Is Your Cloud Environment Evolving the Right Way?
Cloud computing has emerged as a fundamental building block of digital transformation and businesses around the world are implementing cloud strategies as part of their broader business transformation blueprint. However, the many solution choices and complex business challenges can make for some difficult decision-making.
Adding to the mix, customer expectations and technological advances are dictating the pace of change in IT organizations. While legacy IT infrastructure and support models have provided a stable foundation in the past, they are often no longer sufficient to meet the demands of this ever-evolving digital business landscape.
While digital transformation initiatives have brought IT infrastructure shortcomings to the forefront, the IT C-suite, directors and managers who traditionally deployed, managed, and secured the network infrastructure and applications are constantly under pressure to align their investments to business objectives such as revenue growth and cost avoidance.
As an IT leader, you may face similar challenges:
- The increasing complexity of the IT infrastructure (cloud, containers)
- New software development methodologies (DevOps, CI/CD)
- Business demands for application agility (microservices, cloud-native apps)
- Technology obsolescence (end of life hardware/software)
- Budget constraints (CapEx, OpEx)
- Skill-set shortages (staffing, retention)
- Infrastructure/network downtime (SLAs, business continuity)
Migration drivers, such as the ones shown below, are forcing CIOs and IT Directors to turn to the cloud to host their critical applications and services.
Preparing for a Strategic Cloud Migration
Migration to the cloud requires detailed planning and support from cross-functional business units and stakeholders. The business objectives and the expected outcomes must be clearly identified and documented.
When building your business case for the migration, it is essential to capture the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the existing environment and the projected TCO of the future state. This can enable you to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) of your migration project.
While some cost components of a premise-based deployment are apparent, others are not. On-premise IT costs typically include the following:
- System hardware
- System software and licence
- Installation services
- Maintenance costs for the contracted term
- Hardware and software upgrades
- Network connectivity
- Space and power
- Training and certification
In addition to the above, the headcount expenses pertaining to the administration and management of IT systems can be significant.
Soft benefits such as improved customer experience and productivity enhancements are often harder to quantify in a business case. However, the tangible and intangible benefits of the project should be clearly articulated to ensure executive buy-in and approval.
Which Cloud Service is Right For You?
The use cases for cloud adoption will vary based on business requirements. While there are many “as-a-service” cloud offers available in the market today, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) remain the three key models of cloud computing.
The fastest-growing segment of the market is cloud system infrastructure service (IaaS), which is forecast to grow 24% year on year to reach $50 billion in 2020 and $74 billion by 2022.
PICKING THE RIGHT PLATFORM FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Service providers offer a wide range of platforms and services such as colocation, hosting, cloud, connectivity, and security. It is important to pick the right services that meet the specific requirements of your hybrid IT environment.
At a high level, here are the services that you should consider while moving your applications and workloads to a service provider.
MANAGED PRIVATE CLOUD
A private cloud serves a single customer and can be run in a company’s data center or outsourced to a “Managed private cloud service” provider. Private clouds are optimal for predictable workloads where the flexibility of virtual machines is a benefit. Private cloud infrastructure is ideal for companies that have stringent security or compliance requirements.
You should consider a private cloud if:
- Your applications require dedicated IT infrastructure
- You want to enhance the security and reliability of your applications
- Your server utilization is not optimized
- You have applications that have compliance and data residency requirements
Public cloud services use highly-redundant shared infrastructure and offer global scalability and high resiliency for mission-critical applications
A public cloud infrastructure may be appropriate for you if::
- Your current IT environment is underperforming and is due for an upgrade
- You are embarking on a data center consolidation
- You are looking for disaster recovery options
- Your business-critical applications need to be more scalable and flexible
HYPERSCALE PUBLIC CLOUD
A distributed computing environment that can flexibly scale on demand from a few servers to thousands of servers and compute resources is referred to as hyperscale computing. Using automation, standardization, and highly-available architecture and virtualization technologies, hyperscale clouds allow companies to run applications at Internet-scale.
Your business can benefit from an hyperscale public cloud environment if:
- Your applications need massive scalability on demand
- You need to improve your applications’ time to market
- You need an on-demand development and test platform
- You have applications that see huge peaks and seasonal usage
- You have portable applications that run distributed workloads
Managed hosting services are used by many businesses to host their web and applications servers. Fully customizable and upgradable hosting infrastructure ensure the availability and performance of your applications and frees up your technical teams to focus on other critical areas of your IT operations.
Use cases for hosting include web servers, eCommerce applications, streaming media, and gaming.
Applications that require detailed fine-tuning and hardware configurations may be better off in a colocation environment. Colocation allows technical teams to configure and directly control the bare metal for ultimate flexibility and cost control.
A colocation service is right for your company if:
- You have high-touch workloads
- You have space and power constraints
- You are looking for “remote hands” and backup support
- You have skilled resources to manage the IT infrastructure
A typical hybrid cloud comprises a blend of on-premise applications, data center-hosted services, and one or more cloud platforms. Network connectivity services are a fundamental enabler of hybrid solutions.
