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Failure To Launch: Identifying and Overcoming Today's Barriers to the Cloud

By Derek Swanson, CTO at Silk

The global public cloud market has grown exponentially over the last decade and is forecasted to continue on an upward trajectory. Worldwide public cloud services are expected to increase by 26.2% in 2021, according to Gartner. The pandemic punctuated the need for cloud adoption, helping to drive an increased demand to move workloads to the cloud. McKinsey reports that the cloud kept IT roadmaps and initiatives moving forward in 2020 while supporting growing virtual workforces and fueled a record-breaking acceleration of digital transformation to the tune of seven years.

Enterprises are "all in" when it comes to cloud adoption, but these impressive numbers don't reflect the whole picture. While enterprises are moving workloads to the cloud in record numbers, what they are-and more interestingly-what they aren't moving to the cloud piques interest. What's happening in the industry, despite the big adoption numbers?

The cloud remains a strategic imperative needed to stay competitive. But along with adoption numbers are adoption trends, which are not necessarily what we've come to expect.

The fear factor is real.

While cloud adoption continues to soar, fear still keeps organizations from taking full advantage of what it has to offer. There are two tracks that reticent enterprise cloud customers are taking as we move closer to 2022:

  1. Enterprises are moving apps that are NOT in the critical path
  2. Enterprises are building cloud-native apps

From improved functionality and easier maintenance to its ability to seamlessly scale as a business evolves, there are many reasons why shifting applications to a cloud environment makes sense. But for many companies, fear of the cloud is still very real, and as a result, they are cautiously migrating apps that are not mission-critical. While typical workloads such as batch, transactional (OLTP), and analytics (OLAP/HPC) are all being run successfully in the cloud, the use cases of these loads are typically dev/test, UAT, or QA, instead of production. This way, wary businesses can cautiously dabble in the cloud without feeling like they're running mission-critical or line-of-business production applications in an environment that does not fully match the feature/functionality, resilience, or performance of their on-prem production environments.

What does this mean for apps that are at the core of the enterprise? Many are still guarded when moving crucial apps out of private infrastructure and into the ether. Some are only moving auxiliary applications. Essentially, enterprises are much less likely to move it to the cloud if an app can effectively stop the business if it goes down.

A second phenomenon is that organizations are building native apps within the cloud. Most commonly seen with customer-facing apps like those used in development, testing, and quality assurance (QA), these "second-tier" apps tend to be "safer,"   meaning that if one element goes down, the business will not see any downtime. While this is much less common than shifting legacy systems to the cloud, it is a trend that's on the rise. The current leap from traditional storage to the cloud seems too complex and risky for many organizations. And until migrating to the cloud becomes less involved and more foolproof, things will likely remain the same.

So, what do the cards hold for cloud adoption?

Cloud technology is moving fast and keeping up with it is no easy task-especially for enterprise IT professionals who have more pressing issues on their plate. Enterprises that may benefit from moving to the cloud may be late to the game simply because their current team is afraid to proceed, not knowing what they don't know, and lacking up-to-date knowledge about cloud benefits and offerings. But the cost of remaining stagnant could prove higher than taking a chance-with the proper checks and balances to help keep things consistent.

What to do about it

There are three generally accepted paths to moving workloads to the cloud. All three make it possible to move databases from a capital expense (CAPEX) model to an operating expense (OPEX) model. This shift offers more financial agility by linking infrastructure costs with revenue for greater scalability - without a significant upfront investment. And all three allow organizations to move out of on-prem datacenters completely. But choosing which path is right for specific workloads depends on their complexity and how much time, money, and resources are available. They include:

  • Lift and Shift to IaaS: The lift and shift approach means companies can avoid rearchitecting applications, so it takes the least amount of time, money, and resources to complete, but also requires the same high level of hands-on management as on-prem. Unfortunately for most database products, IaaS doesn't usually provide the seamless scalability of the following options, degrading the agility of the cloud.
  • Move to a Managed Service: Moving databases to a managed Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering usually requires some level of rearchitecting or refactoring applications, which can use a significant amount of time, money, and resources. But it removes the administrative tasks, such as upgrades, which the cloud provider handles. From a database licensing standpoint, moving to a PaaS solution can allow a simpler license model where you pay based on usage or move to an open-source database option. However, a PaaS solution can be expensive, including paying a third party to manage cloud infrastructure. It's also a less suitable option for complex systems or deeply embedded business logic in database code. And finally, both scale and performance are limited to the maximums that the cloud provider offers.
  • Refactoring to Cloud Native: The most desirable path to the cloud is the refactoring migration approach. While more complex than the previous options, refactoring enables open-source PaaS databases and containerized applications with a cloud vendor of choice. It offers a fully scalable architecture with virtually no performance limits. And by refactoring to be cloud-native, there is an option for open-source databases, helping to eliminate database licensing costs. But refactoring isn't perfect. The process of refactoring includes completely rewriting applications. It's a complex and time-consuming process, presents the most risk, takes the most time, and carries the highest costs. For example, successfully refactoring applications to be cloud-native requires a specialized skill set that you may not already have within the organization - meaning you'll have to hire expensive external consultants to get you through the development process. These complications make refactoring only suitable for applications that will be used for a very long time (compared to ones that will be retired in the near or midterm).

There is no perfect journey to the cloud nor a one-size-fits-all solution. Each of the above options has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Every application and database has different needs and needs an independent evaluation to determine the best path to the cloud. However, it is possible to leverage each approach together as one overall plan to "level up" to the cloud, step by step - from IaaS to PaaS and then even from PaaS to refactoring to cloud-native.

For organizations looking to adopt the public cloud for mission-critical database workloads quickly, consider a platform that employs the lift and shift into an IaaS option, providing a fast, resilient, and feature-rich data platform for databases to flourish in the cloud. By adding all of the scalability typically missing in IaaS-without the need to change a single line of application code - an outside platform can breathe life into aging applications and turn database real-estate into a cloud powerhouse.

If migrating to the cloud were easy, everyone would have done it by now. But the reality is that it is not without its challenges. And until it becomes easier to make the move without huge additional cost, stress, or risk, it's safe to anticipate that the trends discussed will continue-and that enterprises will wait for an easier, less perilous way to adopt cloud technology.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Swanson 

Derek Swanson has 20 years of experience as a technology evangelist, systems architect, and data systems engineer. At Silk, he manages the worldwide sales engineering organization and is the senior customer-facing technologist and product evangelist in the organization. Prior to Silk, Derek has had a successful career at Sorenson, Coda Communications, and Unisys. He holds a Bachelors in Political Science and Government from Brigham Young University.

Published Friday, September 17, 2021 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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