By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
In this interview, Scott Martin, CIO at Nonni’s Food Company, shares his insights on cloud computing. It is interesting to note how a mid-size company such as Nonni’s Foods is harnessing private clouds to drive operational efficiency not only in IT but also across sales and billing. This enables the company to not only focus more on core business activities but also to deploy solutions that they could not think of earlier, before cloud business models, due to the upfront costs involved. There are some interesting thoughts on deploying a document management system in a private cloud by a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company such as Nonni’s Foods. In the entrepreneurship section, Scott discusses some of his wish-list items from a thin client, iPad perspective and exploiting the full potential of mobile devices in an enterprise scenario.
Scott Martin is the chief information officer for Nonni’s Food Company, Inc. In this role, he provides vision and leadership for developing and implementing IT initiatives for supporting Nonni’s operations in order to improve cost effectiveness and service quality and to help generate revenues. He is a leader in the adoption of cloud services, advocating the necessity for IT to transform itself from being primarily an infrastructure provider to a consumer of managed services, moving up the value chain with a focus on core business activities. Scott graduated from the University of Tulsa. He holds an MBA in accounting. With over ten years experience in the IT industry, he brings a unique blend of accounting and information system knowledge to Nonni’s and is constantly finding ways to leverage information to drive bottom-line growth.
Nonni’s Food Company, Inc. manufactures, distributes, and markets premium biscotti and various specialty baked good products to grocery stores, convenience stores, and warehouse clubs nationwide. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Nonni’s has 250 employees and was valued at $320 million when it was acquired by Vivartia, a food company located in Greece and listed on Athens Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of €2 billion and operations in 34 countries around the globe.
Sramana: Hello, Scott. Let’s begin with where Nonni’s Food Company is in terms of cloud computing adoption. Are you past the pilot stage and into full deployment? What is your view on cloud computing from your industry perspective?
Scott: Hi, I am the CIO for Nonni’s Food Company, where we make cookies and crackers for many retailers. We sell under the brand Nonni’s Food Company, which makes biscotti. We own Old London Food Company, which makes Melba toast and a lot of different bread products. We own New York Style Food Company. We also make bagel chips, pita chips and similar products, and we have many private-label business.
Sramana: How big is Nonni’s?
Scott: We are privately held, and we really don’t talk about numbers. In terms of revenue range, we are somewhere in between $200 million and $500 million mark.
Sramana: Ok. Please go ahead and answer the question about where you are with your cloud strategy.
Scott: We have been using quite a few applications in the cloud for about five years now. We use a third party hosted solution for e-mail, where we have a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel back and forth with them. We are doing payroll applications in the cloud. We are doing some sales reporting in the cloud as well.
As a company, we have been involved with cloud computing for quite a while, before we knew cloud by that name. Now we are considering cloud for our own applications as well. I was just going through those details with a virtual hosted cloud environment, a third party managing the hardware and everything behind it. Such a solution makes a lot of sense, especially for mid-size companies and maybe even more for larger companies.
Sramana: There are a few things in what you just described that I would like to probe. In terms of the workloads that you have been moving to the cloud so far, you said e-mail, sales reporting, and payroll processing. Could you tell us what kinds of vendors were selected for these solutions? More important, what is your criteria based on which you decide, first, what applications to move to the cloud, and second, how you choose vendors.
Scott: Sure. First of all, each application that we are running requires a different decision both in terms of what makes the most sense and what vendors are out there. Many different vendors are selling their hosted cloud applications, so you have to balance that cost with purchasing the software and running it internally. Then, if you are going to run it internally, you have to consider what is the cost of running that on internal infrastructure vs. a cloud, hosted environment on somebody else’s hardware. One of my main vendors is Centerbeam. They offer a wide selection of hosted solutions, and they run their e-mail application on a hosted environment. We have been running our e-mail in that mode for the longest [of all our cloud applications], for about five years now. Once we take into account all the different cost and other considerations, you can usually make a case for either running on a vendor hosted solution or an internal private cloud.