The progressive cloud: A new approach to migration
Article Synopsis :
Migrating apps and data to public-cloud platforms can be tricky. Companies can ease the transition with hybrid-cloud configurations that progressively combine private- and public-cloud features. This article from McKinsey explores how.
Moving workloads to the public cloud has helped leading companies lower operating costs and build modern IT environments capable of rapid, integrated, and highly automated development and operations. But for enterprises with complex IT architectures, moving applications and data to public-cloud platforms entails a formidable set of technology, security, operational, and financial challenges. Which explains why some 60% of companies surveyed by McKinsey last year have migrated less than 10% percent of their workloads into the public cloud.
By progressively blending public- and private-cloud solutions into hybrid configurations, companies can quickly take advantage of sophisticated cloud services and, yes, move sensitive applications into the public cloud without disrupting their IT architectures and operations. Three practices are essential to implementing progressive cloud models:
- Estimate the costs of operating a hybrid configuration.
- Devise a manageable sequence in which to migrate applications and storage to the cloud.
- Set up a dedicated unit to a) migrate applications and storage using agile practices and, b) streamline operations with automated services.
Hybrid-cloud systems come in three primary variants:
- A private-front or back-hauling topology routes all traffic through private data centers and deploys applications partly or completely in the public cloud so that a company can apply internal cybersecurity controls and still take advantage of public-cloud services
- A public-front topology also places applications in the public cloud but allows users to access them directly, with CSP-provided cybersecurity controls applied by default. Data are stored in a private cloud with additional security controls
- A public-cloud or cleansheet topology places both applications and data in the public cloud. Enterprises apply cybersecurity controls from third-party services
As companies develop more sophisticated cybersecurity controls and cloud capabilities, they can shift applications from a private cloud into a hybrid cloud with a private-front topology, then into a public-front topology, and eventually into a cleansheet topology. For example, an insurance company used a private-front topology to move some sensitive applications into the public cloud without having to overhaul their cybersecurity controls. Doing so allowed the company to migrate an additional 25% of its workloads into the public cloud, where it could use additional services while maintaining security controls.
Since progressive cloud systems rely on elements of public-cloud platforms, businesses that opt for hybrid setups still need to manage the complexity that public clouds present. Three issues—finance, operations, and talent—typically warrant extra attention and can be managed effectively using the following three best practices.
- Know the costs of progressive configurations.
Comparing the costs of progressive options isn’t always straightforward. Prices and pricing models for public-cloud platforms change over time and firms must keep a keen eye on those changes. The characteristics of individual applications and data-storage systems affect technology costs, too.
Firms should also consider how migrating to the cloud will affect day-to-day expenses other than technology. For example, using an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) capability in the public cloud still requires the same maintenance activities as a private infrastructure. But when enterprises use cloud solutions that sit higher in the stack, such as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS), they can pare down IT operations and let cloud service providers (CSPs) handle operating responsibilities.
- Develop a cloud migration roadmap.
Firms must sequence their migration efforts, ideally front-loading them with applications for which cloud migration can deliver big performance improvements or cost savings. Key factors include:
- Dependencies on other applications
- Security controls required by the application
- Services consumed by the application
- Data required by the application
- The underlying technology architecture
- The effort required to rewrite code and configurations and conduct testing
- The costs of cloud-deployment options
- The business risks of performing a migration
- Create an agile, automation-oriented cloud unit.
Some companies think of the cloud as an infrastructure service, and so they ask their existing infrastructure teams to operate cloud services alongside legacy services. This is usually a mistake. A dedicated cloud-delivery team, on the other hand, helps ensure migration efforts get the proper attention and expertise.
This team is tasked with two main sets of responsibilities: 1) design, build, and maintain the cloud platform and train developers to use it, and 2) physically migrate applications, managing firewall and network settings, testing, coding, and designing database structures.
In a recent survey, McKinsey found that firms with dedicated cloud teams migrated 52% of applications on average, whereas companies without a dedicated cloud team migrated 29% on average.
Dedicated cloud teams can be modestly sized to begin with – 30 to 40 people – with a mix of skills in product management, system engineering, software development, user-interface or user-experience design, IT operations, and financial management. Most enterprises will have 10 to 15 people developing the cloud platform while the rest concentrate on migration work (typically for a period of about two years).
As leading companies have proven, the time and effort required by cloud-migration programs is more than offset by the resulting gains in the efficiency, quality, and speed-to-market of digital solutions.
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Digital Insurer's CommentsCost is always the conversation starter when the topic is enterprise migration to the public cloud. This makes sense as public clouds, as a rule, offer about 30% hard-cost savings over the operation of private (i.e., on-premise) data centers.
New capabilities offered by leading CSPs – for example, in the areas of serverless computing, voice recognition, image transcoding, voice-to-text, language translation, and industrial-strength machine learning – are driving the conversation beyond cost to entirely new digital capabilities. Thinking about public clouds purely in terms of cost is like thinking about food purely in terms of calories.
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