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Avoiding the common Azure mistakes and missteps

Microsoft | Posted on March 9, 2017

It’s not a question of if your organization is going to migrate some of its workloads to the cloud, or even when. The real questions are: what are you moving, how can you make the most of it, and how can it be done with minimal risk?

Most organizations are looking to a hybrid IT architecture to meet the demands of their business and maintain control over so-called “Shadow IT.”

John Byrne pointed to this new normal during our recent webinar on avoiding common Azure challenges. He noted the prediction that by 2017 three-quarters of organizations will be simultaneously running their IT operations in two streams: using the cloud to innovate, while maintaining security and accuracy with traditional price-performance models. The trouble is this prediction also has a downside: half of every organization will fumble at this balancing act. Of course, there are reasons for this, and also ways to avoid a fall.

Watch the webinar here:

Azure is harder (and costlier) than it looks

One of the overall difficulties organizations face in successfully moving to Azure is recognizing just how difficult it can be. In fact, when attendees of the webinar were asked to gauge the effort their own move to Azure would take, 60% suggested it would be challenging migration, especially with their legacy applications.

But, as Byrne pointed out, few organizations make the move to the cloud knowing how involved it truly is. IT does not typically have the skill sets or frame of reference to make the organizational and IT changes required. In fact, a quarter of organizations are expected to lose market share because of this skills gap.

Implementing Hybrid IT is where 90% of CIOs are betting their newfound agility will come from. But in moving to Azure, IT organizations must take a very methodical approach in order to build a successful plan. For most, moving to the cloud is not a simple 1:1 migration and this thinking can easily lead to higher costs in the cloud, despite the promises.

Failing to recognize this is the first of many missteps that can trip up a smooth and successful Azure migration. Another related common mistake, like any new technology, is underestimating its cost. Lack of visibility into Azure consumption often results in higher than expected costs in the cloud. Unexpected costs can be avoided through the use of solid reporting tools. The granular monitoring capabilities gained from a consumption dashboard, for example, allows IT organizations to plan and budget appropriately, reveals the causes of service peaks and enables charge-back by the line of business.

Managing costs in Azure is particularly tricky. In fact, we’ve found that clients over-spend on Azure by 270% compared with what they initially expected in their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement contract. For more on this, and for strategies to gain financial control of your Azure investment we recommend reading our articles on how to right-size your Azure for best financial returns and getting control of public cloud budgets and provisioning.

Considerations for a successful Azure deployment

Put simply: you can’t do things in the same way and expect new results. Azure is no different. It requires IT to operate differently.
The need for planning is paramount. IT leaders should start by looking closely at their team’s competency with cloud and their ability to learn on the fly. They then need to clearly understand their desired business outcomes in moving to the cloud and how to eliminate stakeholder concerns. Ask yourself, how will a hybrid IT model benefit you beyond replacing your current data center? What are the costs? What are the risks? What is the reward?

Recognize that today’s approaches don’t work. It’s a cold irony that IT teams are often too stuck in a reactive stance to succeed with hybrid IT. They are often too busy putting out fires and scrambling to keep up with business demands such as SaaS-based applications or BYOD. A successful hybrid IT strategy requires sustained focus and deep technical expertise often absent in traditional IT teams.

Although cloud talent is scarce and expensive, it can be developed. For example, IT organizations leveraging an external partner can ‘learn on the go’, rapidly adopting cloud as they evolve internally to gain the skills and methodologies to take on their more proactive role in the business. Check out our Guide to Addressing the Cloud Skill Gap Challenge for insights into how organizations are addressing this and other related issues.

The steps to migration success

We see three critical steps to a successful Azure migration:

  • Understand current workloads – Take stock. Know the current state in which your applications are operating. Recognize which are suitable candidates for migration. Not every app will find its way to the Azure environment, and due to technical limitations, not every app can. (For example only 64-bit OS is appropriate; applications must be able to work with SQL Server 2008 or later)
  • Know the effort required to move your workloads – Learn what is needed, and, most importantly, prioritize the order in which you are going to move workloads. Identify the costs and risks of migrating each application. Move those with the fewest roadblocks and least amount of risk first, then the next, and so on. Use what you’ve established regarding your workload analysis to create a hierarchy. At Softchoice, for example, we use a green-amber-red nomenclature to prioritize applications moving to the cloud, with green being those with minimal risk to migrate. With each application, ask whether it is better to simply shift it over to the cloud or whether it must be re-architected.
  • Transition to ‘steady state’ and beyond – You need a complete plan to move from the pilot phase to implementation phase to ‘steady state’, or the final consistent stage of operations. What does steady state look like? Once applications are fully migrated to Azure there are still many other considerations. How does change management look in Azure? Who’s responsible for management? Who patches the systems? How is the application supported? How are workloads requested or decommissioned? Developing a proper governance plan is critical to longer-term success.

Our webinar (above) gives excellent advice around what to consider at each phase of the migration and afterward to achieve success.

Worth it in the end

When you consider the flexibility, operational agility and reduced CapEx, all the effort spent moving applications to Azure is still more than worth it, providing it’s done right. So, while migrating to the cloud has some common ‘gotchas’ to avoid, ultimately it will reduce the risk of IT failures and improve business continuity.

Azure project failures can be avoided by methodical planning, prioritizing application migration and gaining visibility into costs and consumption.

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