Hydro: Brave on the cloud

Net 1/2014,  2014-04-16

A gigantic company has plenty of gigantic challenges. It is always important to make sure that business can go on undisturbed, but on the other hand, it is always necessary to try to find new ways to make the business better. You can't experiment with everything just for fun, but those who ask the most essential questions should have the freedom to test and innovate. Hydro is confident in cloud services and has performed skillfully and successfully in this middle ground.

Oslo, headquarters of Hydro, executive meeting, March. Chief information officer Jo De Vliegher (on the left) and Conway Kosi, Head of Nordic, Fujitsu, are analyzing the nature of co-operation between their respective companies. The key themes will be the opportunities arising out of cloud services and how they challenge data security.

Net 1/2014, Hydro

Each participant in the debate has occupied his position in the company for only a year or so. But the long co-operation between the two companies is like the spinal cord: the objective of the two is to make their own business, and that of their partner, thrive.

“If you are successful, that benefits both. It is important that the partners have common objectives and that they appreciate the same basic values, such as reliability and responsibility. Our co-operation will not be successful if one partner succeeds and the other doesn’t. It has to be a win-win”, is how De Vliegher sums it up.

Kosi emphasizes that IT specialists should get closer and closer to the actual business. They should understand what is at the core of the business, and what is required from them. “If the IT people within the company, or those working for our system partner, do not grasp what the success factors are for the two parties, the result can be sub-optimal.”

What can IT people learn from the aluminum business?

De Vliegher: “The starting point for Hydro is that our aluminum products are in great demand and that our customers can make use of our products in as many ways as possible. Translated to IT, we should provide modern, lightweight, durable and well-adapted products and services, with quality as the keyword.

“The data systems of a company should be a mirror image of its key products. If the IT solution we're looking for is not like that, we don't want it.

Kosi: “That's true. As an IT Solution provider, we have to understand the specific nature of the business before we can maximize value for our customers. For us, close co-operation with Hydro is also a ticket for understanding the fundamentals of the aluminum business.”

What do cloud services mean to Hydro?

De Vliegher: “The key word is flexibility. The cloud is an easy way to offer additional services to new user groups in new countries. For instance, in a case like ours, if we acquire another company, we may all of a sudden get 50 new customers, or 500, or even 5 000. In order to keep hold of the reigns, we call for standardization and user-friendliness, whether it is about private, public or personal cloud services.

“The fact that most of the production of our raw materials is located in distant regions is a particular challenge. For instance, in the rain forests of Brazil, connections to the network have to be made through our own radio links.  There are breaks and interruptions because of tropical storms, for instance. This is a challenge for cloud; problems does not arise because of the cloud services, but because of a bad connection with the cloud.

Kosi: “More and more clients are interested in on demand -infrastructure and services that can be scaled according to ever-changing needs and independently of where users are physically located.  A system provider has to be in charge of local solutions imposed by particular conditions as well.”

What will be the fate of the old system?

De Vliegher: “It's very interesting to define how the existing basic system will be continued in a controlled manner, with a result better than before and with a lower risk level.”

“Legacy systems are a sign that the tools are critical to business and too expensive and risky to be changed. Otherwise they would have been changed already. So, IT departments really should be on the top of their game in this matter. We would be doing a bad job if we changed the basis of the system just because we wanted small improvements or, for example, to polish up our user interfaces.”

“System changes should also not to lead to the service being interrupted for a long time. Cloud services make it easier to keep the things going.”

Kosi: “We hear the same message from all large-sized companies. There is a significant investment tied up in the existing IT environemnt, and these form the core of the business activities of any company. There can be hundreds, even thousands of applications. Changing everything at once is not possible.”

“In the future, the key is to find solutions to integrate new infrastructure, applications and services with existing systems. My example is the RunMyProcess platform by Fujitsu, which makes it possible to improve data systems with new standard components.”

Who is going to be in charge of data security?

Kosi: “Buyers of cloud services should always make sure they find out where their data is physically stored. It is essential to be able to protect strategic or sensitive data, but at the same time you have to be sure you can access it wherever the company operates. This is often left without much consideration. With companies increasingly procuring IT as a service, the data systems and processes can often remain hidden to them.”

De Vliegher: “There seem to be several kinds of companies selling cloud services, each with their own background and objectives.”

 “For us, in this matter as well, it is important to function with the same criteria as our partner, and for the same reasons. The data will have to be stored in a safe place, but it is just as important to know how and why the information will be used and who will have access to it.”

“This is challenging because, more and more often, employees use the same devices and applications both at work and during their free time. We should be able to separate personal use from critical business data without causing trouble.”

How will you find new ideas?

De Vliegher: “Our IT department must meet the needs of different business activities, different geographical areas and different users.  In the future, it will be more and more important to be able to find the people who ask the questions that are essential to business.”

“Among us, there will always be trendsetters, interested in new ideas, applications and gadgets. Their activities should be followed and analyzed smartly and swiftly, with sensitive ears. Some other people are more cautious and require stability and security above functionality. Cloud services are a solution that permits us to meet the desires of both kinds of people.”

“The cloud allows you to experiment. We can build a test sandbox any time. Our goal is to provide a test environment for several users within, let's say, three minutes after a new business idea has been born. We are not there yet, though.”

“Both user groups are equally important, and we should try to benefit from both of them to achieve the right balance between innovation and robustness. While there are people setting new trends, the other group is much larger, which means a lot of volume.

Large producer of aluminum

Hydro (formerly Norsk Hydro) is the world leading producer of bauxite, aluminum and aluminum products. The company also works in the field of recycling aluminum and producing energy.

Last year, Hydro had net sales of over 65 billion Norwegian kroner, the equivalent of nearly 8 billion euros.  The company has activities in 50 countries, with over 13,000 staff members. The company’s headquarters are in Oslo.  In Finland, Hydro operates in the town of Forssa, where Hydro Aluminium Salko Ltd manufactures products made from pressed aluminum.

Co-operation all over the world

Fujitsu is in charge of the IT infrastructure services for Hydro in all countries where the company works. The co-operation contract covers workstation services, such as a 24/7 multilingual help desk, as well as use and monitoring of the servers and maintaining the local area networks. In addition, the maintenance service includes many operative applications.

More Information

Published in the Net Magazine 1/2014,  2014-04-16

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