Recent Accenture Strategy research found that four out of five companies run up to half of their business functions in the cloud. Moreover, that figure is likely to increase significantly over the next few years. The research reveals that a clear majority of business leaders see the cloud platform as a critical enabler of greater innovation and competitive edge.
Yet, companies still struggle when it comes to structuring the cloud transformation, beginning with the fundamental first step – planning a successful migration. What’s lacking is a solid comprehension of what value the cloud brings, its potential and its elasticity.
Often companies mistakenly believe that the cloud is nothing more than another hosting environment, which leads to the false notion that migration is no more than moving the apps from the data centers to this new elastic platform. This approach reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the cloud and precludes organizations from seizing the cloud’s disruptive capabilities.
To kick-start the cloud adoption, companies have first to figure out how to deal with four foundation blocks that enable accelerated transformation:
- Networking and connectivity – Allowing the cloud to become a vital extension of your data center.
- Security – Approving and whitelisting cloud services that will host your confidential data.
- Monitoring and operations – Expanding the monitoring discipline of the conventional data center to a cloud environment.
- Authentication and authorization – Maintaining appropriate control (and restrictions) to access apps and services.
After enabling these four cornerstone areas, companies can start assessing application portfolios to figure out which ones to migrate to what cloud and with what disposition approach. Most commonly we classify applications along two dimensions:
- Complexity – how complex, antiquated, entangled, integrated or brittle apps are.
- Criticality – how critical the apps are in running or supporting the business.
The most important apps will likely be based on an in-house source code, so the best disposition choice for them is refactoring to a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Refactoring preserves their logic while it utilizes new cloud-friendly patterns. In many other cases, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions offer feature-rich and mature options, enabling companies to retire and replace old applications.
When SaaS or PaaS dispositions are not viable for a particular app, the last resort is to perform a fabled lift-and-shift – rehosting into the cloud IaaS platform. A migration factory allows the transfer of existing apps from the data center to a cloud environment in the most efficient manner.
Making the tough decisions
A cloud migration is not a trivial undertaking, and it requires some tough decisions about which apps to keep and which to move. We developed comprehensive guidelines that our clients can adopt to make those decisions a bit easier.
Start by inspecting the apps that have a high priority to move to the cloud as they would gain the most benefits from cloud environments
On the top of the list should be apps with a variable load, including those that require large environments for development and testing. In the cloud, companies can turn them dev/test environments off at night and over the weekend, reducing the total cost of ownership.
Variable load apps also include seasonal or burst applications such as public-facing sites that get lots of visits during a holiday seasons or weekend. For example, variable apps could require 60 servers during their peak demand but could run on two servers during the off-peak season.
Other apps that may be considered to move early include those that are expected to undergo a rapid growth. Cloud infrastructure is better equipped to support quickly-expanding systems than traditional data centers.
Another family of apps that are good candidates for early migration are public-facing applications that have a global reach, such as Web or mobile apps. Content delivery network requirement might be a good indicator here – when app must push some form of data such as video or Web pages to a global audience in multiple geographies.
The third category of apps companies should consider moving sooner than later include those that should undergo modernization relatively soon. Typically, modernization efforts include investing in refactoring tools to lower cost, strengthen security or boost horizontal scalability of the app. Moving those apps to a cloud infrastructure helps achieve these goals faster and for a lower cost than in a traditional data center.
On the other side are the applications that companies should consider not moving to the cloud anytime soon, particularly those that would cause too many difficulties (and would realize insignificant benefits). This set includes ancient applications (coded more than 15 years ago), apps that require custom hardware that the cloud platform cannot provide, or old in-house applications created in arcane coding languages, as they often lack proper documentation and represent a high risk if touched or moved.
A good rule to observe: Avoid moving apps where the cost-benefit ratio simply does not pan out. There are always some applications in the app portfolio that are not worth the effort to move to the cloud because the payback will never recover the investment. These include apps scheduled for an upcoming decommissioning or apps that were recently modernized without cloud capabilities in mind (within the past 2 to 3 years).
Irrespective of which apps are moved to the cloud, to increase both the speed and quality of migration efforts, companies should consider adopting a robust cloud migration factory approach. A migration factory usually includes four key features:
- Integrated cloud life cycle delivery.
- Consistent and common migration tools and processes.
- Co-location of migration and delivery teams.
- Integrated cloud governance.
In conclusion, cloud migration offers a broad array of direct and indirect benefits – but only if the apps dispositions align well with chosen cloud platform and architecture. Companies can save significant time and capital investments by mastering the basics of cloud migration and laying the groundwork in a smart and strategic way.