 years ago.

“We can now justify or define the benefit,” he said. “Cloud for a while was like grid computing, hosting, and all those different things. This is real, and it’s different, because it is demand driven. People want it—it’s not vendors trying to push it.”

Adam Bender covers business tech issues for CIO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter and Like us on Facebook… Twitter: @CIO_Australia, Facebook: CIO Australia, or take part in the CIO conversation on LinkedIn: CIO Australia

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