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Posted On 15 Jul 2020

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Customer expectations have never been higher. In today’s times, nearly every built software is expected to have new features once in a while to meet the end-user’s rising demands. If you test often, you can deliver often. This means, if you can get feedback from your customers often, you can enhance your products often. There is a deep link between your competitiveness and your development/operations flexibility. Competitiveness is a key to business success, and it is the result of many factors like the smoothness and flexibility of the business’ IT operations and development. Hence, establishing an IT environment that is effective, better performing, secured yet pocket-friendly is desired. Considering the speed and accuracy expected by customers, Cloud-native application development/migration is placed at the heart of nearly every Digital Business Transformation strategy. Cloud Transformation is believed to enable businesses to accelerate their growth by providing the right approaches and tools.

That said, some organizations may retain old systems even though they are built based on outdated technology. While these old, legacy systems are a burden, they cannot just disappear since they are critical to the respective business operations. For reasons like convenience, scalability, and remote enablement; Cloud looks like a solution for modern computing.

So, when is the right time to initiate Cloud Transformation?

In his recent eBook about rearchitecting legacy platforms for better digital business, Ananth Vinnakota who heads Engineering and Digital Transformation said ‘Market forces such as Consumerism, Hyper-personalization, Digitization, Social-Mobile-Analytics-Cloud (AKA the SMAC stack) demand changes in organizations across all processes. Legacy systems cannot support the accelerating pace of business world change.’

Ananth mentioned, future customers would expect every digital business to provide everything in an ‘as-a-service’ model and businesses that are hanging on to their legacy systems might have to fight a battle of survival. He also said performance of the platform and integrations of other technologies is almost impossible with legacy systems. Adding to his thoughts, here are a few more aspects of outdated systems that screams for help.

  • Legacy systems can be efficient doing their bit, but they can be exposed to crashes any time. For instance, IRS (Internal Revenue Service) could not process the electronically filed tax returns (nearly 14 million submissions) on Tax Day 2018, said there was a computer glitch and had to extend the deadline for 2 more days. Many experts suspect the six-decade-old IT systems might have something to do with it.
  • Aged IT systems might look basic but there are many hidden costs for running and maintaining legacy systems. Believe it or not, the US Federal government had to spend 80% of their 2019 IT budget on Operations & Maintenance since they detected efficiency, cybersecurity, and mission risk complications. It is time to check your IT expenditure percentage of your revenue.
  • While Digital Transformation is growing to be one of the biggest trends in 21st century, business across verticals are re-thinking their models and offerings to reach their customer expectations and be relevant. Business who turned out to be Digital Failures do not seem to last long. Cloud computing is believed to improve competitive advantage and the scope to innovation.

Many practitioners say - if your legacy application is posing a challenge, the immediate solution is not to Replace it. Modernization need not be an All-or-nothing affair. The best practice is to identify the problem, choosing the right computing method to solve it, analyze the consequences of implementing it, and dealing with one business challenge at a time.

At Qentelli, our client portfolio is so diverse that we continuously research and formulate customized cloud transformation strategies for each. Every client’s story, business challenge, IT structure and database structures are different so one-size certainly does not fit all. The only common thing across the implementations is to offer breakthrough customer experience, accelerate their innovation cycles, and achieve unprecedented responsiveness.

In this article, we share with you a few strategies we recommend to companies moving from legacy to Cloud-based. In other words, the practices you should do and should avoid for smoother Cloud Transformation.

The 6 R's of Cloud Migration

A huge part of Cloud-native Transformation is the shift in technologies employed in development and operations. Therefore, Cloud Migration is a critical step. To make the most out of the possibilities of cloud native and become a truly digital enterprise, it is important to have the right migration strategy in place. If you are moving your data center to the cloud, your cloud migration strategy is most likely be one of the following options that we discuss.

Built upon the 6 R's outlined by Richard Watson for a Gartner report in 2011, AWS designed these six different migration strategies in 2016. This is the list of the 6 R's:

  • Re-host
  • Re-platform
  • Re-purchase
  • Re-factor
  • Retire
  • Retain
Cloud Transformation 6 Rs of Cloud Migration

At Qentelli, we always analyze the client’s Status Quo and suggest cloud transformation strategies that are driven by their actual business strategies. Building cloud strategy leadership is a major aspect of the Digital Transformation journey. Even though AWS originated and outlined these strategies in their own way, they can (and have to) be used with other cloud providers and different environments to suite the unique requirements. For example, adopting an ‘As-a-service’ model for the back-office tools and end computing technologies can help some businesses to stay away from vendor lock-in, some will have to revisit their systems to check their appetite for new capabilities and understand the migration opportunities.

Depending on the data center, software architecture, and existing licensing arrangements, a company can outline a plan and a strategy to migrate to the cloud. Let us look at some of the cloud migration strategies in detail and understand the right time to go with respective approach.

