Data Dilemma: Cloud or On-Premise Storage?

When Land O’Lakes decides to move one of its systems into the cloud, the focus isn’t on the application. It’s on the data.

The nearly 100-year-old member-owned dairy and agriculture cooperative has adopted a cloud-first strategy that has it steadily shifting assets into cloud environments. But because of the value of the data residing in those systems, and lingering concerns around cloud storage security, it doesn’t take such migrations lightly.

“When you think about which applications should go to the cloud, you also have to think about data sharing and processes,” says Sambit Dutta, senior director of IT for the $13 billion-a-year company based in Arden, Minn. “It informs decisions about whether to go into the cloud. When we think about moving an application to the cloud, we think about that.”

This doesn’t mean that Land O’Lakes is determining whether to move an application to the cloud. Rather, the company simply wants to make sure it chooses cloud providers that meet its data standards, thus reducing its cloud storage security risks. Dutta says that once the company has ported an application to the cloud, it doesn’t want to think about where to store data anymore. That decision has already been made.

“We have a very stringent process to evaluate software-as-a-service apps,” he adds. “Once somebody passes our audit, we don’t differentiate between whether they’re a cloud vendor or on premise.”

Today, Land O’Lakes is running about 150 applications in the cloud—about 25 percent of its portfolio. And for those assets that still reside in the company’s data center, things like manufacturing applications and financial systems, neither the applications nor the data are the holdup.

There simply aren’t viable cloud-based options for things like ERP and product lifecycle management that Dutta feels are robust enough to meet the company’s complex needs. Meanwhile, the company is actively looking for a cloud-based financial solution that will enable it to act like a shared-services environment and support Land O’Lakes’ three businesses (dairy foods, animal feeds and crop protection).

He reports that the company has no hesitation putting the data from those critical systems in the cloud—provided that the solution has satisfied its audit requirements. And he finds it hard to believe that so many IT leaders are still resistant about putting data from CRM, pricing and other customer-centric systems into the cloud.

“If someone is scared to go there because of data, that is very foolish,” Dutta says.