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(L to R): Charu Jain, CIO, Alaska Airlines; Janice Newell, CIO, Providence St. Joseph Health speak at the 2018 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

If you listened to the morning presentations and tech talks at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, you might have walked away thinking that everyone is using cloud computing. The reality check arrived just after lunch.

Truth be told, most large non-tech companies probably have a lot in common with Alaska Airlines and Providence St. Joesph Health when it comes to their computing infrastructure, with lots of “heritage” technology — as Alaska CIO Charu Jain put it — running on self-managed servers. Jain estimated that the airline is running about 30 percent of its workloads on public clouds, while Janice Newell, CIO of Providence St. Joseph, put the number between 10 to 15 percent, including software-as-a-service.

During a discussion with Nancy Gohring of 451 Research, both Jain and Newell said their companies are using cloud services for new applications — so it’s not like they are ignoring the value that earlier speakers discussed when talking about cloud services — but it’s simply hard to move older applications that are working fine. It’s particularly tricky for Newell, who has to deal with the enormous amount of medical records that must be stored in certain ways due to federal regulations.

One factor that helps determine whether or not Providence St. Joseph moves something in the cloud? Real estate.

Its medical records are always growing, and it has no intention of building new data centers, so those growing storage servers can push older applications unrelated to medical records onto the cloud, Newell said. Another factor: “If the processing power speeds (required by the application) are going to vary a lot, or if they are going to be high, it’s going to the cloud,” she said.

Alaska is a little further along in its cloud-era transition, and has been involved with Microsoft Azure for some time, Jain said. But it too is also moving carefully and isn’t quite ready to make the kind of multicloud bet that Sabre did earlier this month.

“We’re trying to get better at one thing (cloud in general) before we can mature and have multicloud environments,” she said.

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