CEOs across industries have realized that the “Future of Business is Digital” and they have to leverage digital technologies to survive in this disruptive era. The top two questions which they have in their mind are:
To make an organization digital at the core, each and every aspect of business has to be assessed and transformed: Customers, Products, Business Operation, Competition, Employees and Partners.
The key challenge is that each business aspect requires different solution and at times different product or technology. To achieve this organization will need to create a ‘Digital Architecture Platform’ encompassing underlying IT applications which are based on principles of modularity, configurability, multi-channel support, provisioning and consuming, data processing and analytics, security, scalability and fault tolerance.
Cloud computing has emerged as the key foundation on which digital architecture platform and transformation as a whole can be implemented.
Most cloud computing services fall into three broad categories: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).
This is one of the most basic categories of cloud computing services. With IaaS, you rent IT infrastructure servers and virtual machines (VMs), storage, networks, operating systems from a cloud provider on a pay-as you-go basis.
Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) refers to cloud computing services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, delivering, and managing software applications. PaaS is designed to make it easier for developers to quickly create web or mobile apps, without worrying about setting up or managing the underlying infrastructure of servers, storage, network, and databases needed for development.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a method for delivering software applications over the Internet, on demand and typically on a subscription basis. With SaaS, cloud providers host and manage the software application and underlying infrastructure, and handle any maintenance, like software upgrades and security patching. Users connect to the application over the Internet, usually with a web browser on their phone, tablet, or PC.
Cloud computing caters to three fundamental criteria for digitalizing business: Speed, Agility and Cost Savings.
There are three different ways to deploy cloud computing resources: public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud.
Public clouds are owned and operated by third-party cloud service providers, who deliver their computing resources like servers and storage over the Internet. Microsoft Azure is an example of a public cloud. With a public cloud, all hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser.
A private cloud refers to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organization. A private cloud can be physically located on the company’s on-site data center. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network.
A hybrid cloud combine public and private clouds, bound together by technology that allows data and applications to be shared between them. By allowing data and applications to move between private and public clouds, hybrid cloud gives businesses greater flexibility and more deployment options.
The leading cloud platform providers (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform) are innovating at breakneck speed and providing services across the whole spectrum: compute, networking, storage, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Analytics, DevOps, Security, identity services, API integration and much more. Simply put they cater to the need of all the roles in IT: operations, application development and infrastructure.
The following table shows subset of services provided by AWS and Azure for each layer of digital platform.
For detailed service catalogs, please refer to:
As the above table depicts, organizations no longer have to cobble together myriad products and technologies for specific business use case , now thanks to cloud computing they have the option to avail all these on cloud platform as pay-as-you go model over the internet. The cloud platform abstracts the services at all layers making it easier and faster to develop new application or manage infrastructure.
Other benefits of cloud computing are:
Cloud-first is the new design strategy for existing and new applications, just like internet replaced the client-server and client-server replaced the mainframe based applications. Organizations no longer question the benefits of the cloud computing. Conversations have changed from “Should we do it?” to “How should we do it? “
Because of the benefits provided by cloud computing, it has become foundation of the digital business initiatives. It has become imperative for the organizations to develop a cloud playbook optimized for digital strategy.
Once you have decided on ‘How we should we go about adopting the cloud ‘, it is important to debunk the top myths about cloud before you start on your transformation journey.
Security has always been one of the top concerns for the organization contemplating cloud adoption. The flawed security comfort of ‘Touch and Feel of In-Premise Server Rack’ over ‘cloud’ server not visible to naked eye is a missed opportunity. There is no factual evidence or empirical study which indicates that cloud service provider gives less security than in-premise data center. The cloud platform provider has much more incentive to provide highly secure infrastructure because of brand and internet visibility. Because of the
broad range of global customers they serve, their data centers and platform meet numerous stringent certifications and regulations which an organization may not have. In fact organizations have the potential to achieve more application and data security by leveraging cloud platform security features.
It is not always cheaper to run in the public cloud but is more often cost-efficient. Services paid per second/minute/hour basis may sound economical, but some of the cost can add up. The key factor is matching your workload to the right cloud service and price to performance level achievement will be way beyond when it comes to the on-premise solutions.
The key to optimum price performance ratio achievement is choosing the right cloud model for your workload. To leverage the cloud service benefits ‘pure’ public cloud is not the only option. Depending on your workload needs you can adopt a hybrid cloud or private cloud. All the leading cloud platform service providers have solutions for all the three models – public, private and hybrid cloud.
