Planning for Cloud Adoption is Not Easy

Planning for Cloud Adoption is Not Easy

Dave Kluger, CTO of Storcom  

 

2019 Was the Year of the Cloud-First Strategy 

Cloud-first strategies were all the rage in 2019. What do I mean by “cloud-first?” A cloud-first initiative is when organizations consider operating a project, workflow, process, application, as cloud-based before any other methods. In essence, a cloud-first approach means that businesses prioritize the use of shared, publicly-hosted infrastructure. This is chosen over building and managing private data center facilities and systems. Evaluating and prioritizing cloud options over on-prem hardware and software options is considered “cloud-first.” This is especially true when it comes time to retire and upgrade existing IT networks and systems. This is also the case when a company is considering adopting or deploying new technology solutions. However, cloud adoption planning is not easy business! 

Storcom had multiple engagements in 2019 with clients who were finally taking the plunge in creating cloud enablement roadmaps. We discussed which applications clients were going to migrate first. We then discussed how the clients were going to move these apps over to the cloud. 

And then…a global pandemic happened…

Many companies suddenly began to see the benefits of having SaaS-based application solutions and other hosted systems. This can be in either a private or public cloud solution. Companies that already migrated to the cloud found themselves in a much better position for the remote workforce than companies that had not started these initiatives.   

Disaster avoidance was certainly one of the cloud benefits when we were working with our clients before 2020 on cloud enablement roadmaps, ROI justification documents, and laying the foundation for all of the benefits that cloud computing provides. Still, I think it’s fair to say that nobody ever thought we would be leveraging the cloud for the reasons IT organizations find ourselves discussing today.  

We all realized that the world changed to some extent as 2020 progressed. We realize that we need to be better prepared from an IT standpoint for these types of events in the future.  This is also true after the pandemic ends. 

I think everyone was merely trying to figure out how to navigate through all of the changes during the early months of COVID-19. Storcom is seeing more of our clients asking us to dust off their cloud enablement projects now that we’ve all begun to adapt. They want to accelerate moving as much data as possible to the cloud. 

 

So What Do Those Cloud Enablement Projects Look Like? 

That is a great question! Storcom has some clients trying to piecemeal a cloud migration strategy together because they are under the gun to make progress. There are other clients who began working on cloud enablement strategies and understand the benefits of starting this way first. Whether you’re migrating to a public cloud like Google, AWS, Azure, a secure private cloud like we have here at Storcom, or a hybrid cloud, then I’ve got you covered. 

The general purpose of this blog is to emphasize the need to create a solid plan for all of your applications and data. I want to convey the need to analyze and develop a proper cloud adoption framework for your initiative. You can leverage Storcom’s Cloud Enablement Roadmap™ solution or another IT managed services provider in assisting with a planning strategy.  Planning a cloud migration for more than just one application in an ad-hoc manner will end up with cost overruns and countless hours of additional work. This can all be avoided if planned correctly from the beginning. 

 

What Happens if I Migrate Without a Cloud Adoption Framework?

One of our clients decided against developing a cloud adoption roadmap due to the pandemic. They felt it imperative to move one of their core on-premise applications into Microsoft Azure. They wanted their application to be protected and better serve the needs of their new remote workforce. However, this client found themselves rethinking their plan after the fact.  

Our client decided to move forward with a migration. Storcom assisted in building out a new platform in their Azure tenant for this application to reside. It was a typical 3-tier application consisting of a presentation tier, application tier, and a data tier.  Storcom built all of this out in Azure in the form of new Windows server VMs. We then performed a parallel data migration which now allows this application to run just like on-prem but in Azure.    

Additional dialog occurred with the software vendor later on that should have happened before prior to undertaking any migration efforts.  This company found out that the vendor was now offering this solution as a SaaS-based option.  The client did not modify a lot of the core platform, so they could easily have used the SaaS solution as a better option. This would have avoided a lot of the migration costs plus the costs to manage this environment. 

Beware of Cloud Migration Missteps

This organization is now going to migrate to a SaaS platform in 2021. This comes after the expense of migrating the existing application to the public cloud.  In hindsight, they agree that the costs of Storcom’s Cloud Enablement Roadmap™ would have been far less than the costs of their failed cloud migration. I know you are saying “no way would happen on my dime.” You would be surprised at the number of missteps I have seen over the last five years. There have been many botched cloud migration projects. 

 

Cloud Planning and Adoption Takes Time 

Figuring out how to create a cloud strategy, or embarking on any cloud migration for that matter, requires a lot of planning. It is critical to understand the underlying applications and what the best options are along with creating a long-term direction on an application-by-application basis. A well-planned cloud adoption strategy is very important to lay the proper framework from the onset of any cloud migration project.  

 

Create a Cloud-First Culture

C-levels’ biggest misconceptions about current on-premise infrastructure, and having applications moved into the public cloud, is that the cloud will provide better availability, scalability, and ultimately provide better cost-savings. This may be true for some applications or platforms, but it is certainly untrue for others. It is important to set expectations upfront with leadership on what the capabilities will be due to specific architectural limitations of current applications. I’ve seen where senior management does not understand why a colleague at another company has one configuration that supports high levels of availability/scalability but they don’t with their application.  This is simply due to a misunderstanding on their part on the current application’s architecture and limitations that aren’t supported in the public cloud. 

