Follow the money — Revlon's private Cloud

Follow the money — Revlon's private Cloud

Revlon’s private Cloud is helping the company save money to focus on more glamorous lines of business

Think of a brand such as Revlon and words such as ‘glamour’ and ‘excitement’ are far more likely to come to mind than terms such as virtual machines and private Cloud infrastructure. Behind the alluring corporate image, however, senior vice-president and CIO, David Giambruno, and his team have enabled the business using a global private Cloud that runs across more than 100 countries and six continents.

“If you need lipstick, I’m your guy,” he joked.

Speaking at VMware’s VMworld 2011 event in Las Vegas, Giambruno outlined how the organisation’s move to the private Cloud has saved the company $US70.4 million over the last two years and delivered uptime of 99.9999 per cent.

“The Cloud almost runs itself,” he said. “Our Cloud makes 15,000 automated moves a month with no human intervention. We don’t really have ‘server people’ anymore — what used to take six to eight weeks to get a server in the data centre now takes five minutes. Our ratio of physical servers to virtual servers was 1:7. We’re 1:34 this year. That’s a 500 per cent increase in capacity, without cost.”

Those savings are transferred to the organisation to develop new business, new products and advertising. Giambruno is pragmatic about the role technology plays in a manufacturing company that is a household name worldwide, referring to himself irreverently as “the help” rather than a part of the business that drives revenue.

“We have essentially taken the infrastructure out of the way of the business,” he said. “VMware is the core of our Cloud; it is really the centre of our ecosystem of our partners and allows us to be very fast. Simplicity equals speed,” he said. “Speed equals competitive advantage.”

Ensuring systems work for people rather than making people work for the systems creates the necessary confidence between the lines of business and the CIO.

“We do pretty Cloud. We have to.” One of Giambruno’s well-worn catchphrases — he has a few — is “faster, cheaper, better”. The IT department started the move to a private Cloud in 2005 and the systems went live globally in 2008. Then they started quantifying the benefits.

“In terms of faster, our project throughput globally is up 300 per cent in two years; we get more done for the business,” he said.

“Better? We’re running six nines uptime. We are a manufacturing company and we can do that, and it lets us turn forward and help the business.”

As for cheaper, the $US70.4 million in cost avoidance and savings speaks for itself.

“And that wasn’t me counting — that was the finance department because my controller runs my life. We have a simple saying: Follow the money. And he follows every penny I spend.”

Another Giambruno saying — trust by verify — typifies how the CIO runs the technology department.

“It is all about trust. If you are going to do these things and change the way you operate, you have to be trusted. If you’re not, the challenges will come out at every corner.

“It was really a nice kudos back to my organisation for the finance department to recognise what we were doing. We didn’t ask them; they saw the changes that were happening and took it upon themselves to quantify it.”

Today, Revlon has 98 per cent of its applications and workload running on top of its private Cloud.

“We pick one thing and do it incredibly well; it’s about that density of skill sets and capability,” Giambruno said. “And so we picked up our application portfolio — 531 apps — and put them on our Cloud. It’s VMware running the Microsoft Guest OS and that’s it. It was about the focus and execution around that capability.”

All mission critical tier-1 applications run in the Cloud, leaving Revlon with just two Unix servers and three AS/400s. It has become somewhat of an in-company joke among the IT team that the former data centre is now a soccer field.

“One of the other big benefits is we have reduced our data centre power by 72 per cent. We have corporate greenness goals, but it really is that total transformation. Simplicity wins.”

Highly virtualized versus private Cloud

In the ephemeral world of Cloud computing, private Cloud infrastructure is often confused with a highly virtualized environment. For Giambruno, however, the difference is all about geography. Terms such as ‘data centre in a box’ and ‘SAN in a can’ make the agility with which Revlon can now deploy applications into accessible terms of reference.

“These things are potentially geographically dispersed,” Giambruno explained. “We move applications globally. It’s not just about the virtualization — it’s actually moving applications around the Revlon universe.

“We had a factory burn down in Venezuela a couple of months ago. Nobody was hurt, and when I think of Cloud, it was our ability to literally move a country’s operations into DR in two hours and 20 minutes — and the first two hours were finding the guys because it was a Sunday afternoon. It was moving all the systems, bringing up the virtual desktops and getting everybody back to work so they could focus on running the business again. That’s a Cloud, that’s not virtualization.”

Revlon’s next foray will be using its internal Cloud to create a business-to-business working space between the company and its third party manufacturers, developers, and customers.

“The capability that we have — the richness — and the fact that we can control it is something we find very enticing and has great strategic value,” Giambruno said.

“It’s really that efficiency. To me it comes down to two things: The amount of time we don’t spend in operations has allowed us to take that human power, the brain power, and focus it at the business to do more.

“The second thing we find interesting is the rate of change. Every week at Revlon there is between 17 and 30 terabytes of change on our Cloud. Those two geometries really work together to create a whole new ecosystem.”

Giambruno’s greatest lesson from the journey: It is not how much money you spend; it’s how you spend it.

Georgina Swan attended VMworld in Las Vegas as a guest of VMware.

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