In 2019, it is difficult to imagine a business that doesn’t have at least one portion of its infrastructure running on the cloud. Companies, startups and enterprises are moving some or all of their apps, services, projects and infrastructures from on-premise servers onto cloud-based platforms as the latter offers much more dynamic, accessible, scalable and cost-effective solutions that are greatly beneficial to all types of growing businesses.
To put these claims into a bit more tangible numbers, according to an article published in Forbes and the data from the study called LogicMonitor’s Cloud Vision 2020: The Future of the Cloud, up to 83% of enterprise workflow will be taking place in the cloud by the end of the year 2019, while almost half of those will operate on public cloud platforms like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.
The above-mentioned numbers and predictions come as no surprise. The businesses that choose to migrate to public cloud-based platforms experience numerous benefits as they can:
- Access their data whenever and wherever
- Have complete control over their infrastructure and its scalability
- Optimize their monthly costs so they are paying only for the services they are actually using
- Deploy streamlined services, processes and operations that make progress and development faster and more efficient
- Increase the overall productivity of your team(s)
- Automate maintenance and server repairment
- Obviate the need for complex and time-consuming server updates, upgrades and licensing
- Have a more reliable infrastructure overall
All these benefits of cloud computing have caused a ripple effect in the Digital Transformation landscape, with cloud-based platforms as the foundation of new IT technologies that make our business management efforts more flexible and efficient.
However, there’s still a certain shroud of doubt that envelops the convoluted process of cloud enablement. And for good reason. The complexity and the seemingly hefty cost of the transition are two main aspects that factor into why many organizations are still not ready to embrace this technology and opt for migration. Much like it is the case with any other big project and workflow shift, cloud enablement requires detailed planning and impeccable execution with minimum or no downtime. Poorly orchestrated cloud migration may (and most likely will) have devastating repercussions that might result in precarious infrastructure and huge financial losses.
Therefore most organizations, in order to avoid the said scenario, opt for the outside hire (typically a company with the right expertise and tools for the job) to seamlessly and successfully deploy the transition and properly reap the long-term benefits and rewards of cloud enablement.
Types of Clouds: Disambiguation
In order to perfectly hone one’s grasp of the cloud enablement process, we should first tackle the matter of cloud types. According to the transformative networked computing model, there are 3 main types of the cloud:
- Private – involves cloud solutions designed for a single organization
- Public – involves the IT services that are delivered across the Internet
- Hybrid – incorporates both on-premises infrastructure and cloud services
According to the technology model of the cloud service, 3 most widely spread types include:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – These providers (most typically Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine) offer storage and virtual servers that can be configured according to your current needs, size of your company, number of users, etc.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Most popular with developers, PaaS offers an easily managed system of databases, servers, and management/software development tools.
Software as a Service (SaaS) – This model offers IT companies user-friendly business services and comprehensive business solutions for their everyday needs like CRM and HR.
Note: In this cloud enablement guide, we will mostly be talking about moving to the public IaaS type of cloud.
Who Should Consider Deploying Cloud Enablement Solutions and Why
CIOs, CEOs, and CFOs of modern enterprises, startups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) should by now be well aware of all major pain points that come with on-premise servers and static infrastructure, but in case these pitfalls are still not as clear as they should be, here are the most pertinent ones that should factor into your decision the most:
- Static, on-premises infrastructure is not easily scalable which can result in substantial costs when the company starts to expand
- Physical servers need costly hardware updates every 3 to 5 years
- Your workflow can be hindered and interrupted by slow and unreliable servers
- In case of physical disasters like floods, fire, or electricity breakdowns – physical data centres and servers can lose the stored data beyond retrieval
All these downsides and potential issues with on-prem servers can be avoided by properly leveraging cloud technologies and deploying IaaS solutions in such a way so the overall performance of your business and your day-to-day workflow is systematically improved and made more flexible.
Naturally, this shift is not an easy task.
There are various moving parts and the entire strategy should be carefully planned out and seamlessly executed so there’s no downtime, while the end-product must check all your boxes in terms of your infrastructure needs and wishes. Being able to adapt and tackle any possible cloud enablement scenario and successfully migrate a company’s very foundation to an online public platform is what our team at SuperAdmins does best.
