While the march to the cloud continues, business decision-makers are recognising that such a complex migration cannot happen overnight. Here, Julian Thomas, Principle Consultant at South Africa-based data solutions specialist, the PBT Group, talks to us about some of the influencing factors to a more slow-paced transition.
The tech industry has seen a whirlwind of adoption as new technologies emerge in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, there is an undoubtedly calmer approach, especially as business data gradually vapours into the cloud. In fact, there is no doubt that the future of the data centre lies in the cloud.
As a result, as we move forward this year, we can expect a continued and renewed focus on moving on-premise data into the cloud environment and continued adoption of cloud-based data centre services as an overall solution to the data conundrum.
Of course, the migration journey of a data centre into the cloud for larger corporates or corporates that have been in existence for some time is a lengthy one and while it may be easier for a new business or a new department/system to take advantage of the cloud’s full benefits immediately, it’s important for businesses looking to move their data centre requirements into the cloud – no matter their size or years of operation – to be realistic about the transition.
Moving core operations and systems into a new environment cannot happen overnight. A common misconception that used to exist when cloud was still in its inception, is that data can be unplugged from the on-premise data centre and plugged straight into the cloud. It obviously isn’t as simple as that.
For this very reason, there is a growing acceptance by decision makers to follow a comprehensive business-first strategy before migrating services to the cloud, especially since technology-first adoption strategies have not always proved successful in recent years.
Below are some of the influencing factors to a far more slow-paced transition:
- Technical challenges – Ground and prep work are undoubtedly crucial for a business to transition as seamlessly as possible. Moving a business’ core infrastructure or the core integrated operations into a new platform cannot happen without disruption. Depending on the company size, it is important to phase transition to provide a ‘feel’ for the new environment and to reduce risk, which is why we can expect to see many corporates prioritise their newer businesses or less critical systems for the initial cloud migration. When a company moves a system to a new environment, it is important to have full scope of what that system is connected to and what the effects of disconnecting it or applying it into a new platform would be.
- Existing contracts – Contracts are arguably the biggest stumbling block for a business looking to venture into the cloud. By virtue of having an existing data centre in place, whether run internally or by a vendor, there are contracts in place for hardware, software and technical support. Quite often, businesses embark on cloud data centre migration initiatives as part of their cloud strategy, only to come up short when they realise that the extent of the existing contracts prevent them from moving systems for years, i.e. until an existing services and maintenance contract expires. The challenge then becomes how to co-ordinate the migration of core operating systems to the cloud, within a set time frame to conclude with the expiration of the existing contract. Complex implementation scenarios requiring parallel systems feeds, co-existence strategies, etc then become part of the challenge.
- Human resources – a business needs to consider the HR implications of retrenching or re-skilling existing staff that might be made redundant due to a wholesale migration of the IT data centre into the cloud.
- Regulation – Some companies, like those in the banking environment, were sceptical to adopt cloud given the ambiguity that existed around the growing need for local data centres as regulations have become stricter in the global and local environments related to personal information. As a result, we can expect to see some sectors experience a slower adoption journey while regulations like the Protection of Personal Information act (POPI) become more comprehensive.
Security, on the other hand, remains top-of-mind for the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the broader data centre and cloud conversation. However, it is important to note that there is a growing understanding of the reality of people being the biggest threat to network security.
Whether it is a staff worker forgetting their password on a piece of paper, or a malicious employee sharing sensitive data with competitors, the threat is no greater in a managed environment than it is on an on-premise internally managed scenario. This is why threat intelligence and legal strength remain crucial.
As decision makers become more informed about the changing face of the data centre and cloud becoming the preferred route, managed services are also set to be the flavour du jour. Cloud is, of course, a managed service, however it is left to the business to decide how much it should manage, i.e. platform, information or software as a service. The bare minimum implementation would see platform as a service being implemented but as time goes on, more and more businesses will expand the managed services offering to include software.
Companies don’t often have the capacity to run the data centre without technical support, especially as Big Data creates a vortex of ‘confusion’ for many. With the paranoia wearing off around security, regulation and opening up the business’ internal network to an external platform, businesses will be seen to focus more on their operations and discard the burden of IT as managed services become more prevalent.
There is no doubt that the future will see little to no on-premise data centres, the only uncertainty is when that future will be. While it is evident that there is no blueprint to how a company should move their data centre from premise and into the cloud, experience has shown that corporates are becoming more realistic about the time it takes to transition. Advisory forms a fundamental role in an organisation’s journey out of premise and into a cloud, which means the right partnerships are critically important.