Cloud services leave spin-off primed for growth

Cloud services leave spin-off primed for growth

When Cameron LNG spun off from Sempra Energy in 2014, the clock was already ticking. With just six months to sever all back office ties—including the phone system and IT network—the liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter needed to be innovative.

“When we looked at the size of our company, the speed with which we needed to grow, and the reality that we pump gas for a living, we knew we would need to think out of the box if we were going to meet our timelines,” says Cameron LNG’s IT Operations Manager Tony Greco.

  • Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Cameron LNG is jointly owned by Sempra, ENGIE of France, Mitsui, and Japan LNG Investment LLC.
  • As part of its joint venture agreement, the company is on an aggressive schedule to build and staff a $7.4 billion natural gas liquefaction and export facility in Louisiana.

Facing unpredictable growth, and with the back office deadline looming, Greco’s instincts sent him to the cloud.

“I was given very strict goals when I was hired and one of them was to have the agility necessary to respond to very rapid growth. I believe the best way to do that is to partner with providers who already offer mature services,” he says. “We had the know-how to build our in-house IT infrastructure, but there’s no way we would have completed everything on time with the same return on investment and rapid response to changing requirements.”

A compelling case for cloud
Greco’s overall vision is to use cloud services where available, and to leverage the cloud in-house for additional functionality.

  • To ensure a strong communication link between Cameron LNG’s two offices in Houston and the new liquefaction facility, he contracted with NWN Corp., a provider of Cisco Powered™ cloud services.
  • NWN specializes in communication and infrastructure solutions using an approach that ensures high availability and minimal disruption to day-to-day operations.

“NWN made a compelling case for going with a Cisco® Hosted Collaboration Solution where they would host all of the backend functionality required for our call management and enhanced voice features in the cloud,” says Greco. “All we have to do is plug in the phones on our end.”

  • The service level agreement with NWN calls for a 24-hour turnaround on most activities, but emergency response time is 30 minutes or less.
  • With the company growing from four employees to nearly 400 and adding a fourth location all in its first nine months of operation, the need to be responsive is critical.

At one point, Cameron LNG had just two weeks to get a temporary office up and running in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a challenge that would have proved difficult to meet in-house but was easily enabled through cloud services. When the 30 or so engineers arrived on site at the new location, all networking, phone, and teleconferencing features were ready. They plugged their laptops into the docking stations and were up and running immediately, using the same phone numbers as if they had never changed location.

Building a service focus
As one of Cameron LNG’s primary cloud service providers, NWN also supplies videoconferencing capabilities, 24-hour network monitoring and management, and tier one help desk services. The trusted cloud partnership is working so well, Greco is adding Cisco WebEx®, tier two help desk, server monitoring, and advanced collaboration capabilities moving forward.

“Collaboration has been missing here because employees were not accustomed to having that seamless tie-in between their phones and computers,” says Greco.

  • With the Cisco Powered collaboration services, Cameron LNG employees gain access to a larger feature set, much quicker than if IT were to manage the functionality in-house.
  • Advanced tools like desktop teleconferencing make it easier to exchange information between Houston and Louisiana, as well as with overseas partners.

An added benefit is that users have no idea they’re working in the cloud.

“All they should focus on is their job, whether accounting, engineering, or human resources, and if I can make that easier for them to do, I will,” says Greco, noting that working with cloud service providers means he can channel his efforts on putting the best services in place as opposed to managing detailed IT implementations.

“Our situation is nice because it’s greenfield, but the reality is the driving factors that led us to the cloud also apply to any major system upgrade. You have to look beyond the one-to-one equipment replacement and look at the true cost of complex systems management,” says Greco. “At the end of the day, I’m managing growth with a two-person team; I’m not doing it with an army of 20.”

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