How BP made its IT future-ready with a hybrid cloud infrastructure

BP bridged its cloud gap with a cautious and calculated approach using a mix of private cloud, public cloud and in-house IT infrastructure

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For a multinational company with some 87,000 employees and a distributed IT infrastructure, moving to the cloud was a challenge. But BP took a cautious and calculated approach to bridge its cloud gap, using a mix of private cloud, public cloud and in-house IT infrastructure.

Speaking at Cloud World Forum 2013 in London, BP CIO Dana Deasy said: “Like every large company, we had legacy IT and somehow had to burst to the cloud.”

BP, which is the fifth largest company in the world in terms of revenues in 2012, has a large and expensive IT infrastructure – including 90,000 PCs, 57 petabytes of data, 340 WAN connections and 17,000 servers.

“Our IT services are delivered by 3,500 employees and contractors, as well as 7,000 staff from managed service providers. It is a big, mixed world,” said Deasy.

The oil and gas company wanted to migrate some of its workloads to the cloud environment to gain efficiency and optimise performance and security, he said.

But the IT team needed to take a calculated approach because of the size of the company’s IT and the legal and regulatory compliance requirements.

Its on-premise IT infrastructure strategy was designed around systems for sensitive data, highly customised applications, stable workloads and legal and regulatory systems. Meanwhile, its off-premise IT strategy was focused around testing and development, collaborative platforms and customer engagement systems.

We wanted best-of-breed cloud solutions for every feature, but there is no single provider that can offer the best technological solution for each of our needs

Dana Deasy, BP

BP's cloud journey began with digital communications

The IT team began its cloud journey by moving BP’s digital communications infrastructure to the cloud. 

Its website is hosted on the cloud environment, as part of an end-to-end cloud platform delivering digital communication services.

But it was not as simple as picking a cloud provider and sticking the communications system on its platform.

“We wanted best-of-breed cloud solutions for every feature, but there is no single provider that can offer the best technological solution for each of our needs,” said Deasy. “It is difficult to pick one service that fits all use cases.”

The IT team chose nine cloud service providers to provide a mix of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) to meet its cloud requirements.

The IaaS platform, delivered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), is designed to auto-scale, according to Deasy.

Cloud agility in action

Using cloud’s agility for digital communications proved beneficial for BP during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Considered as one of the largest oil spills, the incident led to several environmental incidents, such as endangering marine life and locals in the area.

“During the oil incident we had to suddenly provision more IT resources,” said Deasy.

According to the company’s chief cloud architect, Paul McMohan, during the oil spill visitors to its website increased from 15,000 to 17 million. “That was the scale we had to provision for,” he told Computer Weekly.

The cloud platform gave BP the ability to meet those demands. “Use of cloud in digital services also gave us the ability to put out new marketing campaigns quickly during that time,” said Deasy.

Although it is public cloud provider Amazon’s service, it is a virtual private cloud (VPC). Amazon VPC allows users to provision a logically isolated section of the AWS cloud where you can launch resources in a virtual network that you define. “A majority of AWS customers are demanding Amazon VPC,” said McMohan.

Another service the BP team moved to the cloud was its global email services. BP has 160,000 mail boxes and nearly 10 million email transactions in a month.

“We decided to deliver our email services through private cloud PaaS [platform as a service],” said Deasy. “Today, our employees have a Google-like email experience,” he said.

BP put Microsoft Exchange 2010 into a private cloud from T-Systems in 2012 to benefit from pay-per-use functionality and flexibility. 

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Overcoming cloud obstacles and looking forward

But BP’s cloud implementation was not without its obstacles. “There was cost, there were legal and regulatory requirements, and we had to develop a new approach to security,” said Deasy.

One of the toughest challenge was to let go of the control of IT, he said. It takes a lot of confidence to believe in a service that is not physically there to see.

Having benefited from cloud’s agility and scalability, BP’s IT team is now building a technology strategy to look at the cloud ecosystem. “When we started, AWS was leading and we were testing and developing our services using its services. But now, the cloud marketplace is evolving fast,” said McMohan.

The company is assessing AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google’s cloud services. “We are also looking at traditional service providers, such as IBM, and then there is OpenStack which is maturing too,” he said.

BP is building a cloud framework and a rule book as guidance to its future cloud use.

“In the coming years, we will expand our cloud deployment for a wider range of applications,” said Deasy.

Embracing BYOD in a big way

BP’s IT focus is not restricted to the use of cloud alone. It has adopted a BYOD policy too.

“Two years ago we decided to embrace BYOD,” said Deasy. The petroleum company today has about 20,000 devices in use under its BYOD policy.

Image courtesy of BP plc

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