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Accenture is in the process of tapping Google as its third cloud platform, setting a multi-cloud strategy example for its customers.
Andrew Wilson, CIO at Accenture, said the company initially adopted AWS, later added Microsoft Azure and has started the process of taking on Google Cloud Platform. "We are currently in the midst of testing key Google Cloud Platform services for consumption," he said, noting that Accenture puts any platform through a security certification before the company consumes it.
Google ranks third in cloud infrastructure services market share, trailing market leaders AWS and Azure, according to Synergy Research Group. Google, however, is growing its slice of the market, outpacing the overall market's 2018 growth rate of 48%, the market research firm reported. Synergy pegged 2018 cloud infrastructure services spending -- which includes IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud -- at nearly $70 billion globally.
Selling what it uses: Multi-cloud strategy
Wilson said the intent behind Accenture's multi-cloud approach is to avoid "concentration risk" -- putting too many workload eggs in one cloud basket -- and achieve maximum flexibility.
"I would never intend to put all of my services in one cloud," Wilson said.
That strategy makes it easier for Accenture, as a global operation, to meet specific needs in different geographical regions, he noted. In 2015, Accenture launched a cloud computing plan in which the company aims to move most of its IT operations to the public cloud.
The Accenture IT group also aims to have its approach serve as a beacon for external customers considering a multi-cloud strategy.
Accenture's multi-cloud use enables it to compare and contrast cloud price points and features. The company can also demonstrate how workloads can run across multiple clouds. The IT organization shares its multi-cloud experiences -- "impressions and best practices" -- with Accenture's go-to-market teams, who pass along those insights to its clients, Wilson said.
"I am not just a normal CIO in terms of running my enterprise," he said. "We have a critical need to be that North Star for our clients."
Jeff Kaplan, managing director at THINKstrategies, a cloud consulting firm in Wellesley, Mass., said professional services firms and integrators, as well as IT vendors, will often showcase in-house technology to demonstrate they have the skills to address key technology challenges and even rely on those same skills to run their own companies.
The approach "can be more effective than simply establishing a center of excellence, which only demonstrates the theoretical benefits of pursuing a particular technology, such as multi-cloud adoption, because it shows how the [integrator or vendor] is doing it within their own operations," Kaplan said.
Andrew WilsonCIO, Accenture
In addition, highlighting internal IT "complements the customer success stories" integrators and vendors typically promote, he noted.
The technology Accenture has developed to manage its multi-cloud strategy is another example of using what one sells. Accenture Cloud Platform (ACP) is the company's unified management approach for multi-cloud and hybrid environments, which focuses on cloud operations, security, cost control and cloud governance.
Enterprise clients, as well as Accenture's IT organization, use ACP. The cloud management platform helps multi-cloud organizations overcome the differences among cloud providers, Wilson said. For example, each cloud vendor has its own language for describing its offerings and consumption metrics, he added.
Cloud eases SAP testing
Wilson credited the cloud for letting Accenture run multiple test scenarios prior to putting SAP S/4HANA into production.
The company was able to automate the testing of about 300 downstream S/4 application services, determining which services could go awry. Wilson said cloud made the extensive testing feasible. Accenture's S/4 deployment went live in 2018.
"We could never have done that [testing] on premises; it would have been too cost-prohibitive," Wilson said.
Wilson described Accenture's cloud-based testing approach: "We used cloud services to create landscapes that mirrored our prior systems and the new systems based on S/4HANA so that we could check output for accuracy in both environments. Cloud services enabled us to set up these landscapes in one day."
The ability to probe the boundaries of Accenture's global, single instance of S/4 is one example of why Accenture has placed public cloud platforms at the center of its IT operation. Wilson said flexibility and security are among the primary considerations behind Accenture's cloud adoption. Cost, while important, is not the main driver, he added.
"If you look at cloud as just a cost play, you do miss the point," Wilson said.
ACP, however, uses a common method for tagging assets across multiple clouds, which normalizes the differences among individual vendors. This element of Accenture's multi-cloud strategy helps managers associate costs and services and establish security profiles for different types of services, Wilson said. Accenture received a patent for its multi-cloud tagging in 2018.
"It is important to have efficient cloud orchestration," Wilson said. "It's the key to avoiding overhead."