Focusing on Bread-and-Butter Issues

By Tony Kontzer Print this article Print

There are many success stories about the public cloud, but concerns about security, portability, reliability and access to systems remain.


Focusing on Bread-and-Butter Issues

Larry Bonfante would agree heartily. Two years ago, the CIO of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) moved the nonprofit organization's back-end systems—including its financial reporting and departmental systems—from a shared data center into Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud, cutting related operational costs by 70 percent and condensing the time needed to provision a new server from a week to just an hour.

Perhaps even more important, Amazon has helped the sport’s nonprofit governing body contend with what Bonfante calls "the equivalent of 14 consecutive Black Fridays" when it runs the prestigious US Open tennis tournament at its Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., for two weeks every September. During that time, a sleepy facility with a 30-person staff transforms into a teeming mass of 20,000 credentialed players, coaches, concessionaires, staff, media and the like, and Bonfante didn’t want to continue committing the infrastructure resources required to support the resulting burst in demand on the USTA's systems.

"It's hard to keep a cadre of experts on board the way Amazon does," he says. "Our bread and butter is tennis, not building an infrastructure."

Despite the USTA's successes in the cloud, Bonfante still wrestles with a couple of challenges. For instance, compliance-related concerns have thus far prevented him from placing consumer-facing systems in the cloud.

Because 80 percent of the USTA's ticket sales are processed online, they must conform to the PCI security standards governing credit card transactions. And any medical information pertaining to players or fans whose health issues arise at tournaments must meet the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Bonfante is not confident that cloud providers can ensure across-the-board compliance, but he's on the lookout for any opportunities to bridge that gap.

Meanwhile, on the reliability front, Bonfante says  "I’m not holding my breath" waiting for Amazon and other cloud providers to start compensating customers for lost revenue when cloud infrastructures suffer inevitable hiccups, such as the hours-long outage Amazon customers experienced in April 2011. Instead, he accepts the modest rebate Amazon is contractually obligated to pay and chalks up the remaining loss as an unavoidable risk of operating in the public cloud today.

This article was originally published on 2012-04-23
Tony Kontzer is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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