Thursday, April 15, 2021

Cloud Migration Strategy: Expert Advice

Cloud computing offers enormous advantages to companies, but before those advantages can be gained, one obstacle course must be maneuvered: cloud migration. Applications and robust data stores must be moved from in-house to a remote cloud. 

It is the difficulties involved with the complex process of cloud migration that we covered in this webinar. Specifically:

  • The ongoing difficulty of cloud migration, including multicloud.
  • The need to understand the interdependencies involved with cloud migration.
  • The role of COVID-19 in the cloud sector
  • The future of cloud migration

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To provide insight into cloud migration, I spoke with two leading experts: 

Vishal Gupta, Global CTO and Senior VP, Unisys

Michael Liebow, Top 100 Cloud Influencer.

Download the podcast:

Why is Cloud Migration So Fraught with Challenges?  (9:55)

Gupta: “I think a lot of CIOs are all encouraged to go to cloud, but many of them find that they didn’t really achieve the business outcomes they had set out for. And I think there’s three or four things in play. One is that you need a fundamentally different mindset because cloud is much more distributed versus centralized, which is what people are accustomed to in IT. So now you have 100 teams who can spin up their workloads. You have got the agility, but now you’ve gotta have a different way to drive governance on it, which people are not accustomed to.

“I think the second bit is skill set. From a skill set perspective, you’re looking for cloud certified engineers. Those people, just like security engineers are expensive, and sometimes hard for companies to find and retain. And so it becomes like, are you really trained up for this modern skill set that you’re trying to embrace? And I think the third bit is cloud in some ways gives you so much flexibility. There are hundreds of configurations that are possible, hundreds of new services coming out on both Amazon, Azure or GCP, that in some ways it creates a level of confusion and complexity that people are just not accustomed to.

So a combination of almost too many configuration and choices, too many people who could go and spin up things. And so not really knowing what’s going on. And then a skill set that really needs… That’s different from the current skill set in many ways, leads people to… They think they can get these VMs or containers from a cheaper… But then they realize that they really haven’t achieved the outcomes they were set out for.”

Liebow: I would always question the idea of perfection or Cloud nirvana. I don’t think we should ever, ever target perfection. I think we should target good enough.

And I’ve been a big advocate of moving to the cloud for some time, but now with the current situation in the world, I think it’s an absolute priority. And once we get through these lock-downs, I think organizations are going to have to face facts and move with speed. And the talent question that Vishal just mentioned is gonna be a big problem for our industry.

There’s just not enough… Some of the cloud solution architects that I know, they’re unicorns, they’re freaks of nature. And they are absolutely critical in order to drive the organization from where it is to where it needs to go. So I agree with a lot of what Vishal said. You can’t leverage all of the newness, the innovation that’s coming out, you can’t really move, if you’re gonna do new workload, it’s gonna be on cloud, it’s not gonna be in your data center.

“So when we talk about this, we talk about CIOs that are laden with tech debt. 90% of the IT budget regardless of the industry is going towards maintaining the old, about 45% on any given day is probably roughly what the amount of tech debt that that organization carries on the balance sheet.

And so they’re really in a tight place between a rock and a hard place relative to being able to make that move to cloud. And I think the mental model is required because if you think of cloud like a transaction or just another data center, you’re thinking about it incorrectly. So you do have to refresh talent, re-skill people, you do need a new operating model, and you do need the support business, your business partners in order to make that move successful. And if there isn’t a defined business outcome, and now with the significant recession, if you don’t know that that is a reason to drive the transformation and drive it fast, then I think you will be under the gun because your peers who’ve already started this transition are gonna to create a bigger gap for you in the future. So is right now.

Gupta:Part of this is, you have many Clouds and many levels of certification. And so I think when Michael talks about the word “unicorn” obviously to have somebody being an expert at multiple Clouds is a unicorn piece. Because it requires… And it’s not just the understanding. You have to remember the things are changing very fast. If AWS is introducing 15 new services a year, it’s a little bit like you’re not just catching up. The world is moving so fast ahead. And so, really keeping pace with all of these things and keeping pace with how it’s gotta be done by these different Cloud providers, and then, trying to make sure things are really secure and compliant, because your regulators will wanna see all the compliances also in this world that you’re trying to embrace, your security teams wants to make sure your S3 buckets and everything is not exposed, like you’ve seen in some of the big Cloud breaches. And so, I think it becomes almost like a three-dimensional chess game that how do you skill up your talent then.

