For virtually every enterprise today, moving to the cloud is no longer a question of “if”; instead, the question is, “which apps and when?” There is urgency in the answer. In fact, when asked about their deadlines for embracing and adopting cloud technology, many IT practitioners will quip: “Yesterday!”
However, while most executives understand the benefits of transition to the cloud for scalability, operational efficiencies, security or cost-savings, many still harbor understandable concerns. Business executives face not just the technical challenge of cloud migration, but the added hurdle of reaching consensus amongst enterprise finance and technology leaders -- addressing their concerns and easing resistance to enact mission-critical change.
Here are three common areas of concern along with ways to overcome them and, ultimately, build confidence across the enterprise to move forward with a cloud migration.
1. Understanding cloud expenditures
Shifting to the cloud has a significant impact that most chief financial officers like -- it keeps more cash on hand. It also makes cash planning more predictable. Rather than dealing with spikes of expenditures when new equipment is needed, maintenance is required or updates are implemented, CFOs recognize that the expenditures become smooth. To get this benefit, it is important to move the correct types of applications into the cloud.
Typically cloud costs are based on computing resource usage, data storage, and data transfer. When you move an application to the cloud, you need to understand if it can use compute resources when needed and release them when idle. If the application uses the same compute resources when idle as it does when busy then you should consider local hosting.
Data storage and transfer also impact costs. Are you storing your data efficiently? Do you have unnecessary copies. and are you compressing where possible? Data transfer is another place where surprise costs can occur. Is the application writing and re-writing data unnecessarily?
To prevent unnecessary costs, applications may need to be re-written or new cloud-ready applications licensed. You can also use the cloud service contract to manage costs. When purchasing cloud services, you can secure a committed use discount which ensures discounted prices based on a commitment to use a minimum level of computing resources for a specified term. As organizations mature in their cloud usage, they can begin to forecast cloud costs and pre-buy committed compute usage annually for a discounted rate. In this way, cloud costs can be lowered over time, and become more predictable.
Optimizing compute spend in the cloud is an ongoing engineering challenge. Better application design improves efficiency and lowers costs. In a distinct advantage over the data center model, the cloud makes application costs visible down to the very last application programming interface. That level of visibility empowers engineers to continuously improve cost-efficiency of cloud operations.
2. Addressing a potential skills gap
In a data center model, internal IT professionals have a time-tested handle on networking, security, data governance and application deployment. The move to the cloud will disrupt that status quo. The best way to mitigate disruption is through employee communications and training.
Common questions IT teams and leadership must tackle when moving to the cloud include how the cloud transition will impact these functions, or whether they even exist in the same form in a cloud environment. Based on our own experiences with this, as well as helping our customers work through these challenges, the most successful approach to these questions takes a perspective of: “how does what we know and do today translate to the cloud?”
Upfront investment in cloud training for the workforce is a must. Cloud-specific training will help employees understand how basic concepts translate. For instance, to a networking infrastructure lead, virtual LANs (VLANs) become virtual private clouds (VPCs). Training results in a superior system architecture, because the transition team can design the cloud infrastructure to align with cloud best practices versus recreating the exact data center infrastructure in the cloud. Further, cloud training positions the workforce for continued career growth in an increasingly cloud-centric environment. The investment in training will increase employee engagement and build loyalty, which reduces turnover.
3. Feeling the pressure: App modernization
While an organization might wish to take a measured and methodical approach to cloud adoption, the clock is ticking when it comes to app modernization. Today’s new applications are born in, and designed for, the cloud. Most legacy apps will either shift to the cloud or become obsolete. As many of the apps are business critical, updates can force cloud migration in order to maintain continuity of important apps.
To ease the transition, a hybrid approach often yields the best outcome. This hybrid scenario entails embracing cloud-native apps to take advantage of cloud-only services; redesigning a subset of legacy applications for deployment in the cloud; and migrating remaining apps through a “lift and shift” approach – migrating on-premise virtual machines to identical virtual machines running in the cloud.
This hybrid approach demands careful decision making around which of these approaches to take with each distinct application. While a “lift and shift” approach is the most straightforward, it is also most expensive and could result in lower performance and efficiency. Selecting a new, cloud-native replacement app may result in the loss of any residual license value on the existing app, the need to port over existing users and data and perhaps the need to learn a new app interface, service/maintenance and integration points. Redesigning legacy apps similarly leads to new interface and integration points and creates a significant workload for IT. Working collectively on a hybrid solution, the IT team weighs the benefits of each approach and decides the right course of action for each application.
As businesses face the pressure and urgency of cloud migration, successfully addressing cost management, employee training and app modernization will help mitigate common causes of resistance from stakeholders and jump-start a transformation. A careful evaluation of technology and business needs in the cloud transition process will help foster a courageous enterprise culture of embracing the latest technologies to drive innovation and operational efficiency.