Cloud Migration — Ready, Fire, Aim
A retroactive strategy
Many organizations have a forcing function that moves them to the cloud. Research into our customer base shows that these events tend to be things like expiring data center and MSP contracts, upcoming audits, large equipment refresh cycles, and an impending need to react to a market opportunity. While a forcing function is helpful to get buy-in across teams for the move, it can result in a less than ideal transition to the cloud. Anxious about running out of time to migrate, organizations in these cases often lift and shift to the cloud, hoping to sort it all out later. However, once the migration is complete, a question looms: Now that you are there, how should you optimize your already migrated assets for the cloud?
While it was likely necessary to move quickly before, now is the time to take a step back and analyze. Examine the totality of your systems and determine which applications are of high and low business value. We recommend dividing your applications into two categories: invest and sustain.
Invest applications are those that directly contribute to business revenue while sustain applications support the business. For example, an e-commerce engine is an invest app, whereas a human resources employee vacation reporting system would be a sustain app. Sustain apps should be optimized for cost, while invest apps should focus on innovation and operational excellence.
Optimize Sustain Apps for Cost
Starting with sustain applications that you’ve rehosted to the cloud, you may be able to further optimize your costs in one of three ways:
- Retire it. Is this application still relevant and/or necessary? If not, can you retire the application and reinvest the savings?
- Repurchase it. If the application is licensed from an outside vendor, does it offer the application as a SaaS solution? If so, repurchasing it as a SaaS version may be the more sustainable choice from a labor and maintenance perspective.
- Replatform it. Is the application using a commercial database, for instance? There are many options to migrate to lower-cost database platforms that offer similar performance, scalability, and reliability metrics but at far lower cost.
- Automate it. Add infrastructure automation to reduce maintenance and free staff time to focus on invest applications.
Cloud Optimize Invest Apps
With sustain applications optimized for cost, let’s turn to the invest applications. For these, we recommend a cost-benefit analysis to determine the best course of action. Ultimately, for each application, you’ll determine the optimal amount of modernization — from simply leaving it as a rehosted application on one end of the spectrum to completely modernizing for the cloud on the other.
To assess which path is right for any given application, it is helpful to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. We recommend calculating cost by asking about:
- Development resources required for a rewrite. Are knowledgeable resources available? And, if so, in what time frame? If not, are resources available to hire a third-party consultant to help?
- Expected business interruptions. Can the application be modernized without business interruption? If not, what is the expected scope of the interruption and how tenable is it to the business?
- What expected benefits will the application see from modernization, and how will these benefits impact the business?
To help you pencil through this exercise, consider the following chart. In our experience, the cost-benefit analysis favors complete cloud modernization for a minority of apps. While operational excellence, innovation and cost benefits from this approach are the greatest, it also requires that knowledgeable teams are available and the effort is achievable within time and other business constraints. For these reasons, more invest applications are treated to containerization, an approach that allows the app to take advantage of some cloud functionality like immutable infrastructure and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD).Prioritize for Business Benefit
As you can see, by taking a lift-and-shift approach, your services are already benefiting from the cloud. However, you really can’t take advantage of the transformational value of the cloud without further optimizing. By applying your cost-benefit analysis, you can see which projects should be prioritized for the biggest business benefit. While prioritization will vary from company to company, there are several important things to consider, such as:
- The length of time each project will take. Can you score a quick win that will readily illustrate cloud benefits to the rest of the business? For example, migrating a database backend for an existing application with minimal downtime but with lower cost and a more clear business continuity plan by taking advantage of cloud-native database backup facilities could demonstrate value on the cost vector.
- How manageable are calculated risks like service unavailability? For example, projects with greater risk attached are best prioritized during nonpeak business times and/or once a mitigation plan is in place.
- Availability of required resources. Is the original developer team available for this project? And, if so, in what time frame?
- What type of business benefit does this project have? For example, is it a stepping stone to further innovation within the business? If so, it may be prioritized higher than other projects, as it can have a snowball effect.
While your organization may have other business-specific factors to consider, in our experience, this list is a good starting point. Indeed, many organizations choose to hire an experienced consultant to help with this process. They possess the skills to help speed the assessment, prioritization, and execution processes — all while training your team to carry the baton post-modernization.
Lift-and-shift migrations are a practical fact of life, and they get you to the cloud, but that is really just the beginning of the journey. The cloud offers so many new ways to automate, innovate, and transform IT delivery. Refactoring your applications to be cloud native gives you unparalleled agility and productivity, but it does require a new way of thinking about your delivery model.
According to LogicMonitor’s Cloud Vision 2020 Study, 83% of workloads will be cloud-based by the end of 2020. Yet, just being in the cloud is not enough. While lifting and shifting services to the cloud is a good first step, to further reduce costs and achieve benefits like operational excellence and digital innovation, modernization is important. Now that your forcing function deadline has passed, begin the work of optimizing for the cloud with a strategy that will reap the greatest business dividends.