For most businesses, moving to the cloud is filled with promises of better scalability, cost-effectiveness, reliability, improved performance and more.
But too many migrations fail and are lengthy, risky, complex and costly. Here are some figures from recent research that point to cloud adoption and migration challenges.
- In the first Unisys Cloud Success Barometer conducted in 2019, 93% of organizations worldwide were migrating to the cloud for critical IT and computing requirements. But nearly a third (33%) reported they failed to realize notable benefits from cloud adoption. A significant reason for the fallback was that businesses did not integrate their adoption plan as a core part of their broader business transformation strategy.
- Uncited research referenced in a Forbes article states that only 36% of data migration projects stay on the forecasted budget, and only 46% are delivered on time.
- In the State of Enterprise Cloud Migrations Winter 2022 survey, 49% of respondents wanted cloud providers to offer migration as a part of their services to expedite their move because they lose if their competitors get to the cloud faster.
- 53% of respondents of the Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud report stated that understanding app dependencies was the top cloud migration challenge. And other critical migration challenges included assessing the technical feasibility of migrating apps, assessing on-premises vs. cloud costs, rightsizing/selecting the best instance to move, etc.
Your cloud migration can go awry like any other project. Thus, it is essential to consider the risks of cloud migration failure when outlining your cloud strategy. And most importantly – how can you avoid and mitigate these risks when implementing the strategy?
This article discusses the top reasons cloud adoption strategies fail, along with some practical examples and tips on avoiding failure.
Selecting the wrong approach or strategy is a common mishap that risks your cloud migration.
It could happen as there are numerous approaches to migration. Some popular ones are –
- Lift and shift (simply moving an application to the cloud ‘as is’)
- Replatform (making a few configurational changes to an application to make it better suit the cloud environment without changing its core architecture)
- Refactor (rewriting the code from scratch to make your application cloud-native)
- Repurchase (replacing an on-premise application with a cloud-based SaaS or vendor-packaged application)
- Retire (getting rid of applications that are no longer needed or productive)
- Retain (retaining application on-premise, which can also be revisited later with a different approach)
Let’s say you choose the lift and shift approach as it is the fastest, cheapest and least disruptive method in theory. But because you are moving the system ‘as is’, any issues existing on-premise will come with it to the cloud. Furthermore, it may not be suitable for all the applications in your systems. Thus, selecting the wrong strategy can wreak havoc on your implementation.
How to avoid it: There is no clear-cut answer to selecting the right approach. But a few things to keep in mind while designing a cloud migration plan are –
- The above list of approaches is not definitive but can give you a kickstart for planning.
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Thus, your broader migration strategy will mostly be a mixture of different approaches.
- Every component of your infrastructure is unique and, thus, cannot be moved with one approach. You need to evaluate each component acutely to assess the right approach for it.
- Ensure you consider both business goals and technical aspects before choosing an approach.
Do you know Etsy, a global e-commerce platform that allows sellers to build and run online stores for handmade, vintage and craft items? Initially, it maintained its own infrastructure. But the company decided to move to the cloud for improved performance, UX, engineering efficiency, scalability and sustainability.
Etsy took a strategic approach to assessment, including requirements definition, architectural reviews, RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) matrices and more. As a result, it ensured that the migration would effectively help Etsy achieve all its business goals.
The point is your winning technology solution must also be your winning business solution. Moving to the cloud just because it is a trend and having no solid business case for it is bound to lead to adoption failure. In addition, it can incur huge costs, interrupt operations and even damage reputation in worst-case scenarios.
How to avoid it: The first question you need to ask is whether your organization has a sound business case for cloud adoption and migration.
- Outline your current business objectives and identify clear, tangible benefits the cloud can offer your business. For instance, improve new feature deployment time by X%, reduce time to market by X%, reduce overall costs by Y%, etc.
- List the pros and cons of the move and assess if it is worth undertaking.
- Involve and consider all stakeholders, from C-level buy-in to the IT team.
53% of respondents of the Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud report found that selecting the right cloud provider was a cloud migration challenge. It is because all cloud vendors offer virtual machines and storage but differ in terms of billing, SLAs, providing additional tools, network services, security, disaster recovery and so on.
Choosing the right cloud provider is crucial because it is difficult and costly to switch between vendors later and can lead to cloud adoption failure.
How to avoid it: Here’s what you can do before choosing a cloud provider –
- Fully explore all the cloud vendors available and the services offered by your potential vendors.
- Be extremely thorough when vetting your cloud options.
- Carefully evaluate how your environment will evolve in the coming years.
- Assess if you want to opt for private, hybrid, or public clouds.
- If you are a larger organization, assess if you want to opt for a multi-cloud approach to combine different cloud computing services within a single heterogeneous architecture.