The Role of the Coronavirus Crisis in Today’s Cloud Sector (4:15)

Liebow: “Well, I think it’s accelerating the need for change. So if you didn’t have a business imperative before, you have one now. And just the move to remote work, work from home, that required capabilities around collaboration, around equipment, around network, around security, around VDIs, around n number of different areas of urgency.

“And so, whether or not you were prepared for it, you had to act accordingly. And so what you’re seeing or what you’re hearing across the industry are organizations that are moving with speed, that all of a sudden the blockers, real or imagined, that were there previously are not there right now. And so, that expedited turn, I think, is favoring the organizations that are flexible, that can move in the tooling that’s required. And so all of the requirements, just this heightened sense and need are really now more urgent and strategic than ever before.

Gupta: “What we’re facing is, across many countries or across most countries now, for an organization, their workforce is working from home and they’re gonna be working from home for the foreseeable future. This is not a one or two week thing. This is going to take some time.

“And so, I think it has created two imperatives. One is, for example, a lot of people are trying to figure out how do you work securely from home? Because our VPNs are not really able to take up some of the load that is happening, that they were not designed. They were meant for 10% or 20% of people working from home, and now suddenly you’ve got this big influx. And so, this is creating, I think, one set of need for innovation.

“And I think then to the Michael’s point, there are nobody really has the ability to go to the data center. Everything has to be done remotely. And so it’s going to accelerate the need for the cloud, but also the need for secure cloud transformation, secure and compliant.

“And so I think it is definitely a net positive, but it’s also opening up a question to the company to say, ‘How do you do this in a way that does not compromise on security, that does not compromise on compliance?’ Because those things are not getting relaxed. Those are things that they’re still held responsible for. And so thinking through things like, ‘Okay, can zero trust really apply to the cloud? Can you micro-segment so that way if you do end up having an issue, your attack surface can be reduced? How will you manage your identities? How will you comply with the different mandates, whether that’s a PCI or a HIPAA or a FedRAMP in case of federal?’ So all of these things are come into play, but it’s absolutely a net positive for cloud, embracing cloud.

Advice For Companies: How to Make Cloud Migration Easier (9:59)

Liebow: “Once you eliminate the real, let’s start with the imagined roadblocks. As soon as you create that kind of a burning platform, I think the rest of it becomes a lot simpler. And I think organizations, IT organizations, right or wrong tend to thrive on complexity, and so, simplification. Not necessarily modernization but simplification, I think is absolutely critical.

“It’s not about rolling your own, or picking every abstraction and creating layers on top of layers. It’s how do we do this with speed, how do we simplify what we need to get done and how fast can we do it. This is not a three to five-year journey now, I mean, it’s a one-year imperative. You have to move with speed.

And I’ve worked with organizations that have moved with speed, that have moved their legacy estates to cloud within 12 months. You can do it, it’s been done, it’s really not rocket science. And so, lift and shift. The majority of the addressable workload is doable. You’ll get better performance characteristics, better cost profile if you do it. There are some percentage of the workload that will need to be remediated somewhat to work in the cloud. And then there’s a small percentage of workload that will need either to be decommissioned or modernized and you can work through that and you can prioritize how it gets done. There’s a lot of tooling that’s already available, there are skills. Obviously, the cloud providers are very aggressive in wanting to get you from here to there, but organizations have to kinda step up to it.

“A lot of people will use regulatory reasons or security reasons why not to move. We’ll find a lot of organizations that have cloud strategies if they aren’t really fully aligned with the business, they have strategies not to move to cloud. There’s a lot of noise in the market from various vendors around hybrid and whatnot. They basically state that we’re gonna kinda crawl not run into cloud, and so it’s a transition state.

“Unfortunately, for those organizations, if you don’t exit data centers, you don’t create a compelling business case to be all-in on cloud. And so I think some organizations, leaders in different industries have figured out it’s not about cloud first, it’s about cloud only. And there’s a reason why the Amazons and the Azures and the Googles are growing at, whatever, 40%, 50%, 60% a year. Alright. I mean, ’cause people are aggressively transitioning or moving workload into cloud. They’re not kind of doing it in a some half manner.

