For a Coke Bottler, the Cloud is ‘Not Ready Yet’

Some think of the public cloud as infinite. It’s not. We tend to forget we’re still in the infancy of the cloud era. We’re dazzled by what is already possible but wondering where this will all lead.

Ivan Krentchev lives on the edge of this strange new world as the Infrastructure Services Manager for Centralized Systems for Coca Cola Hellenic, the bottler serving 28 countries that include Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe, four Western European countries and Nigeria. It’s the second-largest bottler in the world, says Krentchev, and that poses special challenges when it comes to the cloud.

"We have asked vendors to be cloud-ready or to have some strategy towards the cloud, so we can expand with their help if we decide to do so in the future."

Transform: To get started, please tell us a little about your datacenter.

Krentchev: At the moment, it’s outsourced to Atos, one of the biggest services companies within the IT business for Europe. My responsibilities also cover administration of databases and SAP. Our primary application is SAP, so my team is responsible for administering the application and the databases. Our SAP environment is one of the most complex in the world. It's not the biggest, but it's most complex due to the fact that we're automating approximately 95 percent of our business processes. We have maybe a little bit more than 30 productive SAP systems, which are very closely integrated, and this is what brings the complexity that high. Whatever stops, it's a business critical issue.

Our datacenter operates with one of the biggest servers on the market. We have IBM Power 795s, we have Power 760s. We're using primarily EMC as storage, and we're talking about storage of the area of 2.5 petabytes in total. The primary data center includes two buildings connected in the primary site. And we have a disaster recovery site approximately 100 kilometers away. These are both in Austria.

Transform: You operate in many different countries; are there restrictions on the way you move data?

Krentchev: The European countries are most stringent about where the data resides. So for Nigeria, it's not a big issue. However, for Russia, we're expecting that this will become a problem soon because they're in the process of putting a law through that says that personal data for Russian citizens should reside only in Russian data centers and servers placed within the borders of Russia. So this is going to change the game. And it’s not only about the data center. We're also using some cloud services in the area of Software-as-a-Service.

We're in the process of selecting the future vendor of the data center services because the contract that we currently have is expiring this year, and we have put some requirements for the future providers to abide by particular laws.

Transform: Are you using cloud-based apps or are you using apps in the traditional data center?

Krentchev: For the time being, the majority are data center type of applications. We're having some proofs of concept for using HANA in the Cloud, but we're not there yet. This is just a testing, reviewing, evaluation phase.

Transform: Does it speed things up to move the applications to the cloud?

Krentchev: The cloud is too basic for us. First of all, if you put aside to move a particular system in the Cloud, it's a big challenge for everyone because for the time being, even if we decide to put the reporting on HANA, HANA itself – even if it is on premises – cannot handle such big volumes. We're talking about approximately 10, 11 terabytes on the HANA appliance. We haven't yet seen such big HANA installations. They are still in the area of 1 terabyte up to maybe 3, 4, 5, 6 terabytes, but not 10 for sure.

Furthermore, if we decided to migrate a particular application to cloud computing environment –Infrastructure-as-a-Service, we'd require a lot of computing power in terms of the CPU. So we don't fit in the normal Amazon style of environment. As I mentioned, our databases are running on power systems and the cloud is primarily X-86 for the time being, so it's a completely different technology. For the moment, we haven't met with a cloud provider that is ready to accommodate our primary applications in their cloud. This is impossible for the moment. What we are trying to do is instead of moving data center type of applications in the cloud, we're moving towards Software-as-a-Service directly. Sometimes it speeds up the process a lot, however, keep in mind that we also have consultants and developers internally in the company, and it's not such a big deal for us to develop custom applications on our own.

So for us, it's not taking such a long period of time to make a new application or apply a change in an existing application. We have consultants, we have developers, testers. The full process system can be supported fully internally. Of course we go to outside external providers when we don't have enough resources for a particular thing, or we prefer to be focused on a different story. But generally speaking, we're doing things internally.

Transform: How do you think your architecture will shift? We talked a little about security, but are there other areas that you'd like to accomplish as you move your system forward and design it for a future use?

Krentchev: Yes. The next contract is similar to the current one, so we’ll continue with a dedicated private cloud solution with dedicated servers and on premises machines, primarily. But in the bid, we have asked the vendors to be cloud-ready or to have some strategy towards the cloud, so we can expand with their help if we decide to do so in the future. We have evaluated the future providers in terms of cloud readiness but not necessarily moving systems to the cloud from day one. For the bigger applications, the cloud is not ready yet. We're expecting that the providers will grow in time, and over the next five years, maybe the maturity of the cloud will allow us to move certain applications there.

Transform: Are there any other issues about the cloud that you would like to discuss?

Krentchev: The biggest issue we're having is the maturity of the cloud. It’s not ready to accommodate even the middle-sized systems of ours. We have executed a particular proof of concept with Amazon, and they replied with a letter saying they do not suggest we move to the cloud at this particular stage. This is how serious the problem is! However, the demand in the push from the top management towards cloud is quite intensive because we need to be managing our costs in a more flexible way.

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Operating the services internally provides a very low-cost – if you are in a stable environment, but not if you start growing or especially shrinking. Shrinking in a dedicated environment is extremely complicated task, even for an outsourced vendor. Because we're quite a big customer and they cannot accommodate us when we dispose of particular number of systems. The [reduction] is sometimes more than their volume with all other customers in the area. So shrinking is a problem. This is the primary advantage of cloud versus everything else – that you can grow or shrink quite rapidly and you pay as per the capacity that you use. So the demand is there, but the maturity of the cloud is not.

We also need to simplify and commoditize our applications in order for them to be easier to be ported in the cloud. For the time being, maybe the applications are written in an old fashioned way, so they are not cloud ready and we cannot just move them to the cloud with the same resource requirements. We have to be smart here, simplify the processes, utilize, as much as possible Software-as-a-Service type of cloud in order to expand to the cloud and reduce the footprint in the data center. This is the primary problem that we're having. Even if we outsource particular stuff to this cloud and to that cloud, then the two clouds need to communicate between themselves quite quickly, this level of flexibility is not in the cloud. When you have your own dedicated environment, and developers, and everything; the integration is not such a big deal. But if you go to the cloud with standard services, standard software, commodity type of hardware and services, you cannot be very flexible to fulfill the desires of our business. And our business, even though it's quite simple, still it has its peculiarities, and those are going to be very hard to be realized in a commodity type of environment.


Ivan Krentchev
Infrastructure Services Manager Centralized Systems
Coca-Cola Hellenic IT Services Ltd.

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