Opting for quick, short-term, and one-step-at-the-time cloud enablement approach is almost never a good practice, which is why we prompt our clients to not only shift their infrastructure to the cloud but do the same with their mindsets as well. In order to truly adapt to the ever-changing business landscape in the turbulent digital era, CEOs and CIOs of growing companies should think progressively, deploy the industry’s best practices and recognize what exactly will herald most vital changes within the industry in the near future. Only then will their company manage to stay ahead of the curve.
When is the Right Time to Deploy Cloud Enablement Services?
The cloud enablement procedure must not be forced. It must ensue.
There are numerous potential stumbling blocks that may cause difficulties with the transition process, resulting in rational and valid hesitation among the executives of a company that is considering cloud migration.
The potential issues include:
- Data losses
- Unnecessary costs
- Unoptimized, untailored infrastructure
- Static cloud environment
These potential pitfalls should be among the main drivers behind the most crucial step of the cloud enablement process – planning phase. This is when you, in cooperation with your cloud enablement service provider, make way for the entire process to turn into a success. Here, we predict and – more importantly – iron out all the hidden difficulties and seemingly trivial hiccups that can render the entire migration strategy futile.
Once this is done, we are ready to kick-start the procedure and watch your migration unfold steadily and without any unnecessary friction. Sure, there may still be a couple of proverbial fires that you will need to put out on the fly, but this is exactly what a cloud enablement service provider is for – developing a custom cloud architecture that will suit your unique needs and make sure all your projects, accounts and valuable data is preserved once the shift is completed.
Essentially, a company is ready for a shift when:
- There is a detailed, custom-tailored and plausible migration plan
- There is a custom-made and well-optimized cloud environment model that will work perfectly for your unique workflow
- There is a solution for every foreseeable issue that may occur along the way
Benefits of Using Cloud Enablement Services
In order to keep a physical infrastructure capable of withstanding peak workflows, a company must update and upgrade their on-prem servers periodically, but even then this type of architecture is almost impossible to optimize. Take a look at this graph depicting the main pain point of operating on physical servers:
The advantages of migrating from on-premise servers onto cloud-based platforms are manifold, and they involve:
Overall Cost and ROI
To completely understand the potential overall ROI after the entire cloud enablement project is complete, we first must do the initial assessment. This is when we glean the pertinent data in order to calculate exactly how much money you could be saving by moving to the cloud.
Essentially, there are 3 major aspects that factor into the equation: Cost Reduction, Productivity Enhancement and Revenue Transformation.
More tangible cloud enablement cost-saving data suggests that organizations which adopt the public cloud model save anywhere from 14% to 40% (depending on the company size) of their overall budget, both capital and operational, according to Forbes and Gartner. These savings come as a result of:
- Lower server needs
- Significant CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) savings
- Significant OPEX (Operating Expenses) savings
- More optimal person-to-server ratio (lower personnel requirements)
- Lower Software and Hosting expenditure
In order to have a smooth shift to the cloud, the migration process needs to have a linear, incremental approach instead of the step-by-step one. As the shift involves your entire business, not just the IT department, the workflow should be uninterrupted and the transition should be seamless, without any significant downtime. This can only be done by employing a team of experienced cloud enablement experts who will make sure all the processes, projects and plans your company is currently involved in are carefully analyzed, evaluated and taken into consideration during the shift.
Scalability: Dynamic (OPEX) VS Static (CAPEX) Infrastructure
The problem with Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) type of infrastructure is that the company overpays for their servers in the beginning, with the potential to, at some point during the company’s growth, their workload and the potential of their servers coincide and become well-optimized. However, in most cases with static infrastructure, the need for more servers comes rather quickly, which means the company will yet again overpay for their upgrade until the workload meets its target potential, and so on…
Here’s a graph depicting this crucial pain point with on-prem servers:
With dynamic, operational expenditure (OPEX), you get a scalable environment within which you pay each month exactly what you are using at that particular moment. In other words – there are no unnecessary costs.
Stability and Improved Workflow Efficiency
Once your projects, data, infrastructure, and business goals have been successfully adapted and moved to the cloud, their maintenance will become more stable and much less challenging, while there will also be a significant increase in workflow efficiency as your employees will have the privilege to devote their time and creativity to tasks that are more pertinent for your business.
