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Hearst puts cloud governance first in move to AWS, Azure

Cloud governance, both from a security and cost perspective, was crucial for Hearst Corp. as it moved its IT operations to AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Like many enterprises, Hearst Corp. has taken a multi-cloud approach to its IT strategy. In doing so, the company made sure to put a rigorous cloud governance plan in place.

Hearst, based in New York, owns a large number of media properties across television, newspapers and magazines. It also has stakes in the A&E and ESPN cable networks. Hearst initially centered its cloud deployments on AWS but more recently moved workloads to Microsoft Azure, said James Shaffer, executive director of cloud and operations, in an interview.

As part of the expansion, Hearst cut ties with its previous cloud services partner and signed on with 2nd Watch, a consultancy headquartered in Seattle, Shaffer said.

"They weren't able to deliver us architecture and roadmap support," Shaffer said of the previous partner, which he declined to name. "They were very tactical." 2nd Watch had the broader skill set and multi-cloud experience Hearst needed, he added.

Hearst and 2nd Watch built out a cloud governance framework with Azure Resource Manager (ARM), Microsoft's infrastructure-as-code tool. They also created a CI/CD pipeline for the ARM templates with Azure DevOps Services, and integrated the systems into Hearst's ServiceNow IT service management software.

Hearst's complex corporate structure means that cloud governance must be balanced with some autonomy.

"On the cloud side, we're doing governance around tagging, compliance, account management and costing and discounts," Shaffer said of his organization. "Then we really let the businesses do their own business. Where needed, we get involved in DevOps."

Multicloud as matchmaker

Hearst went the multi-cloud route for one specific reason.

James ShafferJames Shaffer

"It was about finding the best fit for the workloads we have," Shaffer said. "There are things each does better." For example, Hearst is an Office 365 customer and user of Active Directory, he said.

Secondly, AWS has a broader and more in-depth feature set, but Azure has some functions that speak better to large enterprises than to developers, Shaffer said. "It's not that we say, all Windows workloads go on Azure."

Hearst has not pursued a lift-and-shift path to the cloud, and thus is not currently interested in options such as VMWare on AWS, according to Shaffer.

"Our interest is not to migrate workloads in the same manner," he said. "As we move to the cloud, we are refactoring them to be cloud-native."

Hence, rather than simply move over VMs to a cloud, Hearst would look to convert such workloads into serverless or container-based architectures, he said.

Hearst watches its cloud wallet

If cloud's expensive for you, then you're not doing it right.
James ShafferExecutive director of cloud and operations, Hearst Corp.

Hearst now has 80% of its IT footprint in the cloud. Its success in doing so is embodied by more agility and innovation rather than cost savings, Shaffer said. "The money out the door might be flat, but it's going somewhere else," he said.

Still, Hearst uses CloudHealth, a cloud cost optimization vendor VMWare bought in August 2018, to keep tabs on the finances.

CloudHealth pulls in and normalizes the usage and spend data. 2nd Watch then runs the information through its own data science engine for richer insights. In Shaffer's view, this level of scrutiny is necessary for any enterprise that wants to adopt the cloud. "If cloud's expensive for you, then you're not doing it right," he said.

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