CloudLIVE Recap: Engineering Within The Cloud Center Of Excellence

6 Min Read

A few weeks ago CloudHealth held its first virtual conference, CloudLIVE. The day long event was packed with customer led sessions, keynotes, and even a great Cloud Debate! 

One of the sessions was a panel discussion about the critical role engineering teams have within a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE). The panel was moderated by Deb MacCallum, the new VP of Engineering at CloudHealth by VMware. She was joined by Riley Jenkins, Senior SRE Architect at Domo, Nathan Peck, Senior Developer Advocate for AWS, and Brent Strong, Manager of Cloud Engineering at Change Healthcare. The panel brought a  diverse set of experiences and industry knowledge, and below is a recap of some of the session’s Q&As: 

What is the role of the engineer in the CCoE for your organization? 

MacCallum started the discussion with this opening question to see everyone’s perspective on the role engineering does (or should) play in a CCoE. For reference, a CCoE is a cross-functional working group of people that govern the usage of the cloud across an organization that helps drive best practices across functions. The CCoE spans three areas of excellence: cloud financial management, cloud operations, and cloud security compliance.

Strong went first explaining how engineers help drive organizations forward by providing new ideas and working closely with the CCoE. The engineering teams and CCoE can learn together and deliver value to customers and while also maintaining security. 

Strong started talking about how it's a partnership between the CCoE and engineering teams. The engineering team is always looking for new services, abilities to take advantage of, and is driving the organization forward. The team also has a strong focus on security in order to catch things early and definitely have a “shifting left” mindset. 

In Jenkins’ case, Domo Healthcare is an engineering led organization. This means the majority of people in the CCoE and company already had some sort of engineering background. Engineers focus on the performance and scale of the organization, and work closely with the CCoE to know when to make cost optimization decisions vs engineering decisions. Peck also mentioned that engineering teams need to look at the problems companies are facing and figure out the best way to solve them. Engineering teams have the capability and tools to benefit their company. 

Engineering teams should work closely with the CCoE (or even be on the team) to help solve company problems. The engineering team can create creative solutions that would be beneficial. 

How do companies normally start their CCoE journey?

Jenkins starts out by talking about his experience creating a CCoE. Most companies start with nothing for a CCoE, so it can be hard to know where to start. Jenkins recommends to start by understanding your business context and to create a tagging policy within your environment for good hygiene. The goal is to empower everyone on your team to be efficient when deploying, so they only deploy the best resources and databases. Jenkins elaborated by saying, “What are some advanced deployment strategies to enhance our efficiency? This came down to, are we deploying the right machines. Do they match the workflow? Are we using the best practice on a deployment standpoint?” This can help maintain a single source of truth which can be narrowed down to an employee's (or team’s) own scope. 

Strong followed up the discussion by talking about how his company went through many different iterations of cloud teams. Strong mentions how it took his company multiple attempts to create a successful CCoE. It started with a small group of people in the cloud, but it would fall apart when the group worked on larger projects due to a shortened bandwidth. They had to rethink their CCoE approach to enable engineering teams and the whole organization. 

Knowing the ground rules and understandings for your business can start a CCoE on the right foot. For example, knowing what your company's goals are, who pays for what, ect. Learning this may take some time, but will also be helpful to locate mistakes and the best ways to move forward. Having a centralized group of people who are in charge of managing the core pieces of your cloud environment can help with building a CCoE.   

Peck also mentioned that everyone’s CCoE will look different depending on where they are in their cloud journey and the size of the company. Small startups may only have one person deploying and managing applications (this isn’t a good practice because if this person left, this would create a bottleneck). The CCoE should create tools to empower everyone to build successfully, and create guardrails to protect against potential misconfigurations or poor provisioning practices. This can help enable the engineers on your team as well to maintain productivity as well as their own agency. 

Additionally, a CCoE can also create an API deployment pattern, streamline the process, and design a central repository or pattern that can be scaled across the organization for all engineering teams. Allowing engineers to deploy their own resources properly can also become a competitive advantage with faster time to market and increased product releases. 

It’s also important to mention that when just starting out with a CCoE, understanding your costs, managing your Reserved Instances (RIs), and establishing a scalable finance function will help create a solid cloud foundation (and get you some quick cost-saving wins) early on. 

How does CloudHealth enable your engineering teams? 

Strong talked from his personal experience of using CloudHealth. He was quick to mention CloudHealth’s cost saving capabilities, as well as the platform’s great troubleshooting capabilities for finding unattached IP Addresses and terminating zombie assets. He also mentioned how CloudHealth works great as a single pane of glass for different multicloud accounts. 

Really looking at CloudHealth as the great equalizer, the one pane of glass that lets us see across all of our different accounts, even across multicloud now. That’s a huge value.

- Brent Strong, Manager of Cloud Engineering at Change Healthcare

“And that's a huge value whether you are looking at it from a cost perspective or an asset management perspective or even something as simple as troubleshooting… That’s what I use CloudHealth for and it’s great to use that one area to peak into each of our accounts and give us that information.” 

Jenkins talked about how engineering teams will use these tools frequently for decision making and to help scale the business. CloudHealth allows for engineers to have a normalized view into the impact of all these decisions. Additionally, CloudHealth helps maintain a reliable source of data and information for engineering teams to leverage. 

The panelist also discussed how CloudHealth can also be used for automation. The automation feature is particularly helpful for convertible RIs. Jenkins mentions how his company used to use excel to track and change RIs manually. This took up so much time, and now with CloudHealth he is able to focus more on scaling their architecture. 

Strong also points to CloudHealth’s governance policies for starting and stopping RIs during off hours to manage costs. This helps take a cognitive load off engineers, as before they would have to remember to manually turn on and off their instances, but now with automation and governance that doesn’t need to happen. Tying automation and visibility together reinforces best practice behavior into your engineering team and makes it easier for them to align to your cloud strategy. 

Engineers are a vital resource to have on your CCoE team to ensure cloud strategies and processes encompass the unique needs of your organization’s engineering teams.. Learn more about creating a Cloud Center of Excellence within our eBook “Benchmark Your Cloud Maturity: A Framework for Best Practices”. If you want to watch the CloudLIVE engineering within a CCoE panel, you can watch the full panel discussion here

Emma Toole
Emma Toole, Cloud Tech Journalist

Emma Toole is the current Digital Content Marketing Co-op at CloudHealth and spends her time writing blogs about cloud industry news and best practices. Outside of CloudHealth, Emma is a student at Northeastern University pursuing a Business Administration degree with concentrations in Marketing and Supply Chain along with her minor in Sustainable Business Practices. In her free time, Emma enjoys creating videos with the only film club on campus, Northeastern Television (NUTV).

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