Amid COVID-19, many businesses have accelerated their use of the cloud. No longer are cost, flexibility and scale the sole drivers for cloud migration; equally important are systems availability and remote access for work-from-home employees.
However, we still see organizations concerned about moving applications to the cloud, especially enterprise applications such as SAP, Pega and Oracle. This is primarily due to their concerns of complexity, viability, security, downtime and resiliency. The new measure of success for cloud adoption is how optimally and smoothly workloads can be migrated to the cloud without downtime.
Six Factors to Consider
Having led enterprise application transformations for more than two decades, including close to half a decade on the cloud, and gained a deep understanding enterprise behavior on migration, I can vouch that the following six key parameters encompass what’s needed for an effective and accelerated cloud migration.
- Take a platform approach
It’s essential to define where and how the business can achieve maximum benefits from the cloud. Outcomes can include retiring your on-premise infrastructure and moving to a cloud-based services model such as infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS); enabling developers to create and manage customized applications through platform-as-a-service (PaaS); or even eliminating application development through software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Businesses can choose from six fundamental strategies for cloud migration: rehost, replatform, repurchase, rearchitect, retire and retain. Based on our experience across multiple engagements, 15% to 20% of applications can be classified as IaaS (retain and retire), 40% as SaaS (repurchase) and 30% as IaaS/PaaS (rehost and replatform). The remaining 5% to 10% are in the rearchitect category, which involves a cloud-native approach using microservices and containers.
Enterprises that are new to cloud migration can embark on a SaaS-first strategy, predominantly for commoditized applications like IT apps. Along with applications in the “retire” category, doing so will shrink the IT landscape by about 50%, followed by rehosting and replatforming the remaining apps.
- Let the applications lead
Businesses need to decide between two migration approaches: infra-led and application-led.
Most organizations see cloud migration as moving infrastructure from on-premise to cloud for quick benefits. This often results in considering machines in silos rather than by their application context. This is known as infra-led migration, which is fine for independent IT applications but can result in fragmented, oversized, less resilient deployments with broken dependencies. It can also cause inefficient deployment for line-of-business applications with complex workloads or complex enterprise applications like SAP, Pega and Oracle, among others.
Application-led migrations, on the other hand, understand dependencies, business criticality, utilization patterns across layers and the availability, recovery and security requirements of an application. This approach is optimized, highly available and secured.
We recommend taking an infra-led approach for IT apps that aren’t SaaS-based and application-led migrations for business applications.
- Be aware of design considerations and upcoming releases
It’s essential to leverage readily available reference architectures based on past experiences of both businesses and cloud vendors. When we worked with a European insurer to migrate its distributed SAP applications to the public cloud, we modernized its application platform with a high-availability architecture by leveraging the hub/spoke-led SAP migration reference architecture, as well as features of upcoming releases from cloud vendors. We accomplished the migration with zero disruptions to the existing application interfaces and no interruption to the business.
- Don’t overlook automation
While businesses don’t often think to prioritize automation in their cloud migrations, doing so ensures consistent levels of resource provisioning and application and infrastructure deployment. Automation can also help businesses avoid schedule delays and cost overruns caused by manual errors.
To ensure consistency with an infrastructure build, consider infrastructure as code (IaC) using cloud-native tools like Microsoft PowerShell, Azure Resource Manager templates/AWS CloudFormation or third-party cloud-agnostic tools. Automation can also be applied to the entire application build lifecycle, including application development, testing and deployment. All this can be orchestrated using continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.
One of our European customers was intent on achieving a high degree of process automation as it required its infrastructure to be deployed in a consistent, repeatable, fast and reliable manner. This was fully achieved with automation. Ninety-five percent of the infrastructure build was automated, and 29 automation use cases were implemented.
- Leverage partners
Businesses should onboard partners early in the migration decision-making process to partake in design reviews, gain commitment on early releases and provide insights on product release roadmaps. Partners can also help with using cloud-native tools as much possible to reduce total cost of operations (TCO) and integration risks.
In one of our large-scale migrations for a client in Europe, the cloud service provider gave us early access and support to a new cloud region. This enabled us to migrate and test the workloads about 30 days prior to the official opening of the cloud region. As a result, the customer overcame any resulting latency issues that would have resulted from opting for a different cloud region at the start of the engagement and avoided the rework and cost of remigrating to the right cloud region.
- Blend cloud governance with skills and smart operations
It’s essential to establish cloud governance at the beginning of the initiative to maintain the overall health of the cloud environment. This includes oversight on costs, security, resource standardization, identity and access management, and deployment of automation.
A smooth migration also requires a highly skilled and cohesive team with a holistic vision and knowledge of reusing successfully deployed artifacts, such as architectural blueprints, best practices and playbooks, along with site reliability engineer (SRE)-led smart operations.
In short, businesses need to take an all-encompassing approach to cloud migration. Through proactive planning and a robust execution strategy, a continual focus on DevOps-led automation, cloud governance, security and smart operations, even elephants (aka, enterprise applications) can dance on the cloud.
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