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26 Jul 2019

Meet Kristiono Setyadi, The Jakarta Post CTO trailblazing cloud adoption across Indonesia

James Orme

When Kristiono Setyadi joined The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s most-read English-language broadsheet was running all of its workloads on-premises or in colocated facilities. Four years later, the newspaper has shifted everything to the cloud. Not content settling with the huge efficiencies driven within his own organisation, Setyadi is on a mission to galvanise cloud adoption across every corner of the island nation. Techerati spoke to Setyadi ahead of the CTO’s presentation at Cloud Expo Asia Singapore

In 2015, Kristiono Setyadi walked through the doors of The Jakarta Post HQ to assess the scale of the challenge he was about to face. Indonesia’s leading English-language daily had tasked the experienced software developer with modernising and future-proofing the paper’s IT using cloud infrastructure. 

In 2009, storied UK broadsheet The Guardian had already rolled out Google apps across its entire workforce. Six years later and seven thousand miles away in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta, Setyadi discovered The Jakarta Post was running all of its applications and workloads in-house or in colocated facilities.

“The pain that I felt at that time was real,” he said.

Shifting headwinds

Until recently, cloud adoption in Indonesia has fallen consistently short of the global average. In 2011, just half of Indonesian corporations were planning cloud initiatives, according to Springboard Research. Meanwhile, roughly three-quarters of global organisations surveyed by Symantec in the same year had either implemented, or were implementing or planning cloud deployments.

Like many other nations, Indonesia suffers from a linguistic handicap that hinders technology adoption. As the nation’s national language is not spoken widely outside of its archipelagic borders, the whitepapers and written resources that drive innovation elsewhere have to be translated before they can be harnessed by the country’s business community

In his other role as a Chief Knowledge Officer at the Indonesia Cloud Computing Association (ICCA), an organisation aiming to simplify cloud adoption throughout the country, Setyadi sees to it that these invaluable materials are translated and made easily discoverable. Alongside valuable knowledge creation, Setyadi sometimes gets his hands dirty and helps organisations and the Government execute migrations himself.

The impact of such initiatives is tangible. In February, it was reported that since 2014 Indonesia has seen cloud adoption grow at a compounded annual rate of 48 percent – a rate far higher than the global average. The nation has seemingly transformed from a cloud laggard to an international trailblazer.

Media matters

Like countless other businesses, The Jakarta Post was primarily drawn to cloud computing as a means to shave costs associated with running its own data centres. But as a media organisation in 2011, the financial imperative was more keenly felt than in other sectors. 

The Post and many other long-serving publications were battling with a business model crisis, as freely accessible internet content demanded by audiences ate steadily into print sales. In this context, the company saw the cloud as an easy win while it wrangled with changing circumstances.

After his appointment, Setyadi wasted no time in setting an ambitious four-year target to migrate all of the newspaper’s workloads. In the beginning, he says progress was slow.

“It took weeks to implement new ideas just to see they didn’t work.”

 It didn’t take long for the tide to turn. Instead of tackling the task as one large project, Setyadi broke down the migrations into individual projects and migrated them one at a time, Six months later, the CTO had migrated everything to the cloud, reserving colocation and on-premises data centres for backup.

“We also keep our internal applications local and keep them in our office data centre because no one should access those apps publicly,” he adds.

The most challenging migration was the newspaper’s core and most mission-critical application – the website where most of its readers digest news. 

When it came to www.thejakartapost.com downtime was not an option, yet Setyadi and his team faced the daunting task of migrating a monolithic application hosted on one server into small distributed applications with multiple microservices.

“It’s like jumping from an aeroplane while building a parachute on your way down. But we did it without any downtime.”

Setyadi has delivered on the paper’s OPEX objective by halving the cost of the organisation’s IT operations. But cloud adoption has also enabled the newspaper to move ahead of the competition by experimenting with new ideas with agility and easily scaling up winners.

“The most important part of the business is to keep it running while maintaining cost, but with cloud infrastructure, I can easily deploy ideas and experiments within minutes or days, and figure out which ones work. From that point, I can then choose to destroy the resources (VMs) or continue using them and also scale the application without too much worry about the resources we need,” he said.

Setyadi advises cloud-hungry companies in Indonesia to approach cloud with caution, in order to avoid damaging and costly downtime. A sure fire way to steady the ship is to hire an experienced ambassador before undertaking any cloud project, he says.

“Cloud is about how agile companies can execute ideas within days or even hours, and the ones who can migrate and execute fast will be the winners,” he says.

“But the stakes are high as well as the risks. If a company doesn’t have a person leading the initiative and then moves everything to the cloud without knowing enough, it’s too risky. It put the business on the line and it can ruin the company’s reputation.”

The role of the leader, he says, is to first hire the right team to tackle the technical challenges and then make sure they integrate the vision into wider processes and culture.

“Communicating with other departments, assuring the board of directors with technology direction, making sure everyone is on the same page and solving “human” issues, as well as “machine” issues, are the challenges I face day-to-day. They’re the kind of challenges I’m happy to solve and I’m expecting more to come in the near future.”

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