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Cloud Migration in a Crisis: What should your Strategy look like in 2023?

Gordon McKenna

Gordon McKenna
CTO, Public Cloud

The beginning and the end of 2022 look incredibly different from one another. The year, which began with businesses optimistically emerging from the pandemic, is ending on the precipice of recession. All this is being exacerbated by spiralling energy costs, more expensive borrowing, and significant supply chain disruption. 

However, the bleak economic outlook is causing many businesses to cut back expenditure, with many focusing on investments with clear ROI and quickly realizable benefits. Many are asking, therefore, if the cloud is one such investment. Our take? Absolutely. Many businesses and organizations are waking up to the significant benefits cloud computing can provide, whether it is the scalability, the flexibility, or the capacity for innovation.

Migrating to, upgrading, or building cloud infrastructure at any time requires significant thinking and expertise. During times of economic frugality, pressure is often applied for developers to perform more with less. 

Why planning is fundamental

Planning is essential to any successful cloud migration. Businesses will often move too quickly into the cloud with little consideration for their long-term vision, how the cloud will impact their business operations, measuring and monitoring success, or how to maximize the cloud once the migration is complete. On these occasions, the process is essentially running on a blank check. However, 2023 is going to be dictated by efficiency and savings. To align with that, planning is essential.

Any migration needs a detailed, thoughtful plan that commits to goals, sets out standards and methods of quantifying those goals, is realistic with costs and has buy-in from the executives and staff that will ultimately be affected. 

It begins with sketching out a clear landing zone, a step-by-step guide that maps out the entire migration process, marking out major processes and elements. A good landing zone is a tool that ensures each individual step is viewed as part of a cohesive whole, rather than siloed activities, which can be easy to get carried away with. This can then be used as a core framework to align teams, monitor progress, and visualize the entire migration journey. Typically, a landing zone will include processes such as creating accounts, network management, security, identity & access all the way to end user interaction and will encapsulate the entirety of the migration process from beginning to end.

Migration readiness is an integral part of any cloud migration. This doesn’t just mean completing an inventory of existing infrastructure but also completing application dependency mapping. You will need an in-depth understanding of how your tech stack operates, understanding what elements of your architecture are in communication. From there, you can migrate your digital footprint planning for minimum business impact. Of course, cloud migration can’t occur all at once. It must be done in iterative stages, migrating bit by bit, allowing time for testing, scaling, and optimizing.

Cloud architecture can get very complex very quickly, which is why it is paramount that you stick to your targets, have a framework for monitoring progress and success, and don’t move the goalposts by letting objectives drift. Once your organization meets its goals, it is about iterative, achievable progress.

Achieving business goals: Buy, build or rent? 

Part of the planning process is deciding whether you want to buy, build or rent your cloud infrastructure. The important thing to remember is that there isn’t a “correct” answer here. Every organization is different and has varied aims and goals. The ultimate decision will depend entirely on those aims, expectations and demands. 

Moving to the cloud needs to be tangible and aligned with business goals. When businesses look at expenditure during the challenging year that 2023 promises to be, they need to be able to quantify investment against success metrics. Therefore, the cloud migration strategy and the business case should be very tightly aligned, particularly in the upcoming year. In fact, they should be practically joined at the hip. 

A significant misnomer, based on an imperfect understanding of cloud computing, is that a business can lift its legacy infrastructure, dump it in the cloud and save money due to economies of scale. Yes, many companies make significant savings through the cloud; but it requires upfront investment, automation, and optimization. Today, the main reasons for adopting cloud technology lie beyond cost: innovation, personalization, scalability, and flexibility.

Many people will use the analogy of moving house to explain this decision. For example, do you want to move your existing stuff into a newer home? Do you want the design to be bespoke and tailored to your exact needs? Once you move into the new premises, how do you plan to optimise your living situation? For example, you might want a smart house with automated technology and gadgets to simplify your life’s processes. All of these factors are important to consider. 

This analogy is a handy way to visualize what it is you want for your business’ cloud architecture. In today’s cloud climate, however, it isn’t an exact match. With the availability of hyperscalers like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, ‘renting’ is much more common through subscription models. Unlike building or buying infrastructure, utilizing hyperscalers means you only pay for the computing space that you use.

Automate or operate: Importance of governance and the devolution of responsibility

Another misnomer about cloud migration is that it has a finite endpoint. The truth is that it is after migration occurs that the real value comes in. The cloud isn’t like other computing architectures like mainframe, where you buy the equipment, set it up, and it functions without being bothered much. 

Within the cloud, best practices constantly update and evolve, providing new opportunities for innovation, automation, and optimization. Some may think this is a downside, but it is the cloud’s greatest advantage. The reason so many organizations struggle with legacy infrastructure is because mainframe architecture doesn’t have the same capacity for iterative innovation readily available in the cloud. 

Migration to the cloud should come with a culture change, with governance being thought of as real time action rather than an evaluation of the past. Many organizations are utilizing collaboration frameworks such as DevSecOps and well-architected reviews to ensure the potential for their architecture is being realized.

DevSecOps approaches development and operations in a way that integrates security into every aspect of the full life cycle of applications. Policy-wise, the devolution of responsibility that often comes with hyperscalers means that while they are responsible for the security of the cloud platform, the businesses using the platform are responsible for protecting their own data. DevSecOps means implementing security at the beginning of the migration and continuously through both culture and automation. The resulting benefits are enormous, from increased revenue and faster mean time to recover, to speedier lead time for changes and a quicker time to market.

Similarly, to DevSecOps, well-architected reviews are a handy and usually free tool that helps organizations view cloud computing as an active process. To make genuine innovations and savings, you can’t just automate and forget. Well-architected reviews measure elements of your stack, whether an application, a firewall or a web-driven workload and evaluate the environment alongside best practices. This process, once again, means endless opportunities for optimization, innovation, and scaling, providing the capacity not just to survive but thrive during the challenging year ahead. 

Turning crisis into success

Few organizations would disagree that 2023 will be a tough year. Using that change as a reason to cut off investment in the cloud is a decision to dig your heels in the sand and prioritize survival. Alternatively, 2023 can be a time of innovation, doubling down on your business goals and vision, and investing in future success. 

Is cloud computing an investment? Of course, it is. Anyone who tells you differently isn’t being upfront. However, is it an investment that is worth it in the current economic climate? We firmly believe that it is, and that it will lead to significantly bolstered success in 2023 and beyond. 

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