Gupta: “I think the trick of the game is you want to think about how do you make this complexity simple, right? You want to choose an approach and a partner that’s going to help you take some of this complexity away. Because I think everybody agrees that it has a great potential and so the question doesn’t become if, it becomes more of how.

“And so if you say that… You frame this question to, “Okay, how do we really get on in this journey and deliver the right outcomes?” There’s a couple of things to look at. One is that in the same cloud brand major survey that you were mentioning, we saw that 27% of organizations are more likely to achieve outcome of the cloud, if they partnered with a third party company. And so I think you have to just like with other strategic imperatives, think about, “Okay. Can I help… Would it be helpful for me to… Given that I have this talent challenge, I have a strategy challenge, to potentially develop work with a trusted partner who can help me and guide me in this journey?”

And then if you look at it, there is really three parts of the puzzles to solve. One is, obviously, we talked about the talent aspect. And you should be bothered, how many really certified cloud practitioners these companies have? Because you really want, as AWS, Azure or GCP offers certification, you really want to work with people who really know what they’re talking about. And so ultimately, you wanna develop this competency yourself as well.

“But at least initially you will need to partner with people who’ve got this competency while you’re developing that. So that’s one bit from the talent perspective.

“The second bit is, given the complexity that I mentioned that’s there in the cloud, what you’ve gotta think through is application by application, you’re deciding, making a choice of, which thing is gonna stay in the data center, which is going to be a lift-and-shift, and which thing is gonna be modernized, because you need it for other cases.  Even though you may go through a phased strategy, you should really make a strategy across your application investment in customer applications that are there. Some of them you might actually end up not needing because you move to SaaS. But you’ve gotta have a view to say, ‘Okay, if I have a 100 applications in my data center today that I’m hosting, what am I going to do with these applications?’

So I really have an application-centric view point. So from a outcome perspective, you can do the right thing. And then I always break cloud into the infrastructure and the application aspect. So there’s an application strategy, and then you need an infrastructure strategy. On the infrastructure side, what you wanna think about is, from a migration perspective, I need some tooling to make this, all these best practices that are there, help me embrace them. So that way, even if I have hundreds of people spinning up workloads, I want them to be really tested against all of these best practices.

“And there are now tools like Cloud Navigator, and others as well, that can help you do that. We’ve come up also with an approach called secure landing zones because the idea is that there are so many permutations, combinations, possible that sometimes you should think about cloud as a race car. You almost wanna give it those digital guard rails and those landing zones so people can land the right way. And then, essentially they’ve set the right policies, and then they can keep on spinning those workloads for the applications with the right strategy.

So I think you can look at something like that, but the second piece of tooling I would encourage customers to look at depending on their strategy would be… If you are going to embrace multi-cloud, then you wanna think about a single pane of glass that can provision against those clouds, that can give you status of the workloads against those clouds. So that way, you’re not having to train three different teams on three different consoles. You’re able to have a view or visibility into all your investments in one place.

“So typically, that’s in the industry called, something like the Cloud Management Plan, CMP, which is well understood in the industry.

The last piece that I would encourage people to think about is that ultimately to enable the outcome from the cloud, you wanna think differently, which is ultimately you wanna drive a lot of automation. To drive that automation, you wanna think about, once things have even migrated, how are you going to operate in a secured and compliant manner in that cloud? And so the use of AI is very critical. So there is another field of industry called AIOps and I think AIOps lets you think about both, “How do I manage my infrastructure cost in a continuous way so I can really optimize it?”

What Does the Future of Cloud Migration Look Like?(16:37)

Liebow: “Okay. Well, let me get my hat on. [laughter] So a couple of things. The general sense needs to be that you create inherent flexibility in your business so that you can sense and respond to changing or challenging market conditions. And I think what we’re ultimately trying to build for is a platform. We’ve been talking about digital transformation for a while. In order to succeed at digital transformation, you need cloud, you need scalable cloud, you need a work force that’s agile, and that’s tooling as well as mentality.

“It’s not necessarily easy. Alright? And it doesn’t need to be perfect. And so good enough is good enough. And if you strive to achieve perfection, then I would suggest that you will never get there.

