Moving your business to the cloud
Everyone seems to be moving to the cloud. If your company hasn’t, it can start to feel like the rapture has taken place, and you’re the only ones left behind. Cloud computing has created a workload-location decision process that businesses must confront sooner or later. Gartner recently predicted that by 2025, “80% of enterprises will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centres”. According to the report, the trend of moving workloads away from the premises will continue, leading most businesses to shut down their traditional data centres.
In Nigeria, specifically in Lagos and Abuja, a number of data centre and cloud service providers have emerged. While issues around pricing, performance, capacity and standardization remain, these providers are able to offer Nigerian businesses options that could meet their requirements for colocation, lower network latencies, local content delivery networking (CDN) and regulatory compliance. Also, public cloud giants like Google, Microsoft and Oracle are gradually increasing their footprints in Nigeria and, as the local market matures and as businesses become increasingly more cloud-aware, will continue to do so.
Interestingly, the motivation to migrate workloads from on-premise data centres could come from something as trivial as FOMO (fear of missing out) or something as important as the desire for cost savings. A healthy dose of realism is needed for both extremes, however, and for every motivating factor in between. The truth is, depending on the deployment scenario and the strategy adopted, the cloud could initially cost more than on-premise options. Also, while being tech-forward is good, adapting people and processes to a technology change is tough and could take several months or even years.
However, businesses often find that, in the long run, the strategic value of migrating, such as increased workforce productivity and business agility, often dwarfs the inconveniences. Furthermore, the savings on hard costs such as license renewals, hardware replacements and electricity bills, and soft costs such as manpower, are significant, especially over several years.
At the start of a company’s cloud journey, a migration assessment will help to identify the organization’s current readiness for the cloud; there are tools and cloud provider partners to help facilitate this. After that process is completed, the migration can start in earnest.
One of the most commonly adopted cloud migration strategies is the AWS “7 R’s” strategy, namely: Relocate, Rehost, Replatform, Repurchase, Refactor (Rearchitect), Retain, Retire. When businesses “relocate” their workloads, they move already virtualized applications running on VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix etc into cloud environments that support them. Alternatively, when businesses choose to “rehost”, they move workloads from multiple source platforms, such as physical or another cloud provider, not just virtual. The new cloud provider offers infrastructure-as-a-service. That way, IT teams are able to manage their server environments almost exactly as if they were in their own data centre; this is often called “lift-and-shift”.
A modification to that strategy is called “lift-tinker-and-shift”, also referred to as “replatform”. Here, businesses take advantage of their provider’s native cloud offerings but without making changes to their core architecture. For instance, in order to reduce the amount of time they spend managing database instances, an organization can move to a database-as-a-service offering such as Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS).
The fourth “R” is to “repurchase”. Here, businesses examine software-as-a-service options and look for licensing models that match their business needs. Those needs may not be solely commercial, for instance, the overheads involved in patching and managing several on-premise messaging and collaboration software could drive a company to look for cloud alternatives like Microsoft’s Modern Workplace.
However, none of these strategies fully maximize the potential of cloud computing. In order to build truly cloud-native environments, some organizations choose to “refactor” or to “rearchitect” their deployment. A typical example is moving away from the traditional monolithic server architecture to service-oriented architecture (SOA) or microservices. This would allow businesses to use technologies that offer greater flexibility such as serverless computing. A little note of caution though, this is often the most expensive solution, at least initially, and would require the heaviest investment in software development.
Ultimately, many businesses prefer to “retain” their infrastructure. Or, because portions of their IT infrastructure must be kept on-premise, they might favour a hybrid architecture. Many cloud providers are able to meet such customers halfway by providing products that bring the same services, the same management tools, and the same operating model into their data centre. Services such as Oracle’s Cloud at Customer and AWS Outposts stand out.
The last “R” is to “retire”. Here, businesses use the cloud readiness assessment as an opportunity to identify IT assets that have run their course and are no longer useful. By turning such assets off, businesses are able to redirect their attention towards maintaining the resources that are more widely used.
As cloud computing continues to evolve, an 8th “R” might be added to this strategy. It was Gartner that first proposed a standard migration strategy. That was back in 2011, in the early days of cloud adoption. There were only 5 R’s then. The countdown to that 2025 business environment that Gartner envisioned is well and truly on. By that time, most organizations, even in Nigeria, would have migrated to the cloud. Where will your business be?