The cloud helps enterprises break chains shackling IT

Cloud pioneers Nordstrom and Oscar Insurance say IT shops can be faster, more agile and more business-focused if they move to hosted systems.

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At Nordstrom, the cloud is all about freeing up IT workers so they can focus on getting new apps and features into customers' hands instead of wasting time putting servers into racks.

"Before we were in the cloud, we had a shared services model with groups that maintained storage and databases" and the like, said Keith Homewood, an infrastructure engineer at the upscale fashion retailer. "When you had to do a production triage, you had to gather a cast of thousands.... By the time I was done, the customer forgot what they asked for or they got it somewhere else."

The need to eliminate the baggage that stood between him and his ability to react quickly to customer and business needs is a major part of the reason Homewood began moving Nordstrom into the cloud about a year and a half ago, after spending about six months making sure hosted services would offer acceptable levels of security and availability.

Mackenzie Kosut, head of technical operations at New York-based Oscar Insurance, has similar reasons for embracing cloud computing, but he's even further into the buy-in.

Founded in 2013, Oscar is totally on the cloud and that, according to Kosut, enables the startup to move faster than other insurance companies.

"I've been burned in the past, working in large enterprises that are managing their own physical data centers, and I've seen the horrors of having to deal with constant hardware failures and network issues and leased hardware that has to be refreshed all the time," he said. "Working with a clean slate means we have no legacy environment and we can build things exactly as we want them."

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