9 Pitfalls of Cloud Migration and How to Protect Your Customer

Cloud migration
Clarify360's Jo Peterson

Jo Peterson

Chuck Price

Chuck Price

By Jo Peterson, Clarify360, and Chuck Price, Effectual

Every IT leader generally addresses four key areas when moving infrastructure to the cloud:

• Migration Preparation
• Specific Technical Consideration
• Target Cloud Environment Testing
• Production Cutover

These are the must-do’s, but what are the key things to avoid during a migration? As a trusted adviser to your clients, there are many ways you can provide value during this process and ultimately protect their best interests.

If your customer is just beginning their cloud journey, you’ll want to help them think through a number of technical, financial, cultural and process-based aspects of their transition.

Scroll through the slides below to learn the nine potential pitfalls you should critically consider when advising your client in their cloud migration.

Jo Peterson is the vice president of cloud services for Clarify360, a boutique sourcing and benchmarking consultancy focused on transforming technology into busines advantage. In addition to being the founding co-chair of Cloud Girls and serving on multiple provider advisory boards as well as the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board, Peterson is consistently ranked as a Top 100 Cloud Influencer by Rise Global and Top 100 Key Influencer in IoT by Global Data. Follow her on Twitter at @digitalcloudgal.

Chuck Price, co-founder and COO at Effectual, is a successful entrepreneur, business strategist and pioneer in cloud, cybersecurity and IT managed services. His professional passion lies in working with results-oriented business leaders helping them to develop digital transformation and cloud migration plans that lead to big wins on behalf of their customers, employees and shareholders. A deep technologist who also enjoys people, Price takes a servant-leader approach to sharing his more than 25 years of hands-on experience in leading corporate strategies that leverage human and technology capital in the development of high-growth opportunities. 

Datapipe's Robb Allen
1. Lack of C-Level Sponsorship

Cloud is as much a cultural change as it is a technical change. Moving to the cloud can fundamentally shift the way a business operates in areas like budgeting, day-to-day operations, end-user productivity, talent acquisition and development.

IT staff and managers will benefit from additional cloud training as a key investment in their long-term success. During the critical transformation phase of their efforts, consultants may also be needed to ensure IT understands how best to leverage new cloud capabilities and modernize applications in order to take full advantage of cloud services.

These types of organizational changes will be most successful with appropriate executive sponsorship and buy-in. Help your IT leader be a better business partner by helping them think through both positive and potentially negative business impacts of moving to the cloud.  If the business differentiators, risks and key drivers aren’t clear and the changes in the business aren’t articulated to the businesses leadership, it could be a very bumpy road.
Clear vision
2. Lack of Clear Vision and Strategy

As the legendary Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else!” When planning infrastructure and application cloud migrations, it’s helpful to organize potential cloud workloads into one of the six migration strategies below, which build upon cloud migration strategies first identified by Gartner in 2011. All workloads for migration within each category then have a common set of planning milestones that can drastically reduce planning complexity and associated risks. Guiding your IT leader through this planning exercise will greatly improve your odds of mutual migration success.

  1. Retain – Prioritize leaving the application or infrastructure as-is for the time being.
  2. Rehost (more popularly known as “lift and shift”) – Moving the application as-is into the cloud. Often clients are eager to redevelop applications to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. However, experience at scale has shown that businesses have a faster time to value (lower cost structure with faster time-to-market) by first “lifting and shifting” an application to the cloud as-is; once there, there are new opportunities available for re-architecting that provide additional cost savings, security enhancements and performance improvements.
  3. Replatform – Sometimes early, tangible business benefits may be gained with a key modification to the rehosting approach. Without changing core workload architectures, advise your clients to consider moving away from expensive licensing models and to potentially leverage more advanced platform technology. For example, a business might consider replatforming a web application by moving from WebLogic (expensive licensing model) to Apache Tomcat (open source) or from a Microsoft Windows operating system to a Linux-based open source alternative. Another common opportunity is to replatform an expensive database such as Oracle to an “as-a-service” managed database platform such as AWS’s RDS. A great opportunity here is for partners to bring managed hosted O365  offerings to clients in a variety of configurations and packages to meet clients’ needs.
  4. Retire – Getting rid of line-of-business applications altogether can often be decisions based on more emotion than quantifiable data for business leaders. However, critical consideration of these workloads during migration can often save 10 to 20 percent of an IT portfolio, so helping your client to navigate this conversation with his business peers can realize quick, tangible results as well as demonstrate critical business acumen.
  5. Re-architect/Refactor –This is typically the most complex and costly migration method as it often involves re-imagining and redeveloping critical business application architecture to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. Typical critical business drivers for adopting this migration strategy are to add needed application features for competitive differentiation or to add important scale, performance, stability or security enhancements.
  6. Repurchase – Move to a different product. This is often seen when moving an older, perhaps internally developed, product to a newer SaaS-based product. For example, moving CRM to Salesforce or HRIS to Workday.
Working with your client to develop their vision and strategy for their cloud migration, even if only at a very high level, will set them on the right path. Walking them through a a detailed analysis of what these migration strategies entail brings real business value to their project.
Big bang
3. Considering a Big Bang Approach

