Balancing technology and company culture
In the ten years since cloud computing started transforming the way enterprises do IT, the typical practice has been to take a cautious, incremental approach to the migration of applications. But today, a new era of mass migration has begun. This new era is spearheaded by the increased security and sophistication of public cloud platforms which even now surpass the standards set by private architectures and by the increasing proportion of application vendors taking a cloud-only approach to new product development.
For the sake of clarity, let’s define mass migration as the movement of a significant portion of your company’s IT assets to the cloud – in other words, not necessarily all, but possibly most, of them. Mass migration isn’t always easy for businesses: as an astute TechRepublic blog points out, while customer-facing apps tend to be simple to move to the public cloud, systems of record are almost always “old and either completely or substantially custom-built.” This means that “migrating these applications to public clouds requires substantial revision to achieve cloud’s primary benefits.”
Indeed, for many organizations the possibility of mass migration to the public cloud still sounds daunting. It would mean turning your back on the trustworthy and reliable infrastructure that has served your computing requirements for so long.
Few organizations would deny the agility that comes with cloud-based applications and, more specifically, cloud-based application development. The question arises that if you can lift and shift one application, does it not make sense to do the same with others? Is it not the case that a unified strategy, rather than a piecemeal approach can deliver greater gains in productivity and consistency in development methodologies?
Several years ago, Gartner identified the “Five Rs” to explain how to migrate applications to the cloud. At the time, they defined them as rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild, and replace. Today, many talk of “Six Rs” to provide a useful framework for planning cloud migration:
- Retire – Identifying what you can conclusively now live without is a good way to cost-savings
- Retain – There may, inevitably, be some insurmountable reasons why certain aspects of your IT environment do need to be retained, including when needing to run a hybrid environment
- Rehost –e., “lift-and-shift” Redeploy applications to a different hardware environment and change the application’s infrastructure configuration
- Replatform – What Stephen Orban, ex-CIO of Dow Jones refers to as “lift-tinker-and-shift”
- Repurchase – Migrating to a different product or license, often SaaS
- Refactor – Re-architecting to run applications on a cloud provider’s infrastructure.
Typically, mass migration can only be a strategy that organizations adopt if they see a clear roadmap supported by a business case; risks, costs, efforts, skills needed, counter-balanced by gains in efficiencies, agility, speed to market, and lower operating costs in the mid to long term. Mass migration can pose a risk to business continuity and performance; managing these risks is critical to the success of any migration strategy.
Taking the plunge
Mass migration offers a way for businesses to stay competitive alongside born-in-the-cloud enterprises. They can also reap the benefits that come with moving applications to the public cloud such as: scalability, agility, and reduced TCO. Although there are challenges associated with mass migration, the benefits vastly outweigh the difficulties, and forward-thinking enterprises deserve to stay on the front foot.
Leading enterprises are building a large and growing proportion of their applications in the cloud. These cloud-native leaders develop and deploy software faster than their peers. Not only have they achieved higher levels of velocity and agility, but they have business returns to show for it. Eighty-four percent of cloud-native leaders say this shift has led to increased revenue and lower operating costs, and 81% say it has improved their ability to deliver business model innovation.
Forrester insists that CEOs and CIOs must show the political will to orchestrate digital transformation at scale in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. A programmatic migration approach could reduce the risk of moving individual workloads to the cloud by making it possible to strategically plan and execute digital transformation, using a robust set of tools to automate and accelerate the cloud strategy.
Businesses can lay the foundations for successful mass migration by ensuring that they have the correct cultural buy-in from the top down, and clearly defined end goals that validate the strategy. There’s an insightful report from Gartner, which is key here, called How and Why Leaders Must Implement Cloud Computing. Additionally, the importance of a DevOps culture as part of this foundation cannot be emphasized enough – DevOps enables migration by creating agile processes and ways of working, which makes mass migration easier.
Charting a cloud migration project
If companies do not wish to fall behind their competitors then migrating to cloud is now a necessity. This doesn’t need to feel daunting, or like a step into the unknown. There are a host of great cloud migration experts who can help with this transition.
The fundamental cultural factor that organizations must accept and adjust to (for those that have yet to do so) is that the cloud is a place where things are done differently. Once your IT teams and developers accept this – and I suggest it’s an observation unlikely to meet with much resistance – the business can expect to see significant improvements in speed to market, greater maneuverability in innovation, and the self-evident gain of being able to do more for less as operating costs reduce.
So what’s stopping you? Chances are that it may involve wanting a clearer idea of what a mass migration might look like, in practice, for you. And the good news is, that’s what I’ll be exploring in my next blog.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org