According to Hosting Tribunal, 94% of companies have a cloud presence, but only 20% have undergone cloud transformation. In part, that’s because cloud transformation is an expensive initiative for companies, resulting in millions of dollars and thousands of person hours spent. Some of these costs, however, can be circumvented, especially if companies avoid three common mistakes: lift and shift rehosting; underestimating the upkeep of cloud management; and believing that migrating to the cloud is a cost-reduction initiative.
Lift and Shift Rehosting
By definition, lift and shift means moving an application and its associated data to a cloud platform –without redesigning the app. Lift and shift rehosting is by far and away the shortest, simplest, and most straightforward way to migrate to the cloud. It doesn’t require any new tools or re-architecting of application stack, and it can even be outsourced to an external agency. Dow Jones chose to employ lift and shift back in 2014, when it had only two months to relocate from a local data platform. Afterwards, the company continued to streamline its workflow in the cloud.
Lift and shift, however, is not without its pitfalls. It does not solve the initial problems that necessitated the migration in the first place. Lift and shift simply transfers the inefficiencies from data centers to cloud. In addition, as the needs of a business increase, lift and shift will not perform well in the long run because it doesn’t take advantage of the cloud’s native capabilities (such as having a repeatable sustainable infrastructure), and the costs involved can turn out to be far more expensive than anticipated.
To avoid these pitfalls, companies should think strategically and treat migration as an opportunity to optimize their resource utilization and application stack. They also should break down migration and application modernization in phases, as well as prioritize a milestone-based approach that takes advantage of cloud native capabilities.
Even when companies migrate to the cloud efficiently and effectively, they need to make sure they aren’t caught off guard when it comes to upkeep. Unlike traditional data centers, cloud management typically involves managing and scaling infrastructure as code, configuration as code, cloud access management, audit and compliance, network perimeter definition and management, database scalability, performance, resilience, and development and observability tools, all of which are codified. Some companies make the transition to the cloud without planning for the upkeep of these tools and processes. They are unaware that it will require more than traditional IT administrators to efficiently manage their new cloud system. As a result, their initial investment — not only for the upkeep of their new system but in the hiring of the requisite engineers needed for the niche tools that are used — may not have been sufficient.
Also, as part of the migration process, companies should create key performance indicators (KPIs), before migrating to the cloud. Most critical, is to create the mindset of end-to-end ownership (conception to production, infrastructure, and health) within application teams and establish a DevOps guild responsible for training employees and utilizing the tools.
Don’t Underestimate Costs
It’s crucial that companies prepare for and hire platform engineers — including cloud infrastructure experts, networking engineers, database engineers, tooling engineers and scalability engineers, with the understanding that this is a competitive market with myriad companies vying for those with the unique tools and skills required.
Additionally, companies often focus more on cloud computing and storage resources, instead of optimizing application stack, thereby spending more on the cloud. They also often believe cloud migration is a cost-cutting initiative and view the sticker/discounted price, without really understanding the resource needs of their application stack. Companies can avoid these mistakes by performing performance benchmarks before migration, optimizing the cloud for their native frameworks, and creating a short-term migration roadmap, which can then be built upon beyond that initial period.
Process for Success
For companies to effectively invest in cloud migration, they need to treat the process the same way they treat any other major product initiative. That means building a business case, mapping out spending, and creating tangible benefits. Companies should look at migrating to cloud computing as a strategic initiative and not just a pure expense initiative. If they avoid the three key mistakes of participating in effective lift and shift rehosting, not underestimating the upkeep of cloud management, and not simply seeing migration to the cloud as a pure cost-reduction initiative, they will avoid the pitfalls of eventually rolling back to their old data centers because they did not understand how to operate or sustain their cloud presence.