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In today’s high-stakes digital landscape, companies can’t afford to depend solely on in-house (on-prem) servers, storage, and networking to run the applications they depend on. While running your own on-prem infrastructure gives you complete control, it takes time to make changes to address your business needs. Plus, staffing the infrastructure properly with scarce talent can become expensive.
Cloud-based computing offers an elegant alternative to on-prem strategies. Cloud service providers deliver infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This allows enterprises to be more flexible. With the cloud, you can quickly scale up in response to spikes in demand, deploying additional servers, storage, and networking resources when needed. To respond to business changes quickly and more economically, companies need to adopt cloud servers as part of their tech stack.
A primer on hybrid cloud strategy
When deploying tech in the cloud, you still have to figure out how to integrate cloud resources with on-prem systems, storage, and networking. As long as you’re running some portion of your applications on-prem and some in the cloud, your strategy is called “hybrid computing.”
The hybrid computing approach is the way of the future. That’s because it is, by its very definition, flexible, customizable, and capable of meeting innovation needs. Hybrid computing is a sensible approach because it borrows advantages from each pool: the security and control that on-prem computing delivers with the scalability and room for innovation of the public cloud. Also, with hybrid computing, you pay only for the services you use so you don’t have to be permanently tied to resources you might no longer need.
Demand for hybrid computing is expected to grow at an impressive compounded annual growth rate of 21%. The forecast calls for the global market to reach $172 million by 2025. The slice of the market for the U.S. government alone is pegged to hit $4.5 billion by then.
Six steps to a seamless cloud migration strategy
While hybrid computing is the way of the future, migration to the cloud takes a focused strategy—one that you can customize to your enterprise’s specific needs. The hybrid approach is usually the best for most businesses with existing on-prem infrastructure. Realistically, taking hybrid steps is often the only way you can take a large existing on-prem estate and gradually move it to the cloud. You know the riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Every company travels a different route on the road to hybrid cloud migrations. If your enterprise wants to migrate to a hybrid model or has not yet realized the full potential of hybrid computing, following these steps can make for a less bumpy on-ramp.
1. Survey the landscape
Using cloud-based applications for your business is not an all-or-nothing deal. You’re probably running many applications, perhaps hundreds of them, for different purposes. Each of these applications has its own criticality and service level needed for your business, and when it comes to deciding whether it should run on the cloud, different criteria might apply to different applications.
Besides IaaS, some cloud providers also offer complete applications as a service. If what they offer is suitable for you, then you have the option of migrating away from your existing similar application and moving the users to the cloud. Other applications might be suitable for “lift-and-shift,” i.e., a straightforward migration to run on virtual servers in the cloud instead of on-prem. Something in the middle is also possible, where an application’s back-end database might continue to run on your infrastructure, while only its front-end web servers run in the cloud, for example. The particular mix needed in your case depends on the needs of your business and the ease of migrating each application.
2. Locate the low-hanging fruit
How comfortable are you with moving your most precious intellectual property and details about your customer relationships to a computing infrastructure that you don’t own? This is a business question. Does your infrastructure handle secret engineering designs or customer contracts? If you handle medical data for patients, for example, then do you even have the option of saving it in the cloud? For many businesses, strict privacy protocols such as HIPAA patient confidentiality mandate rigid security, something the cloud might not easily provide. If that’s the case, the decision is made for some of your applications, and you can remove these from cloud consideration. Other low-hanging fruit such as processing of machine learning algorithms might be easier to move to the cloud.
3. Figure out dependencies
Often, multiple applications share modules like back-end databases. It might not be possible to move one of these applications to the cloud without also moving the common dependencies. This kind of situation could constrain your migration strategy and make decisions easier. Then again, it might be possible to take this opportunity to break those dependencies if you need to. You need to involve those who understand the application and its dependencies intimately, and also take your key stakeholders into confidence before you make changes.
4. Consider open source
If you are considering changing to a different application or to a different module, library, or database infrastructure, then you owe it to yourself to evaluate open-source alternatives. Open-source software has come a long way in terms of quality and is now ubiquitous, particularly in leading-edge cloud environments. With a large and active user base, the most popular open-source software, like Linux (operating system), Python (programming language), and Postgres (database server) are stable and well supported. If it’s suitable for your needs, there’s no reason not to use it. Saving on license costs is the last reason to do so, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
5. Focus on people and processes
Before you start anywhere, remember that great technology is the sum of talented people and efficient processes. Use both as a backdrop to frame your roadmap and chart progress.
Take your staff into confidence. The choices you make when migrating your applications will change daily workflows and affect your IT staff. People are resistant to change and it’s important to share your plans and give them some ownership. It might be a good time to have frank conversations and build trust. Some employees may be reluctant to give up control over an application and user base they developed over the years because it’s tied to their identity and expertise.
Moving to the brave new world of cloud is also an opportunity for older hands to pick up new tricks, especially if a cloud service provider reduces daily drudgery. Resetting somebody’s forgotten password for the umpteenth time gets old, and mundane tasks won’t be missed if a cloud provider automates it. Remember: Migrating to the cloud is not a sales job, but a partnership where both sides need to be heard. Just like any significant IT project, cloud migration can fail if your crew isn’t on board, even if you do everything else right.
6. Rinse and repeat
Once your migration is complete, it’s also a good idea to periodically assess the state of your hybrid cloud tech stack and to see if it’s best serving your needs.
If your tech stack includes many legacy on-prem systems and your integration strategy worked initially, but it’s stalling, it might be time to look at your ecosystem and employ data integration vendors. They may be able to customize a plan that works more smoothly in your favor.
Following and recalibrating a hybrid cloud strategy to your specific enterprise needs is important to successful cloud migration. The future lies in an ability to be agile and responsive. The explosive growth of big data—the market is expected to hit $103 billion by 2023—mandates powerful and easily scalable computing on-demand. The kind that hybrid computing delivers. Embracing the hybrid model can help companies leverage the power of digital transformation to their advantage — now and into the future.
By Poornima Apte