Technology used to be viewed as a utility, similar to power, and though it was true that you couldn’t run your business without either, neither were going to give your business a competitive advantage.
However, times have indeed changed.
Customer experience, revenue and brand reputation are now digitally centred, employee productivity is thoroughly dependent on technology, and even your ability to attract and retain talent requires a compelling, digital workplace.
In recent years as companies have migrated their applications to the cloud, modern enterprise IT has been transformed. Enhancements in network speeds, the public Internet, and computing have meant that infrastructure can be anywhere and everywhere. In fact, Gartner has forecast that by 2020 the majority of available global compute capacity will exist in the cloud. But while the cloud certainly has a silver lining it also comes with its own challenges, since IT organizations no longer own or control many critical aspects of service delivery infrastructure and software.
In this scenario, five cloud migration factors come to fore and need to be addressed:
The Internet is not a fixed resource but instead is dynamic, meaning the route you take this second may not be the route you take the next. As a communal network, delivery is the best effort. And since the Internet has no centralized governance, its proper functioning rests on implied trust, which can be easily broken. Given the proliferation of applications and services that you now rely on, your business is now riding on thousands of networks you don’t own and can’t see, heightening unpredictability tenfold.
Location Matters, Even in The Cloud
When we think about cloud applications we tend to think, understandably, of the app itself, whether it’s Salesforce, Office 365, Workday, SAP Concur, or any number of the thousands of apps now available. But the way that those apps are delivered has a big influence on performance and user experience.
While some apps are delivered via a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that has servers embedded in networks close to all of your offices, many software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps are delivered from a pair of primary and backup data centers that are located in one geographical region. That means that your geographically distributed offices may have highly variable network latencies at play when they try to reach those data centres. Planning for this variance is necessary for smooth roll-outs.
Changing Operational Processes
As you migrate to the cloud and many of your IT assets move outside of your four walls and beyond your control, your operational processes also undergo a significant change.
When you directly own and operate IT assets, the troubleshooting domain that operations teams have to work in is relatively contained and results in a “find and fix” process. This doesn’t work so cleanly in the cloud. The troubleshooting domain expands to include potentially thousands of Internet networks and multiple cloud and service providers, so just tracking the source domain of the problem is exponentially harder. Once you isolate the fault domain, you must then take it up with the third-party provider, which often involves overcoming a provider’s reluctance to act and desire for plausible deniability. The whole process can cause mean time to resolution (MTTR) for cloud issues to rise uncontrollably, and your service desk costs may explode due to unclosed trouble tickets.
User Experience from Everywhere
You have undoubtedly thought about your users’ experience. But no matter where your users are, their experience is your business. The needs of employees and the drive to make sure they’re productive has re-focused many companies onto employee experience. The most progressive of organizations regard the way they equip their employees with the right technology to do their job as a competitive differentiator, and one of the ways they attract and retain talent. Furthermore, as technology is now central to productivity, it has the capacity to make their employees as digitally effective as possible.
It’s often the case that some of your most valuable, and highly paid employees are also the most mobile, and this combined with the rise of flexible and mobile working means that for many companies, their people can be anywhere. Technologies like secure web gateways have become popular as a mechanism for securing employee access to cloud apps. In these cases, remote and travelling employees may be going straight to the cloud without ever touching a single point of corporate-controlled network infrastructure.
Evolving your Monitoring
Before the cloud, monitoring was largely based on passive data collection from all the infrastructure, network devices and software that IT owned and operated directly. These datasets were often siloed, but at least they were available. In the cloud, traditional passive data simply can’t be collected from networks, infrastructure and software that IT doesn’t own or control.
Given this reality and the Internet’s unpredictability factor, new combinations of active and passive monitoring are required to reveal app delivery performance. However, it’s not enough to simply have this data once you’re in operation. Given the unpredictability of the Internet, it’s important to move visibility forward in your planning cycle and utilise modern cloud visibility to set clear user experience success criteria, and to alert when anomalies occur. Finding ways to share visibility data ahead of roll-out helps you create cloud troubleshooting and escalation processes that will work under pressure.
The cloud has undoubtedly revolutionised so many aspects of business for the better, but that does not mean companies should blindly migrate what services they can without thinking of the consequences of expanding their IT infrastructure beyond their own networks.
Options like network intelligence and monitoring provide an overview of the extended cloud eco-system, meaning you can manage every network as if it were your own. As cloud migration becomes an inescapable reality for all, the organisations that succeed the fastest will be those monitoring their networks and tackling migration issues head-on.