CeBIT 2014: Go fast or go home with Cloud app ecosystems: News Corp

CTO believes the only KPI is speed in the Cloud - and that means apps

News Corp's Tom Quinn at CeBIT 2014

News Corp's Tom Quinn at CeBIT 2014

News Corp Australia CTO/CIO, Tom Quinn, says consumers are driving change in the marketplace via technologies such as mobile, and those that are quick to adapt will win.

"Unless we're quick, we're dead," he told attendees at CeBIT 2014.

Quinn said mobile Web page views have risen by six times in the past two years and that sometime this year mobile page views will outstrip computer web page views.

"Consumers are now innovating faster than businesses," he said.

"They call all the shots in media now, and determine when and how news is consumed."

Of consumers' daily media interactions, 90 per cent are now screen based, be it tablet or smartphone. Eight months ago, the statistics showed that we spend 4.4 hours of our leisure time in front of screens - Quinn says these figures will be higher now.

The impact of mobile and online on other industries, such as retail, has been just as profound. Retail numbers are trending down rapidly, as consumers use retail outlets to try out outfits - before buying them online. Clothing retailers now have to compete by offering deals such as three hour delivery of items, with 90 day returns.

In 2000 the likeliness of business failure due to consumer shift was 25 per cent. As of 2010 that figure had risen to 47 per cent. Customers simply aren't forgiving in the modern retail climate - whether you're selling technology or board shorts.

"If you miss a consumer trend, you're dead," Quinn says.

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The easiest way to ensure your business is flexible and quick enough to respond to emerging customer demands, is through adjusting your business to an eco-system model, Quinn says.

The 'composability' model means you use existing technologies within an ecosystem, such as Cloud and apps by third parties, to put together a solution, much like building with Lego bricks. You don't have to build each lego brick component yourself, you just need to manage how they are composed together - you are an assembler of already created tech.

You know it all already works, it costs less, and reduces time to market: "All it needs is to be stitched together." For this reason, Quinn believes that ERP models have had their day.

"They're not good ecosystems, they're like gated communities. The 'one bang for your buck days are over'."

Figuring out what blocks you need to build this composable enterprise is often stressful for IT staff who have never had to deal with this problem before. The second, and most vital phase, is to fit these 'blocks' to your Cloud offerings.

"The secret to going fast is to hit the Cloud hard, as hard as you can," he said.

Quinn says that, going forward, everything in NewsCorp is Cloud first. Every project that is presented to him by junior staff he forces them to rework it into a Cloud model.

"Replace your legacy systems, and have an easier life," he said.

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One of the key advantages of Cloud and 'lego block' composable ecosystem model is that individual components can be changed out if they don't work with minimal fuss - especially when compared to onsite hardware.

Quinn estimates that rearranging Cloud based components for new projects now takes just three months, instead of 10-12 under old systems.

Nowadays Cloud has matured enough that there is a Cloud app for almost anything, no matter how niche your business is - you can compose a solution based exclusively on third party Cloud based app infrastructure.

The in demand staff in this new world are the integration experts, not the tin or app experts. The integration experts role is to 'figure out the glue' - how all these components knit together. NewCorp uses Cloudhub and Mulesoft ESB for this purpose.

Even the integrators are now adapting their own business models, a lot of these integrating pieces of software now have to slot into other apps and programs. Apps like Zapier now can merge Salesforce tasks and contact lists with Evernote, simply by dragging and dropping.

Quinn says the new model means cost savings of up to four times previous models. 45% of the company's compute is in the cloud currently, the stated goal is 75% within two years.

"Don't have two of anything," he said. "Complexity will kill."

Allan Swann is the Editor of ARN. Follow Allan on Twitter @allanswann, and at Google+.

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