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«It is crucial to reduce the operational complexity of a hybrid infrastructure to an absolute minimum.»

Urs Schmied

Head IT Infrastructure, Sulzer

About Sulzer

Sulzer, headquartered since 1834 in Winterthur, Switzerland, specializes in pumping solutions, services for rotating equipment as well as in separation, mixing and application technology. The company creates reliable and sustainable solutions for its markets: oil and gas, power, water, and general industry. Sulzer serves customers around the world through a network of over 180 production and service sites in 40 countries, with 44% of the orders coming from emerging markets. In 2016, the company achieved sales of roughly CHF 2.9 billion with around 14,000 employees.

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Nowadays, when it comes to IT infrastructure, there seems to be no avoiding the cloud. Although the advantages are obvious, many IT teams are uncertain about it. The biggest challenge is: How do you implement a migration like this in a practical way, and how do you retain control and keep track of things in a hybrid infrastructure environment? In this interview, Urs Schmied, Head of IT Infrastructure at the Swiss industrial corporation, Sulzer, talks about what he sees as the most important success factors for a successful migration, about Sulzer’s Cloud First strategy and how he and his team retain complete control at all times even in a hybrid infrastructure.

The Sulzer Group is fully committed to cloud technology. What clinched your decision to adopt it?

→ Urs Schmied: There used to be about 3,200 servers in service in the Sulzer Group around the globe. When the time came to renew a large portion of this hardware in 2013, we asked ourselves whether this investment was really making sense.

Evidently you weren’t convinced that this was the case...

→ No, we weren’t. Although cloud technology has evolved in great leaps and bounds over the last few years, back then it was already rather obvious that it made little sense to operate our own servers all around the world. The harmonization and consolidation of our Group IT was already well underway at that time. So we asked ourselves the fundamental question: Where do we want to go with our IT?

«We want to concentrate on providing functionality for the business. We’re not interested in maintaining hardware for its own sake.»

And what was your conclusion?

→ One of the Sulzer Group’s goals is to build the best pumps in the world. IT is a means to an end. So we want to concentrate on providing functionality for the business. We’re not interested in maintaining hardware for its own sake.

A lot of companies would like to follow the path taken by Sulzer. But they’re plagued by general uncertainty. What would you see as the most important success factors?

 To start with, you need to define a precise goal that is tailored to the company’s requirements and strategic aims. The goal can naturally be a bit ambitious, but it must be something you can actually achieve. Then to flesh out the vision, you need the right people with intimate knowledge of the company, who know what is possible in terms of IT.

«What ultimately counts is how much it costs overall. And today that figure is significantly lower, when all’s said and done. With the size of our operations, we’re talking about several million francs.»


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