Cloud migration is not a one-time task. It is an iterative process that requires monitoring of business operations throughout the process and refining the migration strategies to unlock its full potential. Thus, cloud migrations are slow and take time to build to scale. Plus, your teams will have a high learning curve for cloud computing.
For Spotify, it took two years to prepare pre-migration and assign dedicated Spotify and Google cloud migration teams. They split the migration into two parts, services and data, which took around one year apiece. But ultimately, Spotify had a successful migration which increased its scalability and freed up its developers for innovation.
Hurrying cloud migration can put your entire cloud infrastructure at risk. In addition, you won’t reap the potential efficiencies of the cloud, and your cloud transition will fail.
How to avoid it: Here are some practical tips to consider –
- In a step-by-step plan, start with small or least critical workloads. Move forward confidently and progressively with larger and more critical workloads once teams are familiar with the process. It will also offset any issues without grinding your operations to a halt.
- You can also select the applications that are most likely to thrive in the cloud and prioritize your migration strategy accordingly.
- Upskill teams when and where necessary to ensure a smooth migration.
- Work to spot inefficiencies and reinvent workflows wherever required during migration.
Cloud migration requires the same amount of testing, due diligence and attention as you would give to building a new architecture or data center. But many organizations test their applications and infrastructure only after they are migrated to the cloud. Thus, they fail to test extensively and adequately, which can lead your cloud strategy to fail.
How to avoid it:
- Bake testing into every stage of migration. It allows you to spot errors at the earliest and rectify them, making the migration smoother as you proceed. Testing can also act as cloud migration risk assessment, allowing you to identify potential pitfalls in areas such as data and security.
- Strategically and sufficiently back up files before the tests so you can revert to them for a fix in case of data loss or security breaches.
- Set specific KPIs or metrics during the planning phase so they can be used to identify issues quickly after test results.
- Test and validate for optimization post-migration.
Cost efficiency is one of the significant benefits of the cloud. But wasted cloud spending is also a major issue that becomes more critical as cloud costs continue to rise over time, and many organizations tend to underestimate their amount of waste.
In the Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud Report, respondents self-estimated that their organizations waste 32% of cloud spending. It is common for organizations to underutilize their machines and pay for instances that are not in use. It can cause your cloud costs to skyrocket if you practice poor cost optimization.
How to avoid it:
- Be clear about your business goals and procure only the cloud software, infrastructure or platform actually needed.
- Forecast cloud costs post-migration.
- Optimize as you migrate by rightsizing, and use automation to continually monitor and optimize spending.
- Forecast your business growth opportunities to ensure you optimally utilize cloud solutions.
- If needed, cloud assessment and cost optimization services from experts can also help with detailed analysis of your cloud costs to avoid overspending, optimize performance, and clarify decision-making.
A Gartner report states that 99% of cloud security failures by 2025 will be the customers’ fault. It points to the idea that misconfigurations by organizations are the significant issues here.
Moreover, building security into migration too late is another significant risk for cloud adoption failure. It may leave the data more vulnerable to security breaches. And security issues can be tricky to manage if organizations do not realize there is a problem until it’s too late.
How to avoid it: While the gaps in security are easy to neglect in the excitement of moving to the cloud, here are a few points to keep in mind to avoid security failures –
- Plan security wisely ahead of time and ensure company data is protected at every step of the migration process.
- Ensure IT has the training and tools to avoid and fight security threats from day one. For example, familiarity with cloud computing security best practices (such as CISSP certification) is highly recommended for your security team.
- Choose tools that give you the best visibility into your assets and security during migration.
- It is a shared security strategy in the cloud, so businesses must clearly understand what the cloud provider will protect vs. what your teams will protect.
- Lastly, having a single point of responsibility (an individual or a group) for the transition to the cloud as a whole will help ensure that sensitive data and assets do not fall through any cracks.
Apart from the suggestions above, here are some more (bit-sized) tips and best practices for cloud adoption success:
- Collaborate with application teams to standardize legacy applications by reconfiguring heavily customized applications and re-platforming lightly customized applications for the cloud.
- Encourage modernization by complementing traditional I&O teams with transitional and transformational skills from strategic partners or system integrators (SIs).
- Use IaC (Infrastructure as code), which aims to have all applications deployed and implemented via code. It makes it possible to deploy applications consistently and repeatedly across cloud environments.
- Communication is the key to making or breaking your cloud adoption. Thus, ensure an established line of communication for every key decision and goal to reach IT.
- Take advantage of and adopt new technologies (such as automation, machine learning, AI, software-defined data centers (SDDCs), etc.) to be in stride with the next chapters of the cloud revolution.
The journey to the cloud is complex and unique for every organization. And your overall migration strategy will depend on factors such as – business goals, model, security needs, scale, timeline, budget, in-house expertise and other resources.
But if the cloud is the right answer for your business, do not hesitate to make the move. If you hit a roadblock, you can always consult with experienced cloud experts!