Two challenges of moving to the cloud

In this blog I am going to discuss two challenges that companies are encountering in their migration to the cloud. Before going there though, I’m going to provide a reminder of the benefits of cloud as well as looking at some myths around cloud. I am then going to look at two challenges companies face moving to the cloud and lastly suggestions on how to overcome these challenges.

Benefits of going cloud

It’s worth remembering that there are huge advantages in moving to the cloud and that overcoming the challenges of such a move are worth the effort. As a reminder, the benefits of cloud include:

  1. Flexibility: Ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands.

  2. Disaster recovery: Cloud-based backup and recovery save time and avoid large up-front investment and third-party expertise.

  3. Automatic software updates: Suppliers take care of regular software updates including security updates.

  4. Capital-expenditure (Capex) free: The pay-as-you-go cloud subscription model is an operational expense (Opex) and not a capital one.More on this later.

  5. Increased collaboration: Teams can access, edit and share documents anytime, from anywhere, they’re able to do more together, and do it better.

  6. Work from anywhere: If you have an internet connection then you can be at work.

  7. Document control: All files can be stored in the cloud with everyone seeing one version of the truth.

  8. Security: Data is stored in the cloud and not on individual laptops.

  9. Competitiveness: Pay-as-you-go service and cloud business applications provide the ability to disrupt the market while remaining lean and nimble.

  10. Environmentally friendly: Cutting down on data centres by switching IT operations to a public cloud provider significantly lowers carbon emissions and electricity consumption.

Myths of the cloud

Now we have reminded ourselves of the benefits of moving to the cloud, let’s examine some myths around cloud.

SoftwareONE commissioned a survey of 200 C-level and IT decision makers, titled “On-premise and cloud spend survey”, to determine the state of the cloud.

  • Myth 1: Cloud is always cheaper and easier to manage than OnPremise.

  • 37% reported unpredictable budget costs.

  • 30% indicated lack of visibility and transparency.

  • Myth 2: There is still low-hanging fruit in the cloud.

  • Biggest concerns using cloud are high costs, systems performance, connecting legacy systems and lack of defined strategy.

  • Myth 3: All levels of an organization are aligned on cloud usage and challenges.

  • There is a disconnect between the perceived IT budget of IT decision makers and those at C-level.

Two challenges of moving to the cloud

So, we see from the myths that there are definite challenges moving to the cloud of which I will focus on two – managing costs and the skills shortage.

1. Managing costs

In the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report, 80% of enterprises surveyed cited managing cloud spend as one of their key challenges.

From my research there are several key areas around costs that have to be very carefully managed:

  • Pay-as-you-go model:

Key reasons for using cloud is that a company can get access to services in minutes and that payment is often made AFTER a company has used the services and on a monthly basis.

This should set alarm bells ringing! What happens if each division in your company decided to go cloud? Cloud adoption needs to be very carefully managed and cloud costs monitored on a monthly if not daily basis.

  • Elasticity model:

Elasticity means that a cloud supplier will be able to provide you increased capacity as you need it. This is great but it also means that as your companies use increases so will cost.

  • Capex vs. Opex:

On the surface paying smaller monthly operational costs seems to be better than paying for a large purchase and annual maintenance costs. The problem is that operational costs can quickly get out of control as in the two points above.

  • Double costs:

What I have found is that many companies don’t seem to realise that they start paying for cloud services as soon as they activate them. This means that detailed cloud migration plans need to be created before embarking on a cloud project because you will need to get off OnPremise as soon as possible.If this is delayed, then you will pay for both your OnPremise and cloud costs and your return-on-investment will be severally reduced.

Information week published an article titled “10 Tips for Managing Cloud Costs” and these are the tips that they suggest:

  1. Monitor spending on a daily basis.

  2. Shut down unused or unnecessary instances.

  3. Require tags company-wide.

  4. Rely on automation rather than manual processes.

  5. Consider a standalone cloud cost management tool.

  6. Invest in a hybrid cloud management tool if your needs are more complex.

  7. Look for a solution with machine learning capabilities.

  8. Take a systematic approach to cloud cost management.

  9. Watch out for vendor lock-in.

  10. Optimize private cloud costs.

2. Skill shortage

The migration from OnPremise to cloud requires not only a new mindset but also a new skill set for both business and IT. Business will need to learn how cloud operates, the different cloud offering and their pricing, while IT will need the skills to operate within the chosen cloud environment and migrate the OnPremise applications to the cloud.