MANAGED CONNECTIVITY SERVICES
The right connectivity solution will help you unlock the full potential of a cloud deployment. While an Internet connection may be sufficient for non-critical applications, a QoS-enabled MPLS circuit may be the right choice for workloads that require ultra-low latency and reliability. An SD-WAN can help prioritize traffic and route it through preferred networks to optimize application performance and costs. Be aware of hidden charges. Variable charges such as data transfers costs should be clearly understood and factored into your OpEx budgets to avoid surprises. The right partner can help you assess these costs and help you form a holistic view of solution architectures that factors in connectivity as well as the DC and cloud components.
MANAGED SECURITY SERVICES
Security is fundamental to all well-managed data centers. In addition to the physical access controls and the inherent network security available within cloud services, providers often offer incremental services which may include the following:
- Managed firewalls
- DDoS mitigation
- Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
- Anti-Virus and Anti-Spam scanning
- Web application firewall
- Vulnerability scanning
Your cloud service partner will help you pick the security solutions which best fit your evolving needs.
A Phased Approach: Where to Begin
Cloud migrations are done in a phased manner. Moving less critical applications first will allow companies to test and learn before business-critical applications are moved. Though a cloud-first approach has become the norm now for application development, legacy business applications were developed in the customers’ premises and continue to run on internal servers. As businesses migrate their workloads to the cloud, they are likely to operate in a hybrid environment for the foreseeable future.
Determining which applications move to the cloud and which ones stay in the company’s premises, hosted or colocation environments will depend on multiple business considerations.
Businesses migrating workloads to the cloud often start with their Disaster Recovery (DR) application. A cloud-based DR solution can be set up without impacting a company’s production environment and comes at a price tag lower than a premisebased DR solution. The compute resources in a cloud DR are only billed for when the recovery is initiated which reduces a company’s business continuity costs.
Start with an IT Infrastructure Assessment
An infrastructure assessment of the existing environment is an integral part of the cloud migration process. Companies can use internal resources or engage a cloud service provider to conduct the evaluation and identify the elements of the network, their inter-dependencies, and any risks that the move may cause. A typical infrastructure assessment will include the following:
- Servers, software applications, and their inter-dependencies
- Server configurations and utilization
- Categorize servers by function (Development, production, QA, other)
- Network configurations, segmentation, and access controls
- Security and firewall rules
- Backup schedules and policies
- Business continuity requirements
- Change management controls
Based on the data gathered through the infrastructure assessment, you can structure your workloads and determine which of the six categories below are the most logical choices for each workload.
UNDERSTAND YOUR MIGRATION DECISIONS
Companies choose the rehosting option when migrating legacy workloads, or when they need to migrate applications expeditiously to meet a business case. While rehosting will not unlock the full benefits of the cloud, it gets you into the cloud quickly and efficiently paving the way for future optimization and cost savings.
In the context of migration to the cloud, replatforming refers to changes that you may make to optimize your applications without changing its core architecture. Migrating a database instance to a database-as-a-service platform, for efficiencies, is an example. Replatforming can be considered the middle ground between rehosting and refactoring
The process of re-architecting and redeveloping an application, typically using cloud-native features,is referred to as refactoring. Refactoring may involve recoding the application and is generally driven by a strong business need to add features, scalability, and performance that would be unattainable in the application’s existing environment.
Migration to the cloud may involve moving to a different product or consumption model. Switching a CRM application to a SaaS service such as Salesforce.com, or an HR system to Workday are examples.
In all migration scenarios, there are applications and infrastructure that may not become part of the migration. Thedse may include legacy applications that are being grandfathered or applications that were recently upgraded. Such applications can be retained as is, and in the future, retired or migrated to the cloud.
An infrastructure assessment often unearths areas of your IT portfolio that are no longer in use or will be replaced as part of the migration to the cloud. It is estimated that as much as 10% of an enterprise IT portfolio is unused and can simply be turned off resulting in cost savings.
PLANNING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
The next step in the cloud migration process is to identify the specifics of the move and the support requirements needed to make it a success. A discovery and infrastructure assessment of your IT environment will bring up questions:
- What are the high-level outcomes you expect from your migration? Cost savings, enhanced solution resiliency, increased scalability?
- Which are the applications that should be migrated?
- Which applications should go first?
- What are the applications that will be retained or retired?
- Do you have the expertise to make the right platform choices?
- Who will manage the design and build of your new environment?
- Which cloud is right for you? Public? Private? Hybrid?
- Do you have internal capabilities to manage the migration?
- What is the process for the migration?
- What are the areas where you need a partner’s assistance? Migration services, consulting, professional services?
The answers to the above will help you plan the next phase of your migration project. As stated earlier, a migration to the cloud should be done in a phased manner. A project-based approach to moving business applications will help reduce the risk and exposure. Less critical applications, or applications on fragile infrastructure are good candidates to be moved first and the learnings used to simplify subsequent moves.
As companies roll out new applications and services as part of their digital transformation efforts, a multi-generational IT environment that includes physical, virtual, and hyperscale cloud technologies is becoming the norm.
A highly scalable and flexible infrastructure with predictable costs and guaranteed availability is table stakes for business success.
Beyond the infrastructure itself, there are considerations such as network connectivity, security, geo-diversity, regulatory compliance, ongoing management, professional services and other criteria that should be factored in while picking a cloud partner. When dealing with a hyperscale cloud environment, the sheer number of features and functionality can be daunting even for the experienced IT professional.
A trusted partner who can bring holistic solutions to the table is key to any company’s cloud journey.
So, is your cloud environment evolving the right way?