According to market research firm Gartner, in its Predicts 2017: Cloud Computing Enters Its Second Decade report, published in December 2016, organisations are increasingly moving beyond just experimenting with cloud, to now seeking strategic relationships with providers based on the breadth of their vision and delivery.
There can be little doubt that the prevailing global trend is one where cloud adoption is accelerating, which is evidenced by a host of key indicators outside of market analyst predictions. For instance, according to Microsoft’s 2016 annual report, over 70 million people worldwide were already using its cloud-based productivity tool Office 365.
The trend is even more marked in South Africa, with first quarter revenue figures for 2017 from cloud solutions provider SAP showing triple-digit growth in software adoption in the country, with cloud subscriptions and support revenue in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region growing 43 percent during the period.
Based on these figures, it’s clear that many businesses have reached the point in their information technology (IT) lifecycle where cloud computing has moved on from a piecemeal experimentation phase, to widespread adoption as it’s become a strategic imperative for continued growth and competitiveness in the digital economy. Ultimately, the discussion around cloud migration has progressed from a debate about “will we”, to “when will we” and “at what speed and to what degree”.
However, for companies to leverage the economies of scale and numerous benefits that cloud computing offers, they first require a clear vision and strategy that plots their journey into the cloud, because the ultimate success and effectiveness of this computing model entails more than the proverbial switch-flip on legacy computing systems. In this regard, Accenture segments cloud migration into three key phases:
Step 1: Strategy, assessment and roadmap
This first step needs to clearly define the business case for cloud migration, before plotting the organisation’s journey into the cloud, taking into account the company’s business model and the current IT operating environment. This is a vital step because cloud computing, in and of itself, fundamentally impacts on both business and technology operating models.
Based on these insights, an industry-tailored cloud vision can be created – the cloud strategy. This should detail the value case and craft a value realisation strategy for cloud computing, while also targeting the state design and delivery model according to the unique preferences and needs of the business and ensure its ability to achieve strategic goals. These two factors therefore need to align to deliver a more efficient and effective cloud-enabled business model.
The assessment process can then help to consolidate the siloed cloud solutions already adopted by 30 percent of businesses – predominantly piecemeal software solutions such as CRM, ERP, email and messaging or collaboration tools – and strategically incorporate them into the broader cloud migration strategy to create operational efficiencies, along with the alignment of the cost and governance models of IT operations.
Through the assessment process, a clear picture emerges of the current state of an organisation’s IT model, identifying, for instance, the platforms on which legacy systems and applications are run. This awareness will help to better define the enterprise architecture of the cloud, ensuring an interoperable environment is created to future-proof the business by avoiding vendor lock-in, while closing any gaps that may exist in the model to deliver centralised management capabilities. This process also helps to inform the best model, be it a private or public model, or a hybrid, to ensure critical factors such as business continuity, legislative compliance and data security are addressed.
Step 2: Cloud transformation and migration
The next phase requires that the strategic roadmap into the cloud is executed in a manner that delivers the organisation’s vision. However, enterprise migration is more than just a lift-and-shift process – it’s about how software services will reside within the organisation by determining the cloud target state and implementing the value realisation and organisation mobilisation strategy.
This requires profiling the application landscape, then developing the cloud infrastructure and platforms that will enable the operating capabilities of the business, while migrating and/or modernising applications to be cloud-ready, replacing them with Software as a Service (SaaS) options, or building new cloud-native applications where required.
This is also an opportunity to right the ills of old IT operating models, moving from legacy, monolithic, tightly-coupled systems to modernised more agile variants. However, it is important to understand that this process is not just about the technology, it’s about the people, too. When approaching cloud migration in a strategic manner, companies also need to address the people and processes in the equation, in addition to the technology, to build a workable and, ultimately, successful cloud operating model.
Step 3: Cloud management and optimisation
The final step in cloud migration orchestrates the management of cloud applications and infrastructure through an operating model that defines how companies consume cloud services.
This includes defining factors such as identity management, governance, roles and capabilities, as well as the change management aspects around people and processes. For example, connectivity is often an issue and any public cloud migration therefore has to take this factor into considerations, with considerable testing conducted for latency on sensitive, mission-critical applications.
Given suitable connectivity, companies can then consider the most suitable operations and services to best leverage the cloud-optimised shared service delivery model to improve value and quality. This may include decisions such as adopting a combination of private cloud or bare-metal cloud infrastructure together with public cloud to circumvent problems such as latency, security, compliance, regulations and data sovereignty concerns, for example.
With the increasing footprint of on-shore public cloud data centre providers combined with a growing national backbone of fibre and virtual service providers, cloud availability is no longer an issue when looking to build a multi-speed hybrid cloud environment. While cost remains a consideration in this regard, the capabilities – such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform – are now available locally to circumvent a number of the common constraints and potential problems experienced when deploying private cloud infrastructure, which is generally a slower journey as it requires the acquisition of real estate, whereas public cloud infrastructure leverages the economies of scale and standardisation inherent in large data centres to scale rapidly and on demand.
As such, given the complexity and mission-critical nature of cloud migration, the process of cloud migration necessitates that an organisation source the skills and expertise needed to help carefully plan, orchestrate and execute the strategy. This makes finding an implementation partner that can not only consult on the migration process, but can also enable and manage the migration by providing the management platform, tools and frameworks that help businesses consume cloud on their terms – the most important step in a business’s journey to the cloud.
By Kabelo Makwane, Managing Director of the Accenture Cloud First business in South Africa