When it comes to modernizing Information Technology, everyone talks about their lofty “cloud adoption strategies” and “digital transformation initiatives.” But with all this talking, planning the idea of cloud adoption – and the slew of vendors pushing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms in your direction – gets overwhelming fast.

Gartner introduced the “5 Rs” model in the early 2010s, defining a set of options for cloud migration strategies. Amazon adopted the model and extended it to the 6 Rs paradigm: Rehost, Replatform, Repurchase, Refactor, Retire, and Retain. Keep this strategy in mind as a reference point while you progress through the article.

Below, we give data engineers four tips to start reaping the benefits of a modernized, hybrid-cloud, IT infrastructure now – without needing to tear down your legacy systems to do it.

Table of Contents:

  1. Migrate Your Resource-Heavy, Rarely-Used Backup Systems
  2. Modernization through SaaS Applications (When It’s Easy)
  3. DevOps Culture Modernization
  4. Move Dev-Test Applications to the Cloud
  5. Questions to Ask Before Migrating to the Cloud
  6. Xplenty: IT Modernization Made Easy

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1) Migrate Your Resource-Heavy, Rarely-Used Backup Systems

Every non-cloud IT infrastructure dedicates a large percentage of its resources to the maintenance of rarely-used data. These assets are typically necessary for backup storage and compliance purposes. In other words, they’re non-mission-critical, so taking them offline for cloud migration should be a low-risk proposition that will simplify your overall operations.

Historically, backup systems required significant investment for infrastructure and maintenance in physical data centers. The cloud era allows businesses to opt for consumption-based contracts, purchasing only the resources needed, with the option to scale elastically with load. The OPEX model (versus CAPEX) enables enterprises to pay for resources consumed, improving the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). 

Automatic tiering of data within cloud infrastructure reduces costs by utilizing warm data for instant restores and automatically moves stale data to more economical cold storage systems. Tiered backup architecture allows enterprises to satisfy recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) requirements more efficiently.

Aside from the costs, there are numerous other IT operations benefits, such as automated data protection and compliance pipelines. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest, preventing external and vendor access.  It is possible to have a durable, fast, reliable, and cost-effective data recovery system enabled by an enterprise-grade multi-region public cloud infrastructure.

Downtime with cloud providers is usually limited to freak events. The service level agreements assure sufficient data protection and recoverability levels, i.e., AWS’s 99.99999 percent durability guarantee and an availability commitment of 99.5 percent. Additionally, all of these IT systems provide automatic software updates and security patches.

Cold data is infrequently accessed; however, it still holds value. Strategic investment in “big data” analytics to identify customer behavior and operational trends is now commonplace. Cold storage must, therefore, provide the performance and capabilities required to enable analysis. It would be incredibly hard to utilize this resource in a traditional on-premise scenario. 

2) Modernization Through SaaS Applications (When It’s Easy)

"The effectiveness of SaaS is as much about the discipline it enforces in the implementation and upgrade practices as it is about technical architecture." -Jim Holincheck

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model is attractive to many businesses - agility, market responsiveness, and shared infrastructure costs are just a few of the benefits. However, most have invested a significant amount of capital in their current single-tenant offerings. It is unrealistic to expect teams to completely overhaul and adopt the tenets and principles typically associated with multi-tenant environments overnight. Organizations must find ways to migrate to the SaaS model without significant disruptions using a balanced approach.

An organization should pinpoint on-premises applications that are easy to migrate to the SaaS, cloud-based model. As long as the migration process is simple, moving your on-prem applications to the cloud should be a clear value proposition due to the following benefits:

  • Eliminates many hardware and software costs: The SaaS model eliminates the costs associated with hardware acquisition and maintenance, in addition to the costs related to software licensing, installation, and support. 
  • Flexible payment options: The flexible payment options associated with SaaS mean that your hardware and software expenses will transition to recurring operational costs. This makes budgeting more predictable and easier to control.
  • High vertical scalability: Scaling SaaS solutions up and down to grow or shrink with your business or to control monthly costs is usually very easy to do at any time.
  • Automatic updates: Instead of needing to license new software or manually install a security update, SaaS providers patch and update their software automatically, which reduces your in-house IT maintenance burdens.
  • Accessible from anywhere: Your team can access SaaS applications from any internet-connected device.
  • Access to innovation: Once purchased, on-premise software begins to depreciate, upgrades are rare and sometimes disruptive. With SaaS, you will always be on the most recent version, with immediate access to new capabilities and features as they become available; the subscription appreciates over time, providing much better value.
  • Try before you buy: Large upfront investments without test driving a system are incredibly risky and a very costly and common mistake within the industry. Many systems go to the graveyard within a year without recuperating any of the lost costs. The majority of SaaS applications enable companies to pilot an application first to ensure there is business value in the application.

