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Seven ways to move beyond your lift-and-shift migration and make the most of the cloud

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CTOs hear the gospel of cloud and its promises of cost-effective agility and scalability and understandably try to get there the quickest way possible namely: the lift-and-shift migration. A lift-and-shift migration takes your existing data center workloads and moves them to the cloud without changes.

However, a lift-and-shift migration alone will not generate target total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction and deliver ROI.  There are common pain points which occur with a lift-and-shift migration.  Three common pain points I frequently see include:

1. You aren’t achieving the cost savings you thought you would

Most lift-and-shift migrations have a business case built around achieving operating cost savings measured across hardware, software, energy, and people.  What often happens with rapid lift-and-shift migrations is that the reality of having to manage systems on-premises and in the cloud during the transition phase creates additional costs.

The transition stage brings a peak in costs before achieving savings.

As costs rise, the emphasis shifts to achieving the migration as rapidly as possible to minimize cost duplication of dual running on-premises and in the cloud. This results in a poorly optimized migration incurring greater costs over the long run.

2. You just have a mess for less

I have seen too many migrations that have replicated the physical data center in the cloud without consideration for the features, constraints, and opportunities that public cloud provides. Most enterprise IT systems have evolved over time are not optimized for dynamic demand and are very complex.

When you replicate data center designs in the cloud, you end up with the same mess you had on-premises, with an OpEx model.

3. You haven’t achieved business agility

You were sold on public cloud providing you with the answer to achieving the business agility needed to compete and rise above the competition. But the agility of the public cloud is reliant on several key characteristics:

  • Automation
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Access to new services
  • Global reach
  • Increased uptime and information
  • Developer access to infrastructure breaking down traditional silos

These characteristics mean that you can create and tear down pre-configured VMs and services almost instantly, opening the floodgates to rapid software delivery and insane agility.

But lifting-and-shifting traditional enterprise architectures to the cloud will not provide the above benefits that architectures designed for the cloud provide.   If it is something you are going to invest in, then there seven actions you should take to increase the value of your migration. 

Seven things you should do to go beyond lift-and shift

The journey to the cloud should not stop once you have completed the lift-and-shift migration. The cloud provides numerous opportunities to achieve cost savings and innovate.  Below are seven actions that you should take post lift-and-shift:

1. Automatically turn machines off out-of-hours 

The reality of most systems is that they are not fully utilized.  Each of the major cloud providers are charging by second for compute (CPU) so turning off during down time will generate savings. Unless you operate with global ‘follow the sun’ development and test teams, you can automatically turn off and on your non-production VMs at set times.

2. Right size and optimize VMs

Most lift-and-shift migrations that I have seen do a simple CPU and RAM conversion from data center VMs, making use of conversion tables or migrations tools provided by the cloud providers and third parties. 

These provide a good start but are dependent on having a good understanding of the performance characteristics over an extended period and do not account for the elasticity of cloud. 

After running the migrated environment for a few months, you will have accumulated enough usage and performance data to undertake a right-sizing exercise on VMs and databases. 

3. Make use of reserved or spot instances

Spot Instances use up excess capacity in the cloud and can be interrupted. They tend to be useful for dev/test workloads, or for adding extra computing power to large-scale data analytics projects.

It’s possible to further optimize cost by moving to reserved or spot instances.  Reserved Instances commit you to a fixed period of spend, over one or two years, for additional price discounts. These are a good option for steady-state workloads.  It is important to ensure that you are making effective use of them to avoid paying for idle resources.

4. Re-purpose on-premise licenses

Software licensing in the cloud takes two forms.  You can either purchase them through the cloud provider or bring-your-own if you have an existing enterprise agreement. 

Bring-your-own can bring savings, as software licenses that were used in the data center could be ported for use in the cloud, depending on the software license agreements. Buying them on-demand is a good model when you only need licenses for a set period. 

5. Adopt FinOps to understand exactly where spend is occurring to drive optimization decisions 

Traditional Finance departments are not set up to understand and manage the transition from CapEx to OpEx for cloud finances. FinOps is an approach to managing and operating cloud spend by breaking down the silos between engineering, finance, and procurement.

Understanding how and where cloud spend is occurring will allow for accurate forecasting, cross charging across cost-centers, measuring return on investment and alignment to business objectives. 

6. Make use of cloud-native monitoring and alerting tooling

Enterprise management software is expensive and requires its own infrastructure that needs to be supported. 

Cloud services are instrumented by default and these modern solutions are designed to cope with the tremendous data volumes that are produced. They come with analytical capabilities to query the data to identify key events, explore trends and anomalies, and create alerts.

7. Rearchitect your solutions to use cloud-native and serverless services

To truly take advantage of the cloud and use it as a vehicle to achieve digital transformation and business agility you should be re-architecting your applications to make use of cloud-native and serverless technology.

There are many approaches that can be used: AWS published six strategies in their enterprise blog on migrating to public cloud. 

Conclusion: Don’t stop at lift-and-shift!

To take advantage of your lift-and-shift migration, it’s essential that you do not stop after migrating.  The good news is that by taking these 7 actions described you can achieve attractive cost savings rapidly with minimal change, and business agility through re-architecting.

Olivier Subramanian, Account Principal, Contino (opens in new tab)

Olivier is an Account Principal working with Enterprise customers to achieve business value through digital transformation.