February 10, 2023
You can find plenty of guidance from a technical perspective about how to migrate a legacy application to the cloud.
But the fact is, successful cloud migration requires more than just knowing which tools and configurations to use. It also necessitates a fundamental shift to your operational attitude.
After all, the cloud is fundamentally different from legacy on-prem environments, and the way you think about IT operations in the cloud must also change. From your approach to change management and reliability engineering, to the way you think about and optimize costs, to your security strategy and beyond, the cloud demands a different mindset if you want to make the most of your post-migration environment.
Here’s how to update your operational mindset as you move from a legacy environment into the cloud.
Why a Legacy Mindset Fails in the Cloud
When I talk about “attitude” or “mindset,” I'm referring to the way IT organizations think about their overall operational strategy -- stuff like what matters most to them, what's feasible and not feasible, and where they should spend their energy.
In most cases, the mindset of an IT team managing a legacy environment is rooted in thoughts like slow change processes, a relatively high tolerance for planned downtime, and the acceptance of misalignment between IT spending and business needs. This type of outlook is necessary when you're dealing with an on-prem data center that is not especially agile, scalable or (when compared to the public cloud) reliable.
In the cloud, you have access to an entirely different type of environment. You're dealing with virtual infrastructure that can scale instantaneously and on demand. That means not only that you must adapt your mindset for a much faster rate of change, but also that you must be attuned to new opportunities to optimize reliability, cost, and security. At the same time, you can totally remove from your mind certain priorities that just don't apply in the cloud, like managing hardware lifecycles.
How To Change Your Attitude After Cloud Migration
I just gave you a high-level overview of how to alter your thinking as you move from a legacy to a cloud-based IT environment. To provide context -- and explain what, exactly, is necessary for driving the shift -- let's look at some specific facets of IT operations, and how to adapt the attitude behind them following a cloud migration.
DevOps teams are responsible for delivering and managing applications. They can do that both on-prem and in the cloud, but their approach needs to be different in the cloud.
After a cloud migration, DevOps teams need to become accustomed to working much faster to take advantage of the agility and scalability of cloud infrastructure. They also need to adapt to higher expectations regarding uptime because in the cloud, availability is measured with numbers like 99.999999999 -- the “11 9s” data durability guarantee that AWS famously makes for its S3 storage service.
FinOps, the part of IT operations responsible for optimizing spending, must adopt a more ruthless, aggressive mindset following a cloud migration. The reason why is twofold.
First, the ease with which cloud resources can be launched means that organizations can quickly and easily overspend. FinOps must be extra aggressive in the cloud to keep cost waste in check.
Second, the cloud provides more opportunities for optimizing workloads to the maximum extent possible. With the right tools and knowledge, you can achieve the ideal configuration that ensures you squeeze maximum performance from your cloud while cutting spending to the bare minimum.
That's harder to do in a legacy environment, where tight alignment between resource provisioning and workload requirements is much harder due to the inflexible nature of on-prem infrastructure.
Security operations, or SecOps, must adopt an attitude focused on moving quickly and using a zero-trust approach to keep cloud environments secure.
In a legacy environment, security teams typically have less complexity to manage and fewer attack vectors to worry about. The types of applications they manage are simpler, and the infrastructure those apps run on doesn't change as frequently.
In the cloud, SecOps teams are more likely to have to contend with complex, microservices-based applications hosted on distributed infrastructure. They also have magnitudes more monitoring data to deal with, and they lack the tightly defined network perimeter that helps keep on-prem environments secure. Thriving in the face of these threats requires a fundamentally new way of thinking about the nature of security, the pervasiveness of security threats, and the velocity with which security teams need to act.
Conclusion: It's All About Attitude
I touched above on only a few of the main facets of IT operations where your team's mindset needs to change to achieve a successful cloud migration. The list could go on, but you get the point: Moving effectively from a legacy environment to the cloud ultimately boils down to having the right attitude. You need to adopt a “cloudy” mindset, then update your tools and processes accordingly, because the mode of thinking that worked in your data center just doesn't cut it in the cloud.
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