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Planning for a successful cloud-based strategy
Simon Marley, Associate Director, Cloud Architect, Willis Towers Watson
The strategic direction of organizations to leverage services from public cloud providers is no longer a decision of “if”, but “when and how.” Growth in the industry is expected to continue at an astounding rate as companies continue to digitalize their services and look to adopt cloud-based technology opportunities. With disruptive changes of this nature it is important for businesses to recognize the full impact of the decision to adopt these services. Understanding the implications, benefits and financials to the business are the key fundamental steps before any decision to adopt a cloud strategy should be made with buy-in from all stakeholders. The output from this will ensure a roadmap is developed to deliver the strategy that the organization can collectively identify and align with. Effectively communicating the plan to the business is key to successful delivery. A successful plan must firstly determine and evaluate what the target architecture model should be. Understanding your business operations and its objectives will drive what cloud services you should adopt.
Growth in the CSP industry hassled to a rise in vendors entering the market providing cloud neutral products to aid in orchestration and migration of workloads across cloud providers. The true value of these products is realized if an organization has a multi-cloud strategy, with a reduced learning curve and potential for misconfiguration in taking on a new platform among the benefits. My advice here would be to start small and become comfortable with one provider. Once a level of maturity is reached, look at your available options. Operating across multiple clouds adds additional layers of complexity from security, compliance, education and cost that shouldn’t be underestimated. For many cases this can slow your product TTM and is largely an unnecessary endeavor in many cases. Making the journey as smooth as possible for your business and taking a phased approach is key.
Cloud providers want your business. It is in their interest to make the transitional process to adopt their platform as simple as possible. Recent advancements in cloud planning and migration toolsets—available natively through the cloud providers, or through the fore mentioned 3rd party products— are enabling organizations with the ability to transition to cloud with the increased ease, control and visibility, all which reduce the overall associated risk and is further increasing the appetite for businesses to make the transition. The tools can assess an organization’s existing on-premises estate, to surface analytics on the various workloads’ consumption of resources and dependencies. From this data we know what workloads would benefit from migrating together, improving the efficiency of the migrated service.
Knowing the resources consumed, tools provide recommendations for the right sizing of service and the type of service that should be selected in the cloud provider. This is allowing businesses to accurately forecast financial modeling based on the recommended services. We can now understand with far greater accuracy the expected operational budget prior to any migrations taking place or expense being incurred in the cloud. The financial consolidation and fine grain visibility in the cloud is now providing insights which can be directly aligned to sales and business objectives.
“Lift and shift” migration provides instant benefits of cloud and is often a simple, first step towards a migration effort. Refactoring applications to use Platform-as-a- Service is seen as a more complex approach requiring further planning and changes to an application architecture. Adopting PaaS is now more easily implemented within the migration tools available providing the same readiness checks and validation for on-premises web and database tiers, against the cloud vendors PaaS equivalent products. Many of the tools will also perform the setup of the service, import the data and allow a business to fully test drive the service prior to any decision to cut services over.
For organizations planning the start of a cloud migration strategy looking to understanding the expected financial commitments and options, or those already operating in a cloud wishing to understand how their products are performing. The tools available in the market and from the cloud providers has removed many of the complexity and barriers, reducing business risk and driving opportunity to focus on product quality rather than managing unnecessary burdens associated with traditional internal hosting.