Senior management doesn’t typically need to get granular on a technical level on most IT projects. This is not the case with the cloud. C-level executives need to understand the basic technical architecture and limitations of their applications in order to have a successful cloud migration. Creating a cloud-first culture where technological changes are supported and embraced is important. Everyone in the organization should understand how cloud adoption and specific cloud applications will be beneficial to them. Communication and transparency is necessary for understanding cloud technologies and gaining the support and buy-in of senior executives. It is critical to garner executive support for cloud migration efforts and to engage a range of stakeholders from across the organization. Bringing C-suite leaders into the cloud planning stages early on is important. So is regularly sharing the results from migration efforts keeps the cloud-first culture strong.

 

Getting a “Win” for IT 

I have seen another issue in cloud migration strategies which is the ideology of “putting a win” up on the board to show senior management that IT gets stuff done. This may sound like a good idea in theory. However, let’s first take a look at this chart: 

 

Source: IDC Study, Cloud Growth, Migration, and Repatriation Continue to Gain Momentum image

Source:  IDC Study, Cloud Growth, Migration, and Repatriation Continue to Gain Momentum

This data was taken from an IDC study on cloud migration. It shows a fictitious set of applications and how they get more challenging to migrate over time. The fact that the applications that appear to be the easiest to migrate would indicate that would be the best place to start. You really don’t need to worry about all of the applications in your inventory.   

Migrations Become More Difficult When Migrating Complex Applications

Newer, more modern, applications are easier to move to the cloud and get “wins” up on the board for IT.  You start running into the legacy applications that were never designed to run in the public cloud as you progress.  It’s fine to start with the easy applications first, but you must understand the ramifications of the more difficult applications upfront. If not, then they become much more difficult to migrate than necessary. 

This study showed that by simply taking the easiest applications and migrating them first did get the applications moved. However, those more difficult applications later on in the process became the real challenge.  If organizations had a migration strategy and conducted the necessary planning upfront, then these later applications wouldn’t have been so complex to migrate.

Part of the challenges we saw with these more “difficult” applications is they may also be written using platforms like VB6 for example. Some of these platforms are not even supported in the public cloud.  A solid cloud adoption framework was not put in place first for all current applications, and they were not viewed holistically. Therefore, cloud architects and administrators now may be forced to re-architect how the cloud environment is set up from a network, security, and storage standpoint. Cloud architects also need to consider the capabilities that may also be affected by improper cloud planning.  This leads to considerable unforeseen costs from an administration standpoint. Plus, there are recurring monthly charges in a public cloud. 

 

What Should I Do with Legacy Applications?

There are two options:

  1. Lift-and-shift to a public cloud (if your applications support this). 
  2. Lift-and-shift to an MSP’s private cloud (if your application will not run in the public cloud). 

Evaluating what to do with legacy applications is part of a Cloud Enablement Roadmap™. This is true for any cloud adoption framework you choose to create for that matter. It can take considerable time and effort to re-write applications, or you can wait for a SaaS-based option like discussed above. This pandemic opened everyone’s eyes to the need for resilient and highly available IT infrastructure…even if that may not be housed within your business’ four walls. 

The reality is that legacy applications need to be rebuilt as cloud-native over the next decade. This can be performed internally with your dev/ops team, or with a prepackaged solution from a third-party vendor. Storcom also began implementing VMware-integrated containers for our clients leveraging Docker, Kubernetes, and VMware Tanzu. Our clients can now investigate building their legacy applications in a cost-effective manner. Clients will easily be able to migrate these apps into the public cloud eventually. The question still lies in what to do in the meantime… 

 

Bridging the Gap with a Hybrid Cloud Solution

It makes sense to look at your cloud options. Another thought is potentially adopting a hybrid model using a managed services provider (MSP) like Storcom for running some of your legacy stack applications. A private cloud is not encumbered by stipulations around OS versions and software builds. This is one benefit of MSP hosting. Retired OS versions like Windows 2008 or VB6, although unsupported, can still run in an MSP-hosted environment. They provide an A-A migration path to the managed infrastructure. This is what the cloud essentially provides. Hybrid cloud solutions may also buy time while dev/ops rebuilds these legacy applications. This still affords an operating model for organizations where computing can be purchased with a consumption-based model. Leveraging a T3 data center’s availability also enables applications that simply won’t run in the public cloud.

Storcom has been helping our clients bridge the gap with a hybrid cloud solution for many years now. We also ultimately plan for public cloud technologies. The cloud is not an all or nothing proposition. Hybrid cloud strategies make a lot of sense. This is why it is imperative to conduct a cloud assessment at the beginning of any cloud adoption initiative.  

Additional Benefits of Creating a Cloud Adoption Framework

There are many factors that go into creating a cloud migration strategy. I have only named a few issues and options that should be considered. As I stated in the title of this blog post, cloud adoption planning is not easy! A full cloud strategy framework assessment, or Storcom’s Cloud Enablement Roadmap™, provides the knowledge and understanding for a framework for success during a cloud migration. Clients also gain non-technical senior management’s buy-in for the entire concept. This makes it easier to adopt a healthy cloud culture.  Storcom typically provides our clients with a cost modeling component to better understand costs on a phase-by-phase basis.    

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our Cloud Enablement Roadmap™ solution. CloudFilez™ provides the required framework for successful cloud adoptions. 

 

A Little Bit About Storcom…

We’re a high-touch IT solutions and managed services provider headquartered in suburban Chicago. We service clients all across the continental United States and even some clients overseas! We’ve been in business for over twenty years providing technology solutions from our partners like HPE, Dell EMC, VMware, Cisco, Fortinet, Nutanix, Veeam, and many more. We can create a custom-tailored cloud strategy to enable cloud adoption of a hybrid, public, or multi cloud environment. We understand cloud computing and have undertaken many complex cloud migrations, so you’re in good hands with a Storcom cloud expert!

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