OOW17 - ClubCorp reflects on its cloud migration as it nears the 18th hole

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman October 3, 2017
Golf club operator ClubCorp reflects on the outcome of its cloud migration to Oracle IaaS, PaaS and SaaS at OOW17 as it progresses towards the 18th hole

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How does a director of infrastructure spend their working day, when systems that were once on-premise have been shifted to the cloud?

Zach Vinduska is a good person to ask. He’s director of infrastructure and IT security at ClubCorp, a chain of private country clubs, city clubs and golf courses with over 200 properties across the US. And from our meeting with him at this week’s Oracle OpenWorld, the answer to our question is that he’s still a busy guy, who jokes that he still ends each day with a stack of items left undone on his ‘To Do’ list.

As Denis Pombriant reported for diginomica earlier today, Dallas-based ClubCorp has, over the last 18 months or so, replaced an ageing IT infrastructure in an almost wholesale migration to the cloud. The bold makeover has seen ClubCorp adopt not just IaaS, but also platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service from Oracle.

Vinduska has played a key role in that process, working alongside the company’s CIO Patrick Benson, who appeared on stage with Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd to describe the journey yesterday. But just because that work’s now almost complete, it doesn’t mean that Vinduska is sitting idle:

When you move to the cloud, especially to IaaS, there are still plenty of jobs that don’t go away. Across every part of the cloud, you don’t lose the risk – so that’s an important part of my day. With IaaS, it’s just the lowest layer of the cloud model, so there’s still a lot of standard administration that needs to happen.

Moving up the cloud stack

Viduska’s goal, he adds, when he gets his data centre footprint to where he wants it to be, is to see how many of the IaaS-based systems he can move further up the stack, in an onwards migration to the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model. He’s already shut down one data centre, and he’s on a mission to reduce a second to about half its current size, while also doing the work needed to make it ClubCorp’s key cloud touchpoint. Both data centres were in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Plus, Vinduska still has some elderly on-premise systems to babysit. The company has some Citrix systems, for example, which aren’t currently supported on the cloud by Oracle, but he’ll move them if and when he can, he says. And there are other apps that are so legacy that they may never be cloud-ready. Over time, these might be expected to ‘die on the vine’ – but, in fact, Vinduska has a roadmap to replace most of them with more cloud-y alternatives. There’s a plan to review these next week and to make some decisions about their future.

There’s also a great deal of integration work that falls to Vinduska, not least because, in addition to Oracle cloud products, ClubCorp also uses cloud-based systems on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. And the security aspect of his role, needless to say, is just as important as it ever was.

His advice to others considering a lift-and-shift cloud migration along the same lines that ClubCorp has achieved? Pay very close attention to strong vendor management, he says.

Make sure you do your contract right, because everything sits on contracts. Understand SLAs, understand responsibilities – both your own and the cloud provider’s. And help the rest of your organization understand what the future looks like when you’re in the cloud. We’ve had great service, I have no complaints – but you do hear stories, and the importance of vendor management seems downplayed to me.

New horizons

Ahead, there are new challenges with which Vinduska will need to contend. Big-ticket IT projects for the future include modernizing the ClubCorp customer experience and better business intelligence for internal reporting.

I think we’re trying to modernize the way we reach out to customers, especially younger audiences who are a more used to using their smartphones to schedule tee times and so on, and expect to do things digitally, rather than by a person-to-person phone call, which is how almost everything was done when I joined the company two and a half years ago.

This is important, because according to the National Golf Federation, some 200,000 millennial golfers left the sport in 2013. But the PGA Tour is more optimistic, claiming that 6.5 million millennials played 100 million rounds of golf in 2015 and that the age group made up 28 percent of all US golfers, mirroring its percentage in the general population. Either way, golf must stay relevant to digital natives.

Viduska is optimistic, too, saying that ClubCorp’s cloud migration has given it the freedom to embrace a more digital future.

From where we were before, we could never have even been thinking about these things. Going to the cloud has enabled us to think more about the future of the business, not just sit there staring at a bunch of equipment and making sure that systems are up. Now we’re thinking of ourselves as delivering a service to the business and better understanding what the business needs and expects from us.

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