Re-host (Lift-and-shift)

This cloud transformation strategy involves moving the application to the cloud without any significant changes. The digital-native businesses and their applications might incline towards exploiting the Cloud-native capabilities. But if the large-scale, legacy, never-been-on-cloud systems are looking for scaling opportunities, they would most probably want to be migrated through re-hosting. It may not always be the ideal and efficient choice of transformation, but it takes lesser time and fewer resources to move the legacy system to a modern open system platform.

Re-platform (Lift-tinker-and-shift)

This cloud transformation approach is also known as Lift-and-shape.

Some legacy systems are not well structured to move to the cloud; however, one can perform some optimizations without changing the application core before moving it to the cloud. Some applications that are already on cloud might consider this strategy to move the core system to a fully managed platform. (e.g., AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle, Salesforce, etc.)

A typical example is moving an on-prem database to cloud-managed data stores or emulating the application through a compatible virtual machine on the cloud.

Re-factor/Re-architect (Cloud-native)

This approach is about redesigning how the application is architected. Rearchitecting typically implements cloud-native features. This strategy can also be achieved after an initial migration using re-platforming or re-hosting strategies. Since refactoring costs are high, a typical use case here is partial refactoring: Specific parts of the application can be refactored to take advantage of the cloud platform.

One may use this cloud transformation strategy when they can provide the financial means to refactor (partially or totally) their platforms.

Choosing the Right Cloud Transformation Strategy

Each cloud transformation strategy has its own advantages but also has limitations and weaknesses. This is the reason why we practice an exercise of assessing the application stack and current staffing levels to determine the best approach. Some strategies such as Re-factoring imply moving from a Monolithic architecture to a Service-oriented architecture, and in many cases, the business continuity can be dependent on this. Preferring this alternative is usually driven by a business need to scale or add new features that are hard or impossible to implement in the legacy system.

At the same time, this cloud transformation strategy remains the most expensive. Even if you have a good product-market fit, reskilling your current technical talents, and adapting them to the cloud-native ecosystem is critical to your business continuity.

Certainly, a successful Cloud-native journey can start after achieving another strategy like Re-hosting.

This strategy is useful only if you want to move legacy to the cloud quickly. It can be easier than Re-architecting and has quick wins. This is the reason why one should be able to ascertain the applications that can be moved first to the cloud.

Cloud Transformation - Possible Risks and Pitfalls

Moving to the cloud is not the ultimate goal, but it should be considered as a tool to boost your business productivity and ensure its continuity. Running some or most of the workloads on the cloud doesn't mean that Cloud Transformation was done right. The new infrastructure may encounter some uncertainties and struggle after discovering some hidden pitfalls. There are some questions to ask before deciding, and they can be related to teams, cloud provider(s), applications, data, and costs.

What level of support does your team need? Cloud providers offer different levels of paid support; some of them may be expensive. In addition to the support cost, managed services costs and pricing models may vary from one cloud to another.

Therefore, a comparison between cloud providers is essential. Some vendors may offer lower prices but can push you into vendor-lock before you even realize.

Costs should not be the only criterion, performance and high availability are as important as reducing your production and operation costs.

Choosing a cloud vendor also has technical impacts on your team and influences your future staffing decisions. To anticipate any problem, reskilling your team and preparing them should be at the center of your cloud transformation strategy. Your organization must have enough knowledge to maintain and evolve your application stack and ensure its continuity in a new environment.

Take the example of determining which part of your data is sensible and how sensitive it is; think about how it is handled in the cloud. Make sure that your team has enough technical and legal knowledge to manage how your data migration should be done.

The DON'Ts of Cloud Transformation Strategy

  • Migrating to the cloud can be painful to some businesses when the wrong decisions are taken. We noticed that some companies motivate some choices by a specific business purpose, while some or most of the other uses can be ignored.
  • Proceeding without deeply comparing the different cloud offers is a common mistake. Your business needs and how applications are manufactured and managed by your cloud vendor may diverge with time.
  • Starting your cloud transformation journey without a business purpose may exacerbate the consequences. Also, migrating all your applications and data at once, does not make your company cloud-native, you should be cloud-ready before.
  • Cloud transformations are anything but straight-forward, it is not about accomplishing some tasks in a checklist. With all the elements that revolve around the different choices and strategies for cloud migration and efficient transformations, doing everything on your own may harm your business continuity.
  • Applications and data are getting complex. While focusing on your business value is critical to your customers, becoming cloud-native, and achieving your cloud transformation objectives is as important as the other business aspects.
  • Engaging with a specialized partner like Qentelli eliminates any risk in your cloud transformation projects and grants you more time and energy to focus on your core business values.

Cloud Application Migration is not an easy decision to take. It does not always result in Infrastructure modernization. Cloud Transformation initiative directly impacts on various business components. Optimization is the key factor throughout the game. Have more questions? Feel free to write us: info@qentelli.com

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