Typical to adoption of any new technologies, due to initial apprehensions cloud adoption was limited to non-mission critical applications. With the advancement in cloud platform services and confidence from successful adoption use cases more and more enterprises are moving their mission critical applications to cloud. Business cases which were not viable before are now viable because of advancement and benefits provided by cloud platform services. Cloud platform services now provide all the tenets required for mission critical applications – availability, durability, scalability, performance for complex application architecture serving global users.
The key underlying technology of cloud is virtualized server but that is not the only thing that a cloud platform provides. Because of this reason moving from a virtualized in premise data center to a cloud platform is not the same. Cloud adoption of PaaS and SaaS is much more than IaaS. Enterprises have discovered that IaaS adoption which is an infrastructure approach similar to the in-premise virtualization does provide low hanging cost benefits but real exponential benefits such as business value, agility , flexibility and savings are achieved when cloud is adopted as PaaS and SaaS model.
On the other end of the myth spectrum is the perception that cloud platform usage is only configuration and simple ‘pay as you go’. There is no doubt that cloud platform providers have made all the services related to infrastructure, application or development tools easier to subscribe to and configuration driven, but still it requires appropriate processes, roles and people with the right skills to execute and implement it in the right way. Many enterprises start their cloud adoption journey but face issues mid-way because of the unavailability of skills or processes.
Digital transformation based on cloud-first strategy is a marathon. Any transformation journey which is disruptive and requires changing the core foundation of the organization can be very challenging. It is bound to fail unless the journey is planned with specific goals in mind, right roles and resources allocated to it, ‘as-is’ to ‘to-be state’ is mapped and implementation engine is fine-tuned.
Based on the experience of implementing numerous transformation projects for our global clients, RapidValue has formulated a BRAVE framework for cloud-first digital transformation.
boot·strap : /’ boot strap/
In computing, it means:
“A technique of loading a program into a computer by means of a few initial instructions which enable the introduction of the rest of the program from an input device.”
To draw the parallel, the first phase is ‘bootstrapping’ the journey by reviewing business goals & strategy and laying the foundation of cloud adoption strategy aligned to it. Cloud-first goals and strategy should not be formulated in isolation but it should be tied to overall business strategy which then flows in formulating the overall enterprise IT strategy and then specific to technology platform strategy of Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, IoT etc.
Key activities in this phase:
– Increase new customers and cross sell / up sell to existing customers
– Increase customer satisfaction
– Create new product and services
– New business models
– Expand selling channels
– Cost Optimization and Efficiency
– Increase process efficiency
– Increase asset utilization
– Increase employee productivity
– Partner collaboration
– IoT based asset remote monitoring and predictive maintenance
– Big Data Analytics based customer segmentation , production/inventory planning based on demand forecasting
– Adoption of DevOps for increased agility in application development and maintenance
– Digital channels of Web and Mobile for enhanced customers experience
– Integration with external system of partner for better collaboration
– Define cloud-first guidelines to achieve above solution. Each of the above should be explored to be implemented by leveraging cloud computing models of IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.
One of the outcomes of the previous phase is identification of required key roles and specific people who will be implementing the digital strategic objectives identified in the cloud-first approach.
CDO is the person leading the digital transformation in an organization. They have to play the role of ‘Chief Disruption Officer’ or ‘Transformer in Chief’ or ‘Chief Innovation Officer’. This role can be played by existing Chief Information Officer or it can be different person reporting to CIO or CEO based on the organization structure. Ultimately whatever may be the organization structure the CDO has to work closely with CEO, CIO, business unit heads and CFO.
The key responsibilities are:
A Cloud Architect is primarily responsible for organization’s cloud computing approach. As a leader of cloud
operations and enterprise architecture, this role includes management of all aspects of IT cloud infrastructure architecture and their lower level systems components. The key responsibilities are:
A cloud engineer will focus on moving existing on-premise application infrastructure to the cloud as well as engineering new solutions with a cloud-first approach. The key responsibilities are:
Cloud software developer looks at developing application in a cloud-native approach. Cloud-native application development typically includes leveraging PaaS services provided by the cloud platform, using Microservices-based architectures, using containers like Kubernetes and Docker and following software development methodology of Agile and DevOps. The key responsibilities are:
Cloud DevOps Engineer will focus on designing and developing automation to support continuous integration and delivery processes. The key responsibilities include:
Other pre-requisite resources required are:
Before starting on ‘Cloud-First’ implementation strategy it is essential to get a better understanding of where you are with respect to:
The key activities in this step are:
Discover and identify on-premise applications and servers. You can collect information about every application on the following parameters:
One of the critical elements of digitalization is to have a ‘Digital Architecture Platform’ encompassing underlying IT applications. The key step of application portfolio analysis is to map the to-be business
architecture into a digital platform.
