The benefits of migrating to the cloud are well-documented: increased efficiency, scalability, business agility, simplified management and overall lower costs. Moving operations to the cloud initiates a digital transformation for organizations and allows them to adapt more quickly to new technologies – a capability that is critical in today’s fast-evolving business landscape.
For these reasons and more, 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020. And, it’s no surprise that the leading factor driving increased cloud engagement and adoption is the enterprises’ desire to digitally transform.
Cloud services are changing the way that IT is delivered and consumed, allowing companies to reach new levels of innovation. But while there are significant benefits, there are also real challenges that companies face post-cloud migration.
Shifting the infrastructure for business-critical applications is not a decision companies take lightly; and, once committed to move, planning and execution must be thoughtfully and carefully conducted based on best practices. But far too often, companies fail to take post-migration considerations into account, which should be done up-front and incorporated into the overall migration plan. This failure results in a tumultuous employee experience, potential issues with underutilization, increased risk and more.
Here are the top five post-migration challenges that every organization must be equipped to handle:
1. Organizational and operational change management: Often, the biggest challenge isn’t the technology -- it’s the people and processes that must adapt to it. Employees from all departments should be engaged in migration activity from the onset, although the type and degree of activity will vary.
Consistent with other transformational shifts in information technology, change management is critical for a successful move to the cloud. Focusing solely on the technology will lead to poor results.
Running applications in the cloud changes the roles and responsibilities for many people across different teams -- including compliance, human resources and legal -- and initiates the need for new positions like cloud architects, DevOps engineers and cloud security professionals. For this reason, it’s critical that leadership provides the proper messaging, education and ongoing training to the company at large to ensure all employees are fully enabled, capable and comfortable operating in their day-to-day jobs.
2. Underutilization & unbudgeted costs: Post-migration, it’s important that enterprises take the proper steps to ensure they get the most out of their cloud-based deployments and solutions. The flexibility and agility of the cloud can be a tremendous benefit but must be controlled and managed to avoid issues such as underutilization, unbudgeted cost, increased risk and compliance. To prevent these problems from occurring, fundamental activities include:
- Define targets and identify benchmarks in key areas such as performance, cost, availability, RPO/RTO, and compliance.
- Establish governance with continuous measurement and monitoring along with regular oversight and management review. Historical, operational data must be maintained.
- Implement ongoing, proactive optimization of the cloud environment across all tiers including cost, e.g. proactive planning and provisioning to leverage the inherent flexibility of cloud using autoscaling, scheduled application and environment health checks, buying reserved instances or using cold storage to lower cost when threshold and trend indicate, leveraging automation and DevOps to monitor environments and actions such as shutting down unused instances, organization or division-wide consolidated billing and analysis.
- Understand if/how outsourcing to specialized managed service providers (application, infrastructure) would save resources and cost.
3. Testing: Testing is a crucial step in the cloud migration journey; it helps avoid unexpected gaps in business processes, future scalability issues, server breakdowns and database errors. Most importantly, it ensures applications run seamlessly in the new cloud environment.
Testing should take many forms throughout the migration process, as well as post-migration, including security testing, integration testing and performance testing. It must also be ongoing -- as applications need to be modified and updated, tests should be re-run accordingly.
Organizations should implement regular health checks -- i.e. are the applications and infrastructure operating as expected and are there opportunities to optimize?
4. Security: With data breaches occurring at an alarming rate and the risk associated with ongoing responsibility to guard and protect that data, concerns about cloud security are legitimate. After all, it’s nerve-wracking to hand off control of sensitive and proprietary data to a third party.
To alleviate security concerns post-migration, ensure the cloud provider offers secure authentication, user identity management and access control. If operating in a hybrid cloud environment, the IT team must also focus on the physical security of the entire environment and database. Secure data storage practices are a must, as most data breaches are ultimately caused by either human failure (intentional, unintentional) or, fundamentally, a failure in access and identity control, data management and data storage security.
Additionally, for those companies who select a public cloud provider, it’s good to know that cloud security standards have significantly increased in the past five years. Security within the public cloud must involve partnership between the provider and the user, which means it’s crucial to clearly understand ownership areas for security. In the case of public cloud like AWS, a shared responsibility model is recognized and accepted. Here, the provider is responsible for securing the cloud itself --including hardware, software and physical infrastructure -- while the customer is responsible for all system security above the hypervisor (data, platform, applications, operating system and network traffic protection). Customers must consider the best way to handle their post-migration responsibility, e.g. using tools, procedures and/or managed service providers with cloud-specific experience and skills.
5. Downtime: With the proper security and monitoring practices in place, downtime is less likely to be an issue, but is still a real challenge that organizations must confront. And it costs them -- according to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5.6K per minute.
To avoid outages, consider adopting a multi-location or multi-cloud environment with adequate disaster recovery, backup and availability strategies. Having workloads across multiple locations adds resiliency and greatly reduces the risks of downtime.
The endgame: Business transformation
Migrating from legacy infrastructure to the cloud is a serious undertaking for any organization. However, if businesses are aware of the potential post-migration challenges ahead of time, they will be more prepared to take the necessary steps to prevent them.
Effectively planning out the migration and developing a timeline that is pre-built to diagnose and remediate issues quickly when they arise, will ensure a smoother journey for all involved in the project. From there, businesses will be well on their way to business transformation.
Bill Saltys is Senior Vice President, Alliances. He is responsible to drive the strategic direction of a cross-functional program across Apps Associates focused on customer value through alliances with industry leaders that will enable cloud adoption, transformation and managed services. Prior to joining Apps Associates, he held executive and senior management positions within the high-tech sector in both entrepreneurial firms and Fortune 500 companies such as Texas Instruments and Digital Equipment Corporation in the areas of strategic planning & engineering.