Airbus CIO: We dumped Microsoft Office not over cost but because Google G Suite looks sweet

Top exec talks to El Reg on shifting 130,000 staff

Interview Collaboration rather than cost is the reason Airbus has given Microsoft’s old-world Office app bundle the heave ho and is migrating 130,000 staff – the entire workforce – to Google’s G Suite.

As exclusively revealed by The Register on Wednesday, Airbus – yes, the designer, builder and seller of civil and military aeronautical hardware – will spend the next 18 months escaping the on-premises world of Microsoft licensing in pursuit of Google's cloud.

Airbus chief information officer Luc Hennekens told El Reg he needs to help staff in different countries and parts of the organisation link arms more effectively. Apparently, it’s all about breaking down those silos or “artificial barriers”.

“Everything we do depends on people and people working together, we have incredibly complex products that require people from very diverse backgrounds and specialisms to work together very closely and that is exactly what we are trying to do here.”

“Cost was not a driver of this. Absolutely not. If cost was the driver, Tom [Enders, CEO] would not have been interested in this.” The driver, he said, was “better collaboration and higher agility rather than some short-term cost savings.”

One insider at Airbus claimed the business was under some pressure due to the A380 order book not filling up as expected, and a battle with Boeing over subsidies.

He said the company had evaluated all the options, including Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. Interestingly, Hennekens was previously CIO at Qantas, and joined months after the company had deployed Office 365.

Legitimate blue-sky thinking

The decision to move to Google was in no way related to his past experience he told us: “There is no link.” He claimed Google’s G Suite was “built from the ground up” for collaboration, and Airbus’ traditional tools in use were based around Microsoft and email.

“We want people to fundamentally reconsider how they work and move away from old ways of working, like sending millions of emails around,” said Hennekens.

“It is a lot easier to achieve that with a tool that, from its conception, radically breaks with past ways of working and past concepts, rather than working with a tool (Office 365), that is a step up, but still in many ways is similar to what we’ve been using in the past.

“We want to force the organisation to make the change and drive a true transformation, and not just do a tool upgrade.”

Airbus will organise information around “teams, topics and programmes” and “let people go to the information that they need for their jobs… almost the opposite from an environment that is based on email where you receive whatever it is that others decide you can receive.”

The migration will take 18 months but Airbus did not make the details of the timing public. All employees will be moved onto G Suite, including 40,000 shop floor workers that have never been “digitally enabled,” he said.

“We are going to engage a significant number of people in the company to actively be part of this transformation and help us design it in a way that is fit for purpose in their circumstance, because a design engineer, or a shop floor worker or an accountant have completely different needs.”

Two pilots operating on the controls of a commercial jet aircraft

Airbus ditches Microsoft, flies off to Google


The ultimate aim of all this digital transformation and “disrupting” of itself, is to build products faster to market, the CIO said.

In the conference call for Alphabet's last set of financial results (calendar Q4), Google CEO Sundar Pichai, said G Suite was a $1bn-per-quarter business, pointing to “larger deals” with “more strategic customers” that he said the company had booked.

“The number of deals worth over $1m across all cloud products more than tripled from 2016 to 2017,” he said.

Eric Haddad, managing director at Google Cloud France and EMEA head of digital workplace, told El Reg the deal with Airbus was one of the largest his company has transacted in the defence and aerospace industry.

And he said it was among the biggest in terms of seats across Europe. “When you look at the requirement from Airbus in terms of security, data protection, and so on, I think this project is quite strategic.” ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading
  • To multicloud, or not: Former PayPal head of engineering weighs in
    Not everyone needs it, but those who do need to consider 3 things, says Asim Razzaq

    The push is on to get every enterprise thinking they're missing out on the next big thing if they don't adopt a multicloud strategy.

    That shove in the multicloud direction appears to be working. More than 75 percent of businesses are now using multiple cloud providers, according to Gartner. That includes some big companies, like Boeing, which recently chose to spread its bets across AWS, Google Cloud and Azure as it continues to eliminate old legacy systems. 

    There are plenty of reasons to choose to go with multiple cloud providers, but Asim Razzaq, CEO and founder at cloud cost management company Yotascale, told The Register that choosing whether or not to invest in a multicloud architecture all comes down to three things: How many different compute needs a business has, budget, and the need for redundancy. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022