The Dow Chemical Company, one of the largest chemical producers in the world, has been in business since 1897. During those 124 years, the company has embraced many different forms of technology, among the most recent being the cloud.
Dow Chemical's path to the cloud, however, has not been a straight line because of its large, complicated IT footprint that supports mission-critical operations. That meant Dow had to choose the right partners and the right technology approach to migrate to the cloud where it makes sense.
At the recent Microsoft Ignite virtual conference, Tony Rubenacker, Dow's associate IT director of cloud platform and data centers services, outlined his company's path to a hybrid cloud environment.
"Our strategy over the last three years has been to leverage the cloud as a part of our overall IT strategy," Rubenacker said. "We're looking to the cloud to drive increased agility and speed to market for our internal partners."
Where Dow Chemical Is Coming From
Rubenacker described Dow's IT systems as traditional and what someone might expect from a large company.
Its IT systems are very centralized and mainframe-centric. There are seven main data centers around the globe, with approximately 4,800 physical devices and at least 7,000 virtual machines, he said.
"What we have to do is leverage the cloud to help us eliminate technical debt and get those virtual machine workloads off of our on-premises systems into the cloud," Rubenacker said. "That's one of the things we're tackling right now."
Challenges of Cloud Migration
Moving workloads to the cloud is not a simple lift and shift; there are multiple challenges and considerations that Rubenacker has to deal with.
Security and maintaining the integrity of the data are among the key challenges. As are performance and latency. Because its applications are distributed around the globe, Dow is focused on reducing or eliminating latency.
And then there is cost.
"We had to move to the cloud in such a way as to minimize and actually lower costs," he said.
Dow found that it could optimize cloud workloads through several internal governance processes, according to Rubenacker. Those governance processes help ensure that when a workload moves to the cloud, it is optimized for size, performance and cost.
The Microsoft Migration Factory Approach
Dow has a partnership approach to its cloud modernization efforts.
Rubenacker noted that his organization has a partnership with IBM, which helps support Dow's on-premises systems. On the public cloud side, Microsoft Azure is the direction that workloads are headed.
Continuity is a key part of the migration to a hybrid cloud environment, Rubenacker said. To that end, Dow is using what is known as the Microsoft Azure Migration Factory approach. That approach defines a model and a process for moving workloads from an on-premises deployment to Microsoft Azure. Continuity is maintained when a workload is moving, ensuring that security protocols, network routing information, monitoring and system operation all remain intact.
"When we turn on the switch in the Azure environment, everything works as it did on premises," he said.
The hybrid model—in which Dow runs on-premises and in the Microsoft Azure cloud—means that some of the IT staff have responsibilities in both environments.
"We're maintaining a traditional on-premises infrastructure while simultaneously getting a large footprint in Azure," Rubenacker said. "Essentially, we have a lot of people wearing two hats."
Dow has traditional infrastructure people who have 25 years' experience supporting mainframe environments who can now also easily go into the Azure environment, he said. Training and upskilling have been key to making it work.
"Upskilling was a key thing that we did when we built our foundation out, and we made sure our people were trained before we started down this path," Rubenacker said.