Some organizations are under the impression that they must move everything at once. This is the furthest from the truth. The reality is that organizations are in hybrid models (on-premises and cloud) for a long time because it’s difficult, costly and risky to move some workloads quickly. Help your customer understand that discretion is the better part of valor, especially when it comes to business-critical cloud migrations.
Applications all connected
4. Failure to Adequately Rationalize Applications

Do your clients know how their applications are all connected to one another today? Chances are, even if they think they know, they are likely wrong. Migrating to the cloud is not a walk in the park. Underestimating the complexities of application dependencies and integrations is one of the largest factors of failure. You must have the knowledge, skill and solid migration design to successfully move workloads to the cloud. When business leaders hear the words “lift and shift” they are mistakenly under the impression that all IT has to do is press a button (migrate) and then it’s “in the cloud.” This is a misperception that creates an opportunity for partners to fill their trusted adviser role through education, experience and partner relationships.

You probably have a number of providers in your portfolio that have practices around application rationalization. Tapping into one of them and bringing that conversation to your client can mean a win for you both.
Cloud migration costs
5. Underestimating Migration Costs

Moving large volumes of stored enterprise data is a nontrivial undertaking that is often grossly underestimated in cloud migrations. Cloud providers don't generally charge for moving data in, but this is one case where the speed of light actually is a limiting time factor to migrations across large distances! Depending on the volume of data it could take several weeks, or even months, to migrate. Be sure to estimate carefully how long it will take to move your client’s data. This is one place where measuring twice before cutting once will pay big dividends.
Cloud migration plan
6. Underestimating Cloud Migration and Application Integration Effort

Moving systems to the cloud requires a clear plan, and that’s only developed through a detailed analysis that’s guided by an appropriate vision and strategy. In these hybrid models an overall architectural design, informed by determining what is owned, accessed and borrowed, is critical.

Customers often discount the level of effort code changes will require in order to make the move to the cloud. It's not just about moving virtual machines — code might not work the same way running in the cloud and you might need to make small or deep changes.  For example, if an application requires a local file system, you will have to rewrite it to leverage cloud storage once you move it there. As a trusted adviser, you can bring a team to bear for the client that can help them navigate a move like this correctly.
7. Discounting the Importance of Training

Without specific experience and detailed cloud knowledge, a migration will certainly take longer than expected and run into material problems. Possibly even worse, once the migration is over, IT might find they’ve simply moved their old on-premises mess to the cloud and increased costs and risks in the process. For businesses in critical, regulated industries it is especially important to properly assess new control environments to meet regulatory requirements. This means, it’s not only the technical team that needs to update their skills, but often HR and legal professionals do as well.

Several of the firms in your current portfolio should offer staff training on both AWS and Azure services today. Educating your clients on the importance of cloud training can help them solve for a problem they surely know needs to be addressed.
IT management processes
8. Failure to Update IT Management Processes

Process change is the piece that enterprises often fail to consider, assuming they can just continue to manage their new cloud environments using their existing processes. Technology executives leading cloud migrations must also consciously lead organizational changes to move beyond legacy IT management methodologies.

The issue is that properly managing cloud applications and infrastructure entails much more than just picking up an application and dropping it in the cloud. Real business benefit to the enterprise of adopting modern cloud services is only realized if its properly monitored and maintained. Using the cloud shouldn't just be about quick access to on-demand utility compute capacity and “cheap and deep” storage; true digital transformation is achievable only after adopting modern IT management practices such as DevOps and agile “cloud first” product development. 

Also, bear in mind that just because your clients may have already begun their journey to the cloud, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide solid, incremental business value here. Cloud operations including security and compliance, 24x7 incident response, patching, backup, disaster recovery and monitoring are just a few of the tools you can bring to add value to existing cloud footprints.
Protect data
9. Failure to Protect Data

It’s obviously incumbent upon businesses to choose a cloud service model that appropriately protects their most important digital assets. But while businesses often implicitly understand that they need to ensure the protection of their data once it’s hosted on a new cloud platform, they often miss the fact that they need to protect their data during the process of transition as well. To avoid this, businesses need to carefully consider the data security pros and cons of data in transit as well as the implications of data hosted in private cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud models.

There is where you step in. Clients with established cloud footprints are looking to optimize those footprints and optimization goes well beyond cost savings. You can bring tools to bear today from the providers in your portfolio that will close the gaps that might exist around security, reliability, performance, and operational excellence.

Providing value to your client during an initial cloud migration can open the door to additional opportunity with existing footprints, ongoing operation and optimization. Helping them avoid many of these common, costly pitfalls during migration can strengthen your position as a trusted expert adviser and indispensable extension of their team.

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