Over the last decade, significant strides have been made in cloud computing, and today’s enterprises have substantial data and application footprints in the cloud. Many organizations are moving toward implementing cloud-based operations for their most crucial business applications.
A cloud-first mindset is usually a given for new companies and continues to gain traction for established enterprises. Still, existing legacy infrastructures and large on-premise footprints that don’t map easily to cloud architectures are slowing and even blocking faster adoption.
Organizations are poised to prioritize cloud investments over the next five years, according to the results of IDC’s Future of Operations research. The appeal includes the potential for an improved experience for customers, employees and suppliers/partners, better development agility, improved time to market and increased operational efficiency across organizations.
Although a pivot to the cloud could complete the evolution of the business from an operational and capital perspective, significant barriers to broader adoption still exist.
Cloud spending is on track to surpass $1 trillion by 2024, partly due to urgent changes to business operations driven by the pandemic, which accelerated cloud adoption timelines for many companies. And the results of recent research find that optimizing cloud costs tops companies’ 2021 priorities for the fifth year in a row.
Increasingly ambitious migration timelines are driving important decisions about moving critical applications without fully understanding the risks. Organizations are addressing application and data migration with largely ineffective one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t always meet expectations, often causing more problems than they promise to solve.
Others are moving with extreme caution when deciding which applications to keep on-prem and which to move, migrate or refactor. Mission-critical apps remain on the legacy infrastructure to assure control over the foundational data and safely maintain business as usual.
Moving from massive, on-prem data centers to the cloud presents a future filled with possibilities but also a level of risk due to the various unknowns within this significant paradigm shift. After all, a mission-critical app can be essential to the immediate viability of an organization and fundamentally necessary for success.
Although moving to the cloud is the way forward for many modern companies, migration can prove time-consuming and highly challenging, often with incomplete or unacceptable results. Successful migration can further business opportunities, but the risk of failure is considerable, and the high visibility that accompanies these major initiatives increases the level of exposure and consequences of said failure.
Mission-critical initiatives often cross the length and breadth of organizations, across low-level operational groups up to the C-suite and beyond. But just as all data is not created equal, neither are clouds or migration strategies.
Data Mobility Matters
With increasing cloud investments comes a growing need for more accessible data mobility. As more data moves to the cloud and strategies expand to occasionally include multicloud environments, there’s an expectation that underlying cloud resources deliver about the same level of performance as on-prem. But, often, the required type and volume of cloud resources are not available and deployment is difficult or impossible.
Performance is instrumental in determining where a mission-critical application should live and drives myriad scaling considerations and challenges. Sometimes, particular features, functionality and capabilities are lacking.
Perhaps the data primarily resides in a private or hybrid cloud to engage in cloud bursting on the public cloud when capacity needs to balloon. Longtime legacy challenges of architecting for the peak versus the average persist. Still, cloud decisions have forced IT leaders to relinquish a level of control over the physical infrastructure, significantly increasing risk.
Managing data mobility is challenging. To increase success, plan an approach that minimizes workflow disruptions of critical processes while ensuring sufficient capacity to support expected workloads and providing enough scalability to handle unexpected workloads. Managing random workload fluctuations requires a solid plan and a scalable, flexible and agile architecture to avoid those black swan events that are all too threatening.
Cloud Migration Considerations
Successful migration is not easy, but for many applications, it’s pretty simple to migrate to a platform as a service (PaaS) or managed service and be up and running fairly quickly. But for those performance-sensitive vertical stack monolithic applications running on the most expensive hardware for decades, moving can prove challenging and even impossible.
Ideally, refactoring enhances an application without negatively modifying external behavior and improving the internal architecture, as well as perhaps gaining cost efficiencies, maintenance or performance. But not all mission-critical applications are a fit for a refactor. Complexity, cost and the risk of disrupting a mission-critical app that’s performing as expected are valid reasons to leave some apps on-prem.
Others are constrained by performance requirements that aren’t achievable in the cloud with current offerings. There are fundamental limitations to the types of applications and databases that can quickly move to the cloud, and overhauling those solutions introduces significant risk, possibly resulting in critical delays and higher costs.
Solving Migration Problems
The best plan to mitigate the risks and improve the odds for cloud migration is to eliminate silos between multiple clouds and on-prem — regardless of type or location — facilitating a free flow of information in a simple, resilient, well-understood fashion. The next truth can’t be overstated:
Data is the new oil and should be treated as such. Just as trained specialists are leveraged to find and extract oil, specialized experts should be utilized when performing high-risk, business-changing moves regarding mission-critical data and the application stacks that access it. Ideally, the team migrating mission-critical applications should be proficient in enabling data mobility across environments without refactoring to reduce risk.
The question of cloud migration in 2021 is often no longer “if” but “when and how.” The material risk of maintaining the status quo can be significant, and avoiding moving mission-critical applications to the cloud is often no longer an option. A wise man once said, “What’s dangerous is not to evolve,” and this truism fully applies to an organization’s journey to the cloud.