According to the data gathered through the survey conducted by Spiceworks, the overall reduction of support burden on the company’s IT staff is 36%.
Time To Market (TTM) is Shortened for all Components/Increments
TTM can be a vital factor in the dynamic eCommerce landscape where products quickly become outmoded and/or obsolete. Migrating to the cloud enables companies to shorten the time period from the moment their product is conceived until the product becomes available on the market.
Though security might be the main reason why some businesses are still hesitant about moving to the cloud, the avid team behind the apt and carefully executed cloud enablement process (and the subsequent maintenance plan for the new cloud architecture) will make sure that your projects, applications and data are completely secure and impervious to breaches and data losses.
SuperAdmins’ 4-Step Cloud Enablement Program
The experienced team behind SuperAdmins’ cloud enablement service has developed a potent and fail-safe 4-step program that can effectively and seamlessly move a company’s infrastructure onto the cloud. Their cloud enablement service can tackle almost any migration to the public cloud, regardless of the company size and the complexity of their IT infrastructure.
The businesses we most typically work with include:
- Companies of any size (from Micro to Large)
The cloud enablement procedure is more or less the same with all these businesses, so let’s delve a bit deeper into each of the 4 main steps of our cloud enablement program:
Step 1: Assessment
Once the SuperAdmins team has been granted access to the client’s data centre, servers, apps, and the entire IT infrastructure, the process of assessment takes place. First, the IT architecture gets examined in detail by our experts, then we create a thorough report and talk to the developers and other employees who are responsible for the maintenance of their existing physical infrastructure.
There are usually several iterations between us and the client during which we make sure our report checks out and all the aspects of our assessment have been properly approached. Some of these instances may involve:
- Certain services that our client provides are no longer in use, so we decide not to move them to the new cloud infrastructure as there’s no need for it.
- If there are any 3rd party services connected with the client’s projects or apps, we must know which exactly as they can influence the process of migration.
- If we realize that Database as a Service approach is enough for this particular client, we don’t need to set up an entirely new server, as the cloud provider takes care of the availability of that service.
The list of scenarios goes on…
Step 2 – Proof of Concept
During this phase, we design the architecture on the cloud. This involves setting up the servers, services, and data migration, while we also test how time-consuming these tasks actually are in order to have a clear insight into how long the entire cloud enablement process might take.
We look for any potential issues that may crop up during the migration and predict the potential downtime (if there is any). In case certain problems emerge during the proof of concept phase, we work on fixing them, come up with surefire solutions for them, and see how we can improve and speed up the entire process.
During this phase, there’s ongoing communication between our team and the client’s developers responsible for their project, app, service…
Step 3 – Automation
Once we have all the necessary data gathered during the previous step, we make a certain level of automatization of the client’s infrastructure so the servers can be set up through scripting or via a tool that makes provisioning of the IT architecture possible. Then we, again through iterations with the developers, create a plan to push the new versions of the app, and we come up with a detailed strategy for the app’s deployment.
Automation involves the Infrastructure as a Code model within which we create a description of the cloud stack and the overall architecture of the environment(s). Here we explain what their infrastructure will actually look like, and if necessary, make changes within the architecture using code. Should the need for additional servers or services emerge, we can easily add it through this process so there’s no need for any manual work through the console.
Subsequently, we provide the client with a copy of their upcoming cloud infrastructure and we set it up manually in order to have insight into which components are included, then we thoroughly test everything both manually and through automation. Up next is making automation scripts and coming up with Infrastructure as a Code where we can very easily and quickly provision additional parts necessary for the development staging.
AWS and Microsoft Azure Automation
In the scenario where AWS or Azure provide the public cloud services with the client needs (like a database for example), we typically recommend using their facility, since in these cases the provider takes care of everything. If, however, the existing AWS or Azure services don’t suit the client’s needs, we set them up on a separate server referred to as Instance (for AWS) or Virtual Machine Instance (for Azure). This is when we conduct the provision of the necessary instance(s) from scratch and prepare it/them for that particular service.