So, the basic thing here and I agree with Vishal, this is a journey. So over the next three, four, five years, it continues to be a journey. You need to get there, and the only way you can get there is by taking a step today if you haven’t already. Alright? And it’s not 10% of workload, it’s not 20%, it’s upwards of 90%-100% of workload. Now think about it, at the rate and pace of these big providers are growing, Amazon for example, is gonna be a $100 billion business within that time frame.”

And so you really have to migrate your workforce, your skills, but mostly you have to build a platform for your digital business. And that platform has layers, and it’s integrated loosely, and there is an engagement layer and there’s a solution layer, and there’s a backbone. And you’re gonna operate your business, your digital business on this platform. And you’re gonna publish a set of services that are consumed internally and with partners, and with customers.

“And it’s a very robust, very dynamic, very active future state, but you need to have that picture, that mental model, and you need to get there on this journey with a partner who can help not just guide you, but de-risk that journey.

“So understand, where are the pitfalls? Where is the risk? Alright. You talk about multi-cloud. Okay, well why is that a thing? Well, it’s a thing because of concentration risk. And so, if you’re gonna manage concentration risk, you’re gonna qualify one, two, three providers in order to platform your business… You’re gonna build on their innovation, on their capital investment, and you’re gonna create this future state, and it’s exciting, and your talent is gonna be drawn, you’d be like a magnet.

And when I say partner, I don’t mean outsource, I mean insource or home shore. A lot of these capabilities, and make that work, and build up those capabilities, and do the higher value things, and leave some of the infrastructure and platform services to these providers who are spending billions a month to build out this gargantuan architecture to support your future business, so that’s the exciting part. And I really think that if you haven’t gotten the memo or the message, you need to, because the business depends on it. And so we talk a lot about CIOs being business savvy, I really challenge the business to be tech-savvy.”

Gupta: “I think Michael said it very elegantly. So I’ll offer a couple additional maybe food for thought. If I looked at Gartner and I say, “What is meant to be the market for Cloud services?” It’s supposed to grow just in 2023 to $500 billion, right?

So we know not only are we riding this big wave, this big wave is gonna get big and huge. So go ahead. And then if I marry that with what Marc Andreessen said, ‘Software eats the world.’ So we all understand now, especially in this COVID19 world, where we’re becoming a digital business that’s not about the physical asset, everybody’s run away from that asset in some ways, and how are you going to get value from creating these digital businesses?

“And so it becomes again, as I said at the beginning, not a question of if but how. Cloud absolutely must be key. Now, these days, we have for example for security, is a board topic. Boards get briefed on it every quarter on how security is happening. I would pause it that perhaps cloud should become a board topic and so central that you get briefed by every board on it every quarter to say, how are you going to use cloud to drive a fundamental digital transformation? So that way you can change your company. And so I think the big opportunity for people is to really re-imagine what they will sell, what they will build, how they’ll do it.

So I’m actually not a big proponent of lift and shift. I think lift and shift can be the first stage of it. But if that’s all you do, you’re really not gonna get… May get some cost savings a little bit, maybe 5%-10%, but you’re really missing the bigger opportunity with cloud. [Cloud has] to actually make the true digital transformation that industry has been talking about, real. And that’s actually about therefore thinking about, “Hey, what applications should I really be leveraging from SAS itself? Maybe I don’t even need to be in it. How do I aggregate these things maybe through APIs so that way, I can create net new services which rely on a variety of things other people are doing?

And let me still add value. How do I really leverage things like 5G and AI and other things to fundamentally make the complexity simple, to fundamentally infuse intelligence, to fundamentally improve the experiences, to make my offerings more sticky, to create more value, to increase the productivity of my work force.

“So I think as CEOs and boards really grapple with, ‘How do I use Cloud to not just as a cost vector, but as a true top line transformation vector, as the true experience transformation vector?’ And that’s where the multi-cloud journey also becomes key. Then I think they’re really thinking about fundamental out of the possible, what can I do differently? How do I truly not just modernize but reinvent my business model, my offerings, my things. And I think that is the power the cloud has. But to get on the journey, you need to get on it with the right way, with the right strategy, together with somebody who can coach you if you need to and not miss this opportunity. This is not an opportunity you wanna miss.”

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