Cloud migrations are huge undertakings for any organization; however, this doesn’t stop them from being drawn to the benefits that a cloud environment can provide. Some organizations want the hands-off scalability that can handle a viral post from their social media team without paying for that capacity all the time. Other groups take advantage of the high-availability uptime the cloud provides without paying for round-the-clock staffing. Transferring risk to a cloud provider can be cost-effective as well. Whether through built-in automatic updates, secure data management, or even disaster recovery plans, cloud providers are excellent at absorbing risk. To get these benefits, an organization has to move their on-premise systems that have evolved over the years to a cloud provider.
Faced with this overwhelming task, many organizations will choose to simply move their existing systems to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environments – commonly known as the “Lift and Shift” strategy. While this approach checks the box for being in the cloud, it does little to address the systemic problems and pressures that steer people to choose the Lift and Shift strategy in the first place. Alternately, there are a number of Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) options for achieving a modern, cloud-based application environment.
What can you do to address potential systemic problems with a typical cloud migration? In this blog, I’ll identify common problems that organizations face, and some of the current cloud migration options for consideration.
Common Problems Moving Systems to the Cloud
While each organization has their own challenges and operational needs, below are some common areas that we have seen customers face challenges in cloud migration:
Cost –Moving systems to the cloud can incur various known and surprise costs. Using Lift and Shift, organizations feel that they are taking the safe approach of basing their costs on their existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, overprovisioning alone can increase costs by up to 15%. Large data transfers and legacy system connections can generate surprise costs. Trying to control direct costs can turn into a micromanagement nightmare.
Capability Bandwidth –A cloud migration means changes for your IT team. The shuffle of personnel and skills means some of your current efforts are now on standby. Training up to address the slack can create delays. Hiring consultants could increase costs. Delaying internal feature development and bugfixes makes everyone unhappy. Unfortunately, the Lift and Shift strategy is particularly attractive to those who are already stretched thin in applicable skills because many of your IT team’s existing skills will transfer to the new environment.
Business Value –Lack of vision can be the most disastrous problem for a cloud migration. A cloud migration is a pivotal opportunity for innovating ways that your systems can add value to your organization. When the project has wrapped up, the benefit of the migration should be something more than “We’re in the cloud now!” If a common question you hear during your cloud migration planning is “Why are we doing this?” then consider revisiting your analysis to orient your efforts towards business value instead of mechanical implementation.
Cloud Migration Options
There are multiple cloud migration options to address these problems that organizations can consider:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
While IaaS is where your systems end up when using the Lift and Shift technique, there are scenarios where it may be the best option. IaaS cloud services provide analogs to your existing on-premise server infrastructure and grant more control over your deployment environment than other options. Some legacy systems, regulatory requirements, and security concerns can push an organization to using IaaS for some of their systems. Other cloud migration strategies include IaaS deployments as temporary measures. If possible, efforts should be made to phase these IaaS deployments out over time.
Why Not Lift and Shift?
The Lift and Shift strategy for migrating to the cloud is somewhat like putting the effort on autopilot. You take your existing systems as they are and run them on a cloud infrastructure. Many systems aren’t suited for operation in the cloud so Lift and Shift may not be the right approach and could introduce unknown problems. In addition, any existing issues the system might have will be migrated to the cloud to persist in this scenario. In planning your cloud migration effort, keep in mind that it could be an opportunity to migrate the capability you need, but leave the old system and its problems behind.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Office 365, Google G Suite, and Salesforce are examples of Software as a Service (SaaS). These cloud-native solutions provide common features to your business with little overhead. When migrating to the cloud, it’s worth taking a look at how these pre-packaged solutions can provide you with benefits that you’ve been getting from on-premise systems in the past. For example, don’t migrate your email server to an IaaS container when a SaaS email provider has better functionality at a lower cost. SaaS solutions are often cheaper than those you would provide yourself, reduce the involvement of your IT staff for routine tasks, and tend to include features that can add more value than the software they are replacing. Use SaaS solutions as much as feasible, but don’t try to force institutional change on how your business operates just to take advantage of the tools available.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
While SaaS solutions can cover the aspects of your organization that are common to many businesses, some of the functionality you need is custom to your channel. Custom software is where Platform as a Service (PaaS) comes into play. There are a variety of approaches to PaaS solutions that depend on your desired level of containerization, security posture, and functional requirements.
Microservices and Serverless architectures are the current buzzwords for PaaS implementations, and they represent a paradigm shift in how applications are built and run. The resulting isolation of components provides great benefits to scaling, reusability, and design reliability. Operational costs are brought down to a very low level when compared to IaaS rollouts delivering similar functionality. The resulting designs and architectures are great for future-proofing IT investments and can serve as a multiplier for investments when compared to traditional application designs. However, this is an entirely new way to build applications and requires new IT skills to execute properly.
Recommending BPM Software for Cloud Migration
What if you want the benefits of PaaS without an extreme investment by your IT staff? Business Process Management (BPM) software is one way to do that. The application development process of BPM software empowers your expert users, analysts, and tech-savvy support staff to contribute directly to the end product your organization uses daily instead of relying on only IT staff to build and support it. Using your business process experts to build the applications you need has the double benefit of reducing the dependency on IT to create the functionality for you while also placing the decision points in the hands of the people who know your business needs best.
When it comes to capitalizing on the new opportunities a cloud migration provides, BPM software can be transformational to the culture and productivity of your organization. Instead of passively watching the backlog of feature requests grow, users can spec out or even implement new functionality themselves. Applications that were previously siloed based on technical or functional requirements can now be grouped or combined based on the business cases surrounding their usage.
Segue is actively engaged in supporting customers through modernizing their information systems using BPM no/low-code applications. If you would like to discuss your cloud migration strategy, please contact us to learn more.