Live From GalaxZ16: Migrating IT to the Cloud

Today the cloud is almost 10 years old as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud was introduced in August of 2006 so the concept and benefits of cloud computing are no longer new.  Azure is becoming more competitive and Google Cloud has recently entered the market.  However, there are still companies out there that are sitting on the sidelines and choosing to avoid migrating to the cloud.  The question that companies need to ask themselves is does it make sense to move “X” to the cloud?  “X” being their total infrastructure, a specific workload, initiative, product, departmental infrastructure, etc…  Is running items with variable use in my infrastructure the most efficient use of resources?  What happens when those resources need to temporarily or permanently scale?  Is my infrastructure as resilient, ubiquitous, secure, and compliant as I would like?

The cloud provides unprecedented scalability of compute and storage across different availability zones or cluster of datacenters, across different regions throughout the globe, and with integrated and scalable networking and supportive systems for managing networks, name resolution, load balancing, storage tiers, recovery, and automation.  While some cloud redundancy is included, some is a-la-carte and has to be architected into your cloud solution.  You can still put all of your eggs in one basket in the cloud if you don’t architect in utilization of availability zones, cross-region replication of data, or elastic load balancing to name a few.  Additionally the international footprint or availability of services in international offerings may be a hinderence to global expansion, especially if you want the same ability to dynamically scale internationally as it makes sense to do so.  Finally, does your datacenter meet regulatory and compliance needs?  What Tier is your datacenter, meaning how truly redundant is their infrastructure and what uptime can they even commit to?

The most common objections to cloud adoption I encounter have to do with a lack of cloud experience or financial objections.  In regards to lack of experience a lot of the concepts that exist with physical datcenters are transferable to their cloud counterpart and the same is true from cloud partner to partner.  Different terminology but essentially the same meaning.  Getting up-to-speed is a small up-front investment hurdle to overcome.  Otherwise you can always pay others to manage your AWS for you.  Partners such as Rackspace, Datapipe, Connectria, etc...  When it comes to assessing financial feasibility it really comes down to the needs of the business.  Finance departments have reasons for preferring a capital expenditure over an operational one or vice-versa.  This decision can be influenced by availability of capital or driven by the time value of money.  A great strategy is to level the playing field as much as possible if both options are on the table and feasible with analyses like a discounted cash flow to compare true cost over time.  The CapEx model that leads companies away from the cloud can result in harsh realities once the equipment reaches end of support, capacity, or limits of performance.

For Zenoss as each department hit an inflection point where feasibility and benefits of the cloud migration became apparent they were moved.  We went with a model of isolating each departmental use case to their own account for logical segmentation, “blast radius”, and architectural freedom.  Even with different accounts we could still have consolidated billing with the segmentation helping departmental chargebacks.  However not enough work was done up front to centralize tool utilization or adjust as our product architecture started to incorporate Docker and Control Center, so depending on the moment and team performing our cloud adoption we are using a cocktail of different automation solutions that were compatible with our supported OS.  When architecting each solution, the level of automation and infrastructure requirements varied based on the needs of the environment.  We are able to use Zenoss of course to monitor the health of our AWS environments via a multitude of ZenPacks depending on how much depth we are looking for.  ZenPacks like AWS, Linux Monitor, Control Center, AWS RDS Monitoring, and Web-Based Synthetic Transactions have proven to be very useful to us in assessing total system health.

Your migration strategy could result in success or failure of cloud adoption.  Planning a mass exodus or migration can overly complicate cloud adoption, scare away the risk averse or cause analysis paralysis that prevents the initiative from ever moving past the design phase.  Similarly if cloud adoption is put on hold until product or platform re-architecture can occur then it may be shelved indefinitely due to complexity or potential level of investment required to accomplish.  Meanwhile existing architectures could get a performance boost from running as architected in a cloud environment.  However challenges with the lift and shift model could result in duplication of effort or processes used by disparate teams varying wildly or becoming antiquated as technology evolves, some efficiencies that are discovered analyzing the migration of one workload might not get applied to a workload that was previously migrated.  If there is willingness and capability to re-architect to be cloud optimized via microservices or other best practices then avoiding lift and shift makes sense.

Once you’re migrated, cloud administration is not simple or easy and at scale can become unworkable if you don’t plan in advance or find a strong governance tool to utilize.  Reserving cloud instances will reduce your cost but multiple factors could lead you away from utilizing your investment.  A tool that assists in selection based on budget and helps you manage modifications in an automated fashion over time is critical to getting the most from your investment.  For any cloud governance tool to provide the most value to you, you should utilize tagging features to identify or logically group your cloud assets and services to associated environments, departments, customers, etc…  This work, which should be built into any automation will make reporting and automation far simpler and more effective in managing the environment as it scales.

The benefits of the cloud are truly amazing and can be quite revolutional to your business but overcoming objections, finding a successful migration strategy, and planning for governance and cost control can provide a multitude of scary challenges.  I can say from experience that it is well worth the effort and Zenoss is more than capable of partnering with you and monitoring your migration to the cloud.


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