Posted on October 4, 2017 by Jonathan White
When it comes to the cloud, IT leaders need to be very careful about choosing which workloads to migrate first. This means starting with the right applications to drive value and build the momentum to do more.
In the long term, cloud transformation is about revolutionizing the way IT serves the business, and how the business serves its customers. Your first foray into the cloud needs to be a clear-cut victory. In other words: You must start on the cloud simply but meaningfully. Choosing the right cloud applications should provide a relatively small level of complexity and risk of failure, while offering clear strategic value to the business.
While every business is unique, we have found a number of common starting points to meet these two criteria. Depending on your needs, these workloads and applications represent ideal places to start your cloud journey.
Website hosting is the cloud’s bread and butter, and the most consumed cloud service by far. Since your website is often the closest you get to your customers, there is tremendous value in making this your first cloud migration project. It makes no sense to spend money and time building and maintaining the necessary infrastructure. You will never compete with the scale and efficiency offered by cloud hosting services. So why not leave the backend to the cloud and focus instead on designing and delivering a unique, compelling user experiences?
One often repeated tenet of innovation is the need to fail early, and often. Doing so lets you test out ideas, without the risk of putting time and money into something that doesn’t work. Nowhere is this more important than with application development. Paying thousands for on premise resources takes too long to set up and costs too much. If the idea fails, you’ve spent all that time and money for nothing. The cloud takes away that risk and allows businesses to test out new ideas more efficiently.
Spinning up new workloads and servers on the fly is crucial to achieving the agility and speed modern businesses need. Considering the cloud as a platform for application development is a wise and well-aligned target for your first step into the cloud.
These days it is common to have employees using different passwords (or the same one over and over) to log into different applications. If this sounds like your organization, consider a hybrid, cloud identity management solution. This can be a powerful way to boost productivity and security while generating an early win.
It also has the important benefit of creating more control, granularity, and oversight into who has access to what information, and when. This lets you simplify the end user experience, and add more tools to your security and control arsenal. A win, win.
We would be hard-pressed to recommend building the infrastructure for a new data-driven initiative on premise. Because of the burden of data storage, and the economies of scale, using the cloud for business intelligence (BI) applications just makes more sense.
With something like Power BI, often included with Office 365, users can start making data-driven decisions, overnight. For those with existing BI tools, if your existing infrastructure is already stretched, and you need to add new compute resources, moving to a pay for what you need model is more sustainable. Pre-validated designs for major solutions, such as SAP and Oracle, also make this move much easier.
There are two types of businesses where DR/BU in the cloud is a good starting point. The first is businesses with zero existing solutions for recovery and backup. The second is businesses stretching their existing resources and budgets on archaic, slow and inflexible solutions, such as tape.
There is a caveat for both camps. All too often, businesses fail to see DR/BU as urgent, nor the potential long-term gains to business productivity and cost reduction. Anyone who has suffered a four-wall disaster knows just how important it is to get back up and running quickly and seamlessly. To motivate your leadership, walk them through “what if scenarios,” and clearly define the risks/ costs of any delay to uptime. How much is it worth to have a core business application back up and running in 1 hour, versus two days?
A company intranet is a powerful tool in the digital enterprise. If you don’t already have one, or have a relatively simple on-premise installation, moving your intranet to the cloud is a great option.
Having said that, large businesses with thousands of users and plenty of complex plugins, custom code, and API requirements should leave this one for later. While there is certainly a business case to be made to bring major Intranets to the cloud, it will likely take too long to complete to serve as a good jumping off point.
Businesses with limited investments in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions should definitely consider something like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or a hosted solution as a powerful proof-of-concept in the cloud.
Businesses with SAP, Oracle and Dynamics, benefit from pre-validated designs that make a transition to cloud infrastructure simple and seamless. Those with nothing or obsolete solutions can use this opportunity as a quick win with significant business value. Again, large, complex businesses that require more customization than available “out of the box” should avoid starting their cloud journey here.
IT leaders can take the lead in ensuring an enterprise’s cloud journey is successful. Once you’ve determined your vision, and selected a suitable starting point, there is still more work to do. For instance, you need to spend time with business stakeholders analyzing your existing infrastructure to plan a logical roadmap. You also have numerous security, adoption and long-term optimization strategies to put in place. But as the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles always begins with the first step.