In our previous article on Cloud Sprawl, we featured the first part of a Q&A with GE Executive Thomas Martin, the Application Transformation leader for the corporation and part of GE Digital.

During the first part of our discussion, we covered the company’s current transition to the cloud, the benefits that it’s delivering and some exciting case studies within the company. These examples illustrate the power of the cloud to help improve business processes and cut costs.

In the second part of our conversation, we asked Thomas about the company’s approach to hybrid cloud adoption, what challenges this creates, and the company’s use of bots to enable better transparency, management and automation across their clouds.

Here is what he had to say:

Thomas MartinCS: You’ve said previously that GE is looking to embrace a hybrid approach to the cloud by utilizing services from multiple cloud providers. Why is this a necessary step for GE today? Does this create any challenges?

TM: There are multiple factors, but the first and largest factor is that each of the different providers brings some nuance. Each has aspects to them that are differentiators in and of themselves.

For example, for a lot of the codebase that can be run in Lambda, we are now starting to run serverless applications. We see Microsoft as having an advantage in the .NET space to do similar things as they mature out their offerings.

For our pure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) deployments, we want the ability to fluidly move resources, enabling the ability to work across providers. One of the things that we’re experimenting with as we ramp up in Azure is having applications with a hybrid architecture with some of the assets in AWS and some in Azure.

We’re also working with Oracle’s Cloud Platform. There we are looking to run our ERPs – Enterprise Resource Planning systems – in the cloud. Foundational systems like ERPs, when coupled with predictive analytics drive our Digital Thread.  As systems of record, these ERPs are part of the larger ecosystem of applications within the enterprise.

One of the challenges that we’re going to face is that as we deploy an ERP into Oracle’s Cloud Platform, is managing that overall ecosystem.  We need to ensure that our other applications hosted in AWS and Azure, all tie together, and can continue to operate. We have to ensure a cohesive experience across the providers.

One of the ways we’re going to be able to do that – and manage it – is through Event Driven Automation, the GE Bot Army. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to tackle this level of cross cloud complexity. I don’t think it’s feasible without them.

CS: What are these Bots? And how do they work?

TM: We’ve evolved our concept of the Bot Army quite a bit. Originally, Bots were single purpose, simplistic scripts that automated a specific function in a specific cloud.  Today, we have bots running around the network to enforce policy.

Not only do they identify non-compliance (regarding cost, security or best practices), they also take automated action to bring our cloud resource back into compliance.  We’ve employed a cloud-agnostic platform from DivvyCloud to build Bots in a unified way that enables us to enable consistent policy automation across different cloud deployments (AWS, Azure and internal VMware for example).

As these Bots take action, it is essential that we have the right user groups and security in place to prevent unintentional impact, and malicious threats.

CS: What are the benefits you’ve experienced from the deployment of these Bots?

TM: Compliance is a big one that speaks for itself. Another big one is the optimization of capacity by making sure servers are sized correctly and data is stored only as long as needed.

Being able to sense variations globally and proactively diagnosing issues is essential so that we can automatically shift the network or load without the end-user ever noticing.

CS: GE’s cloud initiatives seem to be paying dividends, and the bots that you’re implementing appear to be effective in helping to manage your hybrid cloud environment. What’s next for the company as it relates to the cloud?

TM: This is just the tip of a big iceberg. We are driving a better user experience and productivity is a big piece of it. As we continue to innovate in the area of Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and build the factory of the future, there will be continuous integration and deployment of cloud applications.  We will continue working on innovative ways to optimize our infrastructure accordingly.

For additional information about GE’s cloud implementation and their use of bots to better manage and automate their cloud infrastructure, watch this video featuring Thomas Martin.

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