5 Steps to Get from On-Prem to Hybrid and Multi-Cloud

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With the convergence of THE CLOUD, the network and IT services, what is the best way to migrate from on-prem to hybrid and multi-cloud?

Agility in responding to change has never been more critical to business success—and cloud is how most organizations achieve greater flexibility and scalability. In fact, hybrid and multi-cloud have become the norm, with the cloud, the network and IT services  converging.1

However, many organizations have had challenges with the cloud, especially when it comes to cost control and security. They have also struggled with performance issues with cloud migrations that were rushed—a common occurrence with the recent pandemic—or executed before the organization had developed the necessary knowledge and skill sets to be truly successful. In fact, a recent study showed that 39% of companies moving to the cloud actually lost their competitive edge as an IT organization, instead of gaining it.1

The approximately 20% of workloads that have already been moved to public cloud were the easiest to migrate, which means the harder workloads remain on premise, many awaiting migration—albeit with the promise of greater impact and advantage.1 In addition, the cloud, the network and IT services are converging, and hybrid and multi-cloud has become the norm, which means any cloud transformation must take into account co-existence, flexibility and portability.1

Clearly, moving from on-prem to hybrid cloud, while challenging, is absolutely necessary to survive unprecedented change and to compete in the future. Many companies find themselves in the position of having to fix current deployments, while they move more workloads into the hybrid cloud. One of the keys to cloud success lies in the interplay between network experts and cloud experts.

Network & Cloud: From Convergence to Collaboration

Most organizations have cloud experts and networking experts, but rarely have people with meaningful expertise in both. Networking experts often know a great deal about running systems on-prem but not much about the cloud, and cloud experts typically only know networking in the cloud. The best way to run IT may be one way on-prem, but another way entirely in the cloud—so these experts obviously have different perspectives on how things should be done.

Part of leveraging cloud successfully is ensuring that these two groups of professionals develop an understanding of each other’s worlds and an ability to work together for the benefit of the business.

Further, many cloud initiatives require input from not only cloud and networking teams, but also platform, security, application, and business unit teams to name a few, that all need to work together to develop solutions that are automated and flexible, enabling the business to pivot and change. This requires a high level of collaboration.

Here are 5 steps you can follow to ensure your cloud efforts work for your business.

STEP 1: Get on the same page with a design that works for the company as a whole.

As many larger companies and enterprises still have silos between various groups and functions, breaking down barriers is critical to success. One way to do this is for all involved to keep the vision and the objective of the whole—the overall organization—front and center throughout the process.

For a successful hybrid cloud initiative, the primary application team, the cloud team, the security team and the network team will need to expand their knowledge to get on the same page. They should strive to create a multi-disciplinary team that can work together to determine answers to some difficult questions, in the best interests of the company—which may not always be the most comfortable or familiar terrain for either team.

IT groups tend to focus on perfecting technical architectures instead of achieving business outcomes. All cloud initiatives should follow an overarching cloud strategy that is hyper-focused on helping achieve your business vision and objectives. The technological decisions must always be in service to the business, and never the reverse. Migration approaches should drive transformation, not the ease of the mobilization effort, and even security and compliance should obviously meet all legal and industry requirements but consider the business’s priorities first.

STEP 2: Collaboratively deploy the design.

This is easier said than done. Even when the design is complete, the multi-disciplinary team needs to assess a variety of factors. These include:

  • What cloud providers do we have?
  • What regions are we in?
  • What connectivity do we need?

This will become a continuing conversation. It has to be an evolving process. For example, when your team develops a better way to get to the cloud, your work is only just beginning. You have to go through every endpoint. You need to identify a solution that scales well, is not prone to problems, and is secure. If the network/cloud is left as a hodge-podge, it will just become more of a mess as it gets bigger, so you have to clean it up as you go. And you have to ensure it can be kept safe from breaches including ransomware.

