Five things Joel Eagle wishes he’d known before moving McDonald’s to the cloud
In the hub of the Cloud Expo Europe space at London’s Excel Centre McDonald’s senior director of cloud and data services Joel Eagle is giving a presentation to a cluster of CIOs and CTOs on how to navigate the turbulent journey from data centre to cloud.
On the face of it, McDonald’s five-year transition to the cloud is a tentpole customer digital transformation story for AWS – the cloud provider McDonald’s chose to migrate with.
It’s a journey that has enabled the corporation to grow its fledgling $1bn home delivery business which was previously spread over a few cities in Asia into an $18bn per year global revenue generator from a digital platform that powers the world’s most downloaded QSR app. As Eagle points out, “That’s a whole lot of French Fries”.
“$18bn worth of new revenue – that’s a whole lot of French fries!”
Every day some 70million orders are processed under the firms iconic Golden Arches (“That’s more transactions per day than Amazon does,” Eagle notes) and for every Big Mac, every nugget, and every unit of McFlurry purchased, these orders are converted into data that now lives in the cloud.
“Everything in corporate McDonalds is now in the Cloud,” Eagle explains, “There’s nothing left in the data centre now. We moved everything there over a four- or five-years period – but it wasn’t a straightforward trajectory and there were lots of things that weren’t done well,” he admits.
Eagle now wants to help those responsible for their own firm’s cloud journeys to learn from his mistakes. Whether they are dealing with legacy or current technologies, multiple or single; global data centres, counties, cultures, and in some cases, competing agendas – he says this advice is relevant to companies of all sizes.
#1 Establish a product model for cloud delivery
This is something Eagle says he wished he’d done earlier. “How you deliver cloud and who you deliver it to are the most important things to consider. You need to enable cloud product teams to think how you’re going to get there and this needs to be a holistic process” he says.
Eagle recommends downloading the AWS cloud product model from its website which, he adds, teaches project managers how to work backwards from the customer and to re-envision the world as products.
“Once you work out your cloud product model it will define everything you do,” he says. “All the processes you have and all the things you need to think about managing. It will also help your account for them all – to help ensure that you’ve signed them all – and it will help you attribute ownership to who runs what.”
#2 Ensure you include these two key hires
First up, Eagle recommends you hire a cloud financial analyst. “You can train someone up for this, but whoever it needs to be responsible for understanding spend in the cloud and they need to monitor how things are tagged and who is spending money in the cloud, within your company.
According to Eagle, McDonald’s discovered, at its own cost, that not everything in the cloud is taggable. “This can make it hard to know who owns or is responsible for a certain process.”
He adds that one of these things is data egress – data that leaves the cloud.
“You can’t tag that – if someone decides to throw a Gigabyte of data out of the cloud then the metre is running and you may not know until the bill shows up and millions of dollars can seep out of the cloud before you figure it out,” he warns.
A cloud financial analyst running monitoring apps and keeping tabs on data every single day, understanding where the leakage is, watching that meter, is therefore essential.
The second hire Eagle advises for cloud migrators is a cloud security specialist – and one who knows the cloud and who knows how to code. Eagle explains: “There are wonderful security policies out there documenting security processes. But they exist in a PDF, and no one reads them.
“In the cloud security isn’t security unless its code – if it does not exist as code then you are not secure. And if you don’t have someone who understands how to code in security then you are not secure.”
#3 Understand that the cloud is NOT the same as your data centre
McDonalds had great people running its data centre, says Eagle, but the cloud is a different beast altogether.
“You cannot take people with you who have spent their careers managing data centres and expect them to manage a cloud well – you need to have people with you who understand cloud operations,” he says.
“If you have someone who is responsible for change control who comes from a data centre – the cloud will blow right by you. They will take a once-a-month security scan of vulnerabilities in the cloud, for example, which is like taking a polaroid picture of the ocean. You need someone who can prioritise vulnerabilities and work out which ones to go after.”
Eagle also advises organisations moving to the cloud not to go it alone but to select a tech partner that understands your ‘why’ – and which can understand the knowledge gaps within your organisation and brings those skills to you.
He also recommends that you pick a partner who is equal in size: “If you are small, don’t pick a giant, don’t be a small fish in a big pond. And if you are big, don’t be arrogant. If you think you can do whatever you want it will be to your detriment,” he warns.
#4 Infrastructure-as-code is your friend
Eagle is big on infrastructure-as-code when moving to the cloud. For those unsure of where to start, the cloud exec suggests they go to their providers and ask them how they run their own operations.
“If it’s AWS and ask them, how do you run AWS. How does it work? For instance, one of the things we recognise now– is that connecting from your cloud to your server is not a good thing. You should have no one doing Lift and Shift connections to a server. L&S copying is not a good thing because you limit how you can manage that from a cloud perspective. If possible, always use code.
He adds: “Code is your friend. It’s how you maintain standards, it’s how you maintain compliance, it’s how you understand your security posture – it’s the reason you can control the pipeline and you get to control who gets access and who gets to do what.”
#5 Manage expectations, manage up
If you’re going to ask for a lot of money to move your ops to the cloud you need to be upfront with the people who are financing it and advise them that it’s going to be a challenging and complex journey, warns Eagle.
To ensure consistency, Eagle recommends aligning your cloud strategy to your business strategy: “You need to write your own Magna Carta before you take it anywhere and then you need to manage expectations in terms of where you are going to get to and what the results are going to be,” he says.
Summing up the exec adds: “You need to be able to manage up but also retain that mindset that you want to bring your team with you – however, you’re going to have to avail yourself to different people and expertise and people will get nervous about that.”
And to the McDonalds executive who asked him what the value of the cloud was and why it mattered he had this to say.
“2021 was McDonald’s best revenue year at a time when the whole world was experiencing supply chain issues. The app, fuelled by the cloud, drove $18bn worth of revenue in a new line of business.”
“During this time not a single McDonald’s customer waited for anything on our digital platform in a year where most of us have experienced delays for something we want. And that is the power of cloud. You go there because ‘there’ is better.”
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