The key architecture principles of digital platform are:
The diagram below depicts reference digital platform architecture for a digital enterprise:
Infrastructure: Provides secure computing and storage instances on demand.
Services: Supports the implementation of the business application task services. Examples include business rule engines. It also provides a platform for retrieval and analysis of, potentially large, data sets.
Composition: Includes the services from the service layer to form higher level business functionality. It also brings together analytics to provide information insight.
API Gateways: Provides the API to outside world (typically as a REST like interface) so that external communication can occur with partners.
Digital Channels: Platform features to rapidly develop and deploy for variety of channels: mobile, web, sensors etc.
Digital Platform is the technical base on which all the digital initiatives of an enterprise will be built upon. It is because of this reason it is very important to get this foundation right otherwise the whole edifice will crumble down. Every application needs to be analyzed how it can be mapped to the to-be digital platform.This will be a critical input for the next step of cloud migration planning of that specific application.
The next step in the cloud migration journey is to develop the decision criteria to determine which applications can and cannot be readily moved to a cloud environment. You need to decide which cloud platform and migration techniques offer the chance to optimize the application’s contribution to stated and implied business and IT goals, finalized in the previous step.
A detailed cost-benefit analysis across the following parameters will help you select the right strategy:
One of the biggest decisions one needs to take in the cloud migration process is selecting the right type of
cloud platform for the business from IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
Once you have selected the cloud-ready applications, determine the best migration strategy from the four
options given below :
1. Rehost (IaaS: Lift and Shift)
2. Rebuild ( PaaS, FaaS)
3. Refactor (PaaS, FaaS)
4. Replace (SaaS)
Let’s delve deeper into these four options.
This strategy is also, referred to as lift and shift and it involves migrating an application to cloud while making changes in the technology stack or application itself. It involves moving in-premise physical servers and VMs as-is to the cloud platform. By shifting current server environment straight to IaaS, you reap the benefits of cost savings, security, scalability and increased reliability.
This is also, referred to as cloud native or app modernization or legacy modernization. Applications are rebuilt by leveraging services provided by cloud platform (PaaS model). It’s built on Microservices architecture leveraging scalability, load balancing, security and DevOps. For example: Modernizing a C or Fortran logistic management system, using Angular , Java EE and other latest digital technologies.
This strategy is also, known as cloud optimization. In this, current applications are deployed as-is, with some minor application code or configuration changes. It makes use of on-cloud platform’s new infrastructure services such as containers, database, servers, scalability etc.
“Replace” refers to discarding an existing application (or set of applications) and use commercial software delivered as a service on cloud to deliver the required business requirements. In this, a complete turnkey application solution is not built but may be configured and integrated in it. The users access SaaS via web browser or a mobile device in this.
After going through the steps of ‘Why, what and how’ for the Cloud Migration and Adoption, a detailed program and project plan should be in place which should track tasks, duration, costs and risks. The important steps are:
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 24% of the total addressable IT market will be cloud. Cloud computing is in its second decade. Several organizations from startups to global corporations, from government agencies to non-profit, are embracing cloud for all the benefits provided by it.
Cloud migration helps you achieve great scalability which means that you can easily upscale (or downscale) your IT requirements as and when required. Moving to the cloud also, helps you to reduce operational costs while improving IT processes. Because data is in the cloud, processes have become more efficient and convenient thereby, there has been a significant increase in the in-built security capabilities. Integration with other services facilitates the connecting of systems together in a seamless and cost-effective manner. Migration to the cloud allows organizations to provide collaboration and communication tools, software, apps and access to documents and databases from anywhere. This makes it easier for employees to work and collaborate remotely. Needless to say, if enterprises and companies strive to move their products and services into the cloud, they are able to reap significant benefits for themselves. Applications and business cases which were not a fit for the cloud two years ago may be ideal candidate today due to rapid innovation and improvement in cloud services.
To survive in this digital disruptive era it is essential for organization to start building a cloud strategy now. Like any other transformation it is difficult and will take time and iteration, so
Be BRAVE and jumpstart your cloud migration journey today!