Throughout every step, you will reap the benefits of having participation from different teams. For example, one of the major benefits of involving the network team upfront in any cloud migration revolves around security. Bottom line: when something goes wrong in the cloud, the network team usually gets both the blame and the responsibility to deal with it. They usually care most, out of all their compatriots on the multidisciplinary team, about network security, control and visibility. Network experts are used to having controls on-premise that are not necessarily there in the public cloud. Since they will be responsible for problems as they arise, from simple breaches to major ransomware attacks, they can better operationalize responses if they are involved from the start and throughout the entire process.

STEP 3: Develop a strategy for how you will get to hybrid cloud.

Most companies reach a point where they decide they need to adopt a hybrid approach. Often, this occurs when a myriad of servers and databases need to access data from the cloud. At this point, and often for the first time, companies need large-scale connectivity. They may struggle with issues like the VPN they’ve had for 2 years no longer working well enough or being big enough.

Hybrid cloud not only gives you visibility, control and transiting, but it’s also a flexible, controllable, scalable solution. Often the problem is how to connect the on-prem world with the cloud world.

With hybrid cloud solutions, companies typically end up exploring strategies that include putting everything into a small colocation environment and then spreading it all out from there. This approach allows you to:

  • Centralize your management
  • Access cloud more cost-effectively
  • Enjoy lower latency
  • Control how it gets there—which means you own the whole thing

In some cases, organizations decide they need to keep workloads on-premise, often for compliance or security reasons. Organizations have come to expect private cloud to be as fast and easy as hybrid or public clouds—expectations private clouds can rarely meet. The good news is new approaches and technologies—such as distributed cloud—can help organizations address this issue.

After defining your organization’s desired business outcomes based on your particular situation, you will need to develop a cloud strategy that helps you achieve your vision by outlining your financial preferences, placement guidelines and migration plans, as well as security and resilience requirements and principles. As with any strategy, your cloud strategy will be dynamic and changing, but the one thing that remains the same is its purpose: achieving your business vision and desired outcomes. 

STEP 4: Prepare for the multi-cloud.

After making their way to the hybrid cloud, clients are often faced with multiple clouds. For example, a company may have had AWS forever, but now they need to spin up Azure. Companies often don’t want to learn another platform.

This is where overlays come in—solutions that help them translate the clouds so they can communicate with each other, and your people can interact with the multi-cloud the way they already know how.

Bottom line: when something goes wrong, the network team has to deal with it. They need security, compliance and visibility. Overlays layer extra visibility, controls and advanced network and network security features on top of the network capabilities and features offered by most cloud providers, and provide consistent network policy across multiple cloud providers.

STEP 5: Realize you’re in it for the long haul.

With little more than a fifth of applications already in the cloud, the journey is in its early stages. Obviously, it is a marathon at the very least, if not a part of life. If your company has a mandate to go to the cloud, consider it job security.

And, as you mentally prepare for the long journey ahead, here are three key aspects that you can keep in your focus:

Training

More than any other technology, the cloud is constantly changing. You need to stay up on trends and changes, and get into the mindset that you should always be learning. As talent shortages reach crisis levels, organizations should seriously consider investing in training their technical experts in cloud skills, as people with those skills are extremely hard to find (and command very high salaries).

Cost management

Cost control becomes much more important in the cloud, where spikes in usage or changes in pricing can cause nasty surprises. The network team isn’t responsible for cost rationalization, but as part of the company, needs to stay on top of changes and consider cost as a significant data point in ongoing design decisions and strategies.

Automation

Automation needs to be part of the ongoing conversation. Tools and basic scripting are a great first step, and are more accessible and easier to incorporate. In the future, though, hyper-automation and pervasive automation will require more focus.

Process automation is moving from siloed point solutions to becoming an end-to-end “layer” that sits above all of an organization’s applications and cloud services and manages the processes that flow across them, spanning and integrating all of the discrete automations and serving as a foundation for creating new automated processes.With an IT automation layer, you can more easily implement an automation-first approach that tackles discrete manual processes across the enterprise, while providing a standard and consistent foundation that the entire company can use.1

References

  1. Analyzing Forrester’s cloud focus: Why hybrid and multi-cloud are so vital, https://www.cloudcomputing-news.net/ , June 2020.
  2. Why You Should Treat Automation as a Standard ‘Layer’ in Your IT Solutions Stack Stack, CIO.com, September 2021.
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