For many applications, moving to SaaS is painless – like transitioning from an on-prem version of Microsoft Office to Office 365. For other applications – like switching from an in-house CRM to Salesforce – the process will involve the extraction, transformation, and loading of your data into the new solution. That’s where an automatic ETL platform like Xplenty can help. Here's an easy-to-follow guide on using Xplenty to alleviate the complexity of moving data from your legacy CRM to SalesForce.

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3) DevOps Culture Modernization

DevOps is not a technology or framework. It is essentially a set of practices that bridges the gap between the IT development and IT operations teams, eliminating communication barriers resulting in more efficient and empathic collaboration.

Puppets state of DevOps report elucidates that high-performing DevOps organizations see 200x times more deploys, 24x recovery times, and 3x lower change failure rates. In this manner, the automation of delivery pipelines ensures application stability, reliability, and robustness after every new release. Flawless performance in production results in a more significant customer experience.

Seamless collaboration creates agility across the delivery ecosystem, and organizations successfully deliver better software to their customers faster. DevOps makes an enterprise software delivery ecosystem extremely efficient - faster delivery, better collaboration, and automation.

Culture is critical to DevOps. Technology transformations by practitioners and champions who lead organizations' efforts can't emphasize this enough. In their book Effective DevOps, Davis and Daniels cite culture as an essential factor for successful and scalable technology efforts, stating that organizational culture, which optimizes information flow, trust, innovation, and risk-sharing, is predictive of Software Delivery and Operational (SDO) Performance.

Adopting a DevOps culture will force you to modernize in the right way, obtaining a proficient system in increments rather than the disruptive and radical overhaul that all businesses fear.

4) Move Dev-Test Applications to the Cloud

Instead of paying for the licenses and resources required to host dev-test apps while they’re idle (as you do when hosting them on-premises), moving dev-test to a cloud environment means you’ll only pay for the hours you’re developing and testing them. Moreover, since dev-test apps are pre-production, non-mission-critical assets, moving them to the cloud is a low-risk proposition.

An IBM white paper states that QA teams utilize 30-50% of servers in traditional IT organizations, which run at between 3-5% utilization. The Cloud gives one the ability to use what is needed, and when offering a metered subscription model, creating, reconfiguring, and tearing down test environments is incredibly easy. A Forbes article claims that it is possible to save $150 billion by moving to a cloud-based dev-test environment. The ability to obtain resources on-demand for dev-test purposes allows a business to increase utilization and reduce resource proliferation (i.e., server sprawl). 

Additionally, one cannot discount the value of increased collaboration in cloud-based testing environments. The technology allows QA to integrate right into the DevOps culture; meaning that, if QA finds a bug, the dev team can be instantly notified via a GitHub code snippet, resulting in faster and more efficient delivery cycles. Gone are the days of throwing code over a wall and hoping those on the other side will deal with it. Rapid release cycles mean constant communication between teams with an emphasis on inclusivity.

Questions to Ask Before Migrating to the Cloud

Before pulling the trigger on any of these cloud migration tips, it’s important to ask the following:

  • What cost savings will you achieve?
  • What expenses will you acquire?
  • What administrative burdens will you create?
  • Will you create IT organization burdens?
  • Does the technology require new employees or skill sets?
  • Does your staff need training to use the technology?
  • Do you need to upgrade your WAN infrastructure? When you have more systems in the cloud, a fast and reliable internet connection throughout the office is more essential than ever.
  • How long will the migration take? Will essential production assets experience downtown?
  • Are you paying for any redundant, duplicative services? Makes sure that you're not signing up for an additional service you already have access to without incurring an additional expense.
  • What business, technological, financial, time-saving, and other benefits will you achieve?

By answering these questions, you’ll have a clear picture of whether a particular move to the cloud is worth it. 

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Xplenty: IT Modernization Made Easy

In this article, we've covered the "easy cloud wins" – i.e., the low-hanging fruit of cloud adoption and IT modernization that's available for immediate harvest to boost your business efficiency and financial savings. But eventually, you'll want to move your focus to the high-hanging fruit on the cloud adoption tree, such as moving your entire ERP system, on-premises data warehouse, and legacy applications to the cloud.

For these transitions, you could face complex data migration challenges related to the extraction, transformation, and loading of your data. You'll need a powerful, easy-to-use ETL platform with out-of-the-box integrations that will automatically transform and load your data without the headache.

Xplenty helps you with all of the following and more:

  • Deploy ETL, ELT, or replication procedures with an intuitive, visual interface.
  • Develop and schedule data pipelines with an easy-to-use workflow engine.
  • Create complex data preparation functions with Xplenty's expression language.
  • Instantly connect with and integrate your systems with data repositories and SaaS applications.
  • Highly responsive messaging and Zoom call support and extensive documentation and tutorials to help you get the most out of the Xplenty platform.

If you want to learn how Xplenty can assist your team with its cloud migration strategy, please contact our data experts for a personalized demo.