Possibly the best solution is to use the existing IT employees, who are familiar with your legacy technology, and train them to use the cloud technology selected. The main challenge with this approach is that the shelf life for cloud computing skills is increasingly short. The fast pace of new releases necessitates a strong commitment to regular training and education in order to maintain and retain top talent.

For this to be successful a company needs a robust internal training program that enables the company to:

  • Build a culture of continuous learning.

  • Align the training strategically with your business goals.

  • Make training relevant to each employee’s role and operational environment.

  • Be future-minded

The other option is to employ or contract expert skills. An article on titled “Acquiring the Right Cloud Skills Will Be Major Challenge for IT in 2019” (states that they conducted a survey amongst IT leaders and found that 33% were finding it difficult to find IT professionals with the right skills.

How to overcome these challenges

To assist companies with these challenges all the major cloud providers have created Cloud Adoption Frameworks. I will place links to these companies and their offerings at the end of this blog.

As an example of how these frameworks operate I will go through the Amazon Web Services Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) below. AWS also has a CAF workshop that can be done onsite.

The AWS Cloud Adoption Framework

The objective of the framework is to assist companies to shift their budgets from Opex to Capex and to be a guide to update employee skills, adapt existing process and introduce new processes.

The framework consists of 6 perspectives – 3 relating to business/people objectives and 3 covering the technology itself.

AWS CAF 6 perspectives

Here is an overview of the 6 perspectives:

  • Business perspective - value realisation:

  • Make sure that IT is aligned with business objectives.

  • IT investment is traced to business results.

  • The right stakeholders are engaged within the business.

  • Prioritize the cloud adoption priorities around IT finance, IT strategy, benefits realisation and business risk management.

  • Work on the IT finance capital to consumption-based pricing migration.

  • Work on an IT strategy to enable IT as a business enabler.

  • Calculate a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Assess the business risks covering preventable, strategic and external risks.

  • Peoples’ perspective:

  • Staff capability and change management.

  • Resource management covering project personnel needs and plan to attract and hire talent.

  • Incentive management – competitive compensation and benefits to attract and retain employees.

  • Career management – personal fulfilment of employees, career opportunities and their financial security.

  • Training management – ensure knowledge and skills necessary as well assisting staff to frequently change and upgrade their skills.

  • Organisational change management – manage the effects and impacts of business, structural and cultural change.

  • Governance perspective:

  • Portfolio management – focus on capability to manage and prioritize IT investment, programs and projects in alignment with business goals.

  • Program and project management – capability to manage one or more projects on time and budget.

  • Business performance measurement – measure and optimize processes.

  • License management – capability to procure, distribute and manage licenses needed for IT, services and software.

  • Platform perspective:

  • Compute provisioning – provide processing and memory for enterprise applications.

  • Network provisioning – networks as a service.

  • Storage provisioning – cloud block and file.

  • Database provisioning – relational databases in the cloud.

  • Systems and solution architecture – define and describe the design of the system.

  • Application development – customise and develop applications.

  • Security perspective:

  • Identity and access management – multiple access control mechanisms and manage permissions.

  • Detective control – native logging and greater visibility.

  • Infrastructure security – defined and adjusted to meet workload and business requirements.

  • Data protection – visibility and control of data.

  • Incident response – ability to respond, manage, reduce harm and restore operations.

  • Operations perspective:

  • Enable, run, use, operate and recover.

  • Define how day-to-day business will be conducted.

  • Service monitoring to detect and respond with the health of IT services.

  • Application performance monitoring.

  • Resource inventory management.

  • Release and change management.

  • Reporting and analytics.

  • Business continuity.

  • IT service catalogue.

An AWS CAF workshop consists of 4 steps:

  1. Identify which cloud stakeholders are critical to cloud adoption.

  2. Understand questions and concerns that may delay or impede cloud adoption.

  3. Identify skills and processes that are needed.

  4. Create an action plan for updating these identified skills and processes.

The workshop will use the worksheet below resulting in an executable action plan.

Worksheet for an AWS CAF workshop

More information on the AWS Cloud Adoption Workshop can be found here.

Other resources for you to use

As mentioned there are other resources from other cloud providers that can be used to assist you with your cloud projects.