Expedia’s Christopher Neil on Cloud Migrations: Data Center Managers Should Learn From Others, Look for Flexibility and Scalability Over Cost-Savings

Nov 27, 2017
by Josh Anderson

PHOENIX, AZ — Christopher Neil is the Director of Data Center Services for Expedia, overseeing infrastructure support for all Expedia brands, including Travelocity, Truvago, Orbitz, Wotif, Ebookers, TravelDo, CheapTicket, and HotWire. He has been involved in data centers and mission critical facilities since he was an electronic technician in the U.S. navy 28 years ago. At our Southwest Data Center Summit in Phoenix November 2, Neil took part in an “Up-Close with Expedia” Q&A led by Luke Denmon of the Data Center Solutions team at CBRE. Below is one part of that Q&A.

Christopher Neil, Director of Data Center Services – Expedia

Denmon:  So, are there thresholds folk are looking at, where they say, okay, if we’re planning for this kind of growth, whether it’s on a straight line or an inaccurate forecast, is there a certain point they hit where they say that, nope, cloud is going to be too expensive, we’ve got to start looking for in-house infrastructure because we know that if we hit our metrics, Amazon is going to kill us?

Neil: I think that we, as an industry, are still looking for that balance. And some companies have found it. I know that a number of year ago Netflix, they were all out, they went to the Cloud, and they’re starting to realize that some of those loads need to come back in house, so they’re looking at that. But other companies are learning from that.

I was sitting at another luncheon at a conference and they had brought in Deloit, who was actually talking about how should you properly go to the cloud. One of the big things was that you should learn from others. Don’t just lift and shift up and out of your data centers. Don’t just take your existing legacy applications, install it into the cloud, and expect to have any performance [improvements], any scalability, any savings. You’re not going to save anything. You’re actually hurting the business by trying to do that. So usually it takes a large engineering feat over time to redesign how that actually works. So when you go to the cloud, you may not save money, but that may not be the goal of going to the cloud. It may just be strictly flexibility and scalability.

Denmon: So as these infrastructure projects are communicated, coming out of the business, run through IT, you get all of the data that you need to present a project, from your perspective inside your own organization and the peers you talk to at different companies, does it seem like the C-Suite of non-technologists are starting to become more technically fluent, getting beyond just grasping at buzzwords, and can actually have a conversation of material impact on the technology ide? Or is there still just a giant gap?

Neil: That’s tough to say, and it’s probably different for every company. I know that from my own experience, that level is starting to learn a bit more about what we do, as data center folks and IT. I think that a lot of the stereotypical stuff about us is starting to go away, and they’re starting to learn more about what IT really means and what it means to the business. So it’s slow and you have to be methodical. My principal engineer will smile when I say this, but you have to tell them 10 times before it actually sticks. You have to tell them 10 times that you’re running out of capacity.  You have to tell them 10 times that you need more servers. You have to tell them ten times about whatever it is that’s meaningful to you in order for them to say, oh, yeah, I had that idea, thanks. I appreciate it!

For more from this Q&A, please check out our previous Insider Reports with Christopher Neil:

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