However, the recommended strategy is to move as many services on AWS or Azure as possible because it is less hassle in terms of maintenance.
Final Step – Maintenance
When the entire migration process is complete and all the moving parts are working perfectly, we continue to maintain the infrastructure on the cloud. Should certain issues occur, our cloud enablement team works on fixing them as quickly and as efficiently as possible. In terms of ongoing infrastructure maintenance, clients can opt for a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) that includes 24/7 monitoring, or they can opt for a maintenance program that tackles a problem when it occurs.
NOTE: At SuperAdmins, we highly recommend the 24/7 monitoring option, as this way we are familiar with all the aspects and potential issues of the client’s infrastructure at any given moment and are thus able to respond instantaneously and recommend what needs to be changed and/or fixed so these issues do not emerge again later on.
Most Common Use Cases and Scenarios
Type of migration depends on what is being migrated (a detailed list of all migration types we cover is available in the next section of this article).
Most typically, we migrate actual servers onto the cloud in a so-called “lift and shift” manner. In cases when the virtual machine is being moved, we create an image and then move it to the cloud. In cases when this migration method is not possible, we create a new instance/environment onto which we migrate the application. If we are moving web application, we recommend uploading it on the cloud from scratch, but first, we need to see what the issues are, what needs to be improved or disregarded altogether. This provides both us and the client with more detailed insights into the current state of their infrastructure, so we can more intuitively decide which parts need the process of Infrastructure Transformation.
From Scratch Cloud Enablement
Startups are usually those who opt for this solution as they get a scalable environment right from the start, including the most pertinent cloud enablement benefits. In this scenario, we prefer being involved from the get-go and be present during the entire process and progress that most typically unfolds like this:
- Phase 1: We look at the current design of the app, see which services they use, how they communicate, and we together come up with the most optimal solution.
- Phase 2: We design the IT infrastructure on the cloud so we can utilize all the benefits and convenient aspects of this type of environment.
- Phase 3: We come up with the model that will economically be most affordable and without unnecessary costs.
Since most startups don’t have any revenue when they kick off their business, their environment requires affordable solutions that will also make sense in the long run when their network starts to expand. The potential to grow into something more serious and enterprise-like is always present, if not vital, which is why our team likes to be involved from the get-go and make sure all the moving parts are developed properly and both sides are well prepared for all the challenges that may come with the growth of their infrastructure.
Even if the client already has functioning physical servers and implemented load balancer (the system that optimizes the workload distribution across computers/networks), migrating the existing infrastructure to the cloud won’t make much difference since this will still be a static IT environment within which you cannot add new servers easily. This is where Infrastructure Improvement project comes into play – to develop a cloud-based foundation that is easily scalable at any moment with minimal effort, cost and modifications.
Types of Migrations/Services SuperAdmins Provide:
- Moving from on-prem servers to cloud
- Building the cloud infrastructure from scratch
- Moving from a static cloud platform to dynamic/scalable cloud architecture
- Moving the data centre from on-prem to cloud
- Cloud to cloud migration (basic services)
- Repair and improvement of existing cloud architecture (we go through the entire infrastructure and see which issues can be fixed and how)
- AWS cost analysis (AWS tends to charge their clients for everything, and most users don’t realize some of the secondary costs they have with AWS. This is when we help them optimize their pricing plans through cost analyses and see which costs can be cut)
- AWS account audit and overview (we analyze users and admins and come up with optimized cloud models and strategies that work best for the client’s needs so their work environment and workflow run as smoothly as possible)
Painless scalability and going from static towards dynamic infrastructure are the key concepts when it comes to cloud enablement. Within the dynamic IT environment, you can add and remove servers according to your current needs. If it turns out that the client needs more resources, we automatically add another server, but if the traffic drops and the servers are no longer encumbered, we can easily remove the unnecessary server.
This type of scalability is crucial when it comes to the cloud migration process and is the main protagonist in the scenario in which your ROI becomes tangible.
However, the perfect condition, climate and context for successful cloud enablement process aren’t pegged only to the physical state of the client’s infrastructure. It is the client’s mindset that needs to adapt as well. And only when both sides are willing and able to tackle the cloud enablement project with all hands on deck, will the ship be ready to set forth.