The future of on-premises and the cloud


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Any organization moving from an on-premises IT infrastructure to a public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will spend some time operating in a hybrid model. There is no magic switch you can flip to migrate everything directly from your data centers to the cloud. But how long can (or should) they co-exist?

If you plan on using a hybrid infrastructure for an extended period of time, my advice is: don’t. While it’s impossible to avoid a hybrid configuration during a transition period, most organizations are best served by using full (or as much as possible) cloud IaaS and following a plan that will get you there step-by-step over the course of two can take up to three years.

Why companies are moving to the cloud

One of the main drivers for performing a cloud IaaS migration is the existing talent pool, for a number of reasons. First, as legacy on-premises hardware and networks age, the pool of people with the expertise to properly maintain those devices and systems shrinks. At this level, it’s not uncommon for professionals to retire or change careers, and there certainly isn’t much younger talent with experience working with older IBM or Sun Microsystems hardware, for example. Long-term knowledge within an organization is very valuable, making it both expensive to replace and costly to lose.

Likewise, with “younger” talent coming out of schools with more of a cloud focus, cloud IaaS is where an organization wants to be if it wants to attract and retain newer employees. The goal is to develop, grow and (hopefully) retain talent, and that becomes increasingly difficult if a company only offers on-premises infrastructure and related tools.

There are several skills at play when looking at on-premises versus cloud infrastructure. For example, the toolsets used to manage and support on-premises hardware and network devices are typically different from those in a cloud environment. This includes differences in monitoring, performance management, and implementation support. And I’m not just talking about differences in terminology about how these tools work; cloud IaaS management and security tools are typically very different in function and usage compared to on-premises tools.

Top 3 Long-Term Disadvantages of a Hybrid Model

Working forever under a hybrid setup is theoretically possible, but unless you have an unlimited budget it doesn’t make business sense to do this over a longer period of time. This is why:

It requires additional administrative support. With a hybrid model, you need professional system administrators who support on-premises and in the cloud. These teams handle things like patching, monitoring, failover, backup, and recovery. This is more than just extra work; it’s about extra knowledge – and probably extra sets of tools. Hard costs are reaching a tipping point. At some point, the physical footprint that supports your on-premises architecture — which was probably built years ago when it made economic sense — no longer provides the ROI you need. Imagine a couple who still live in a big house after the kids move out. The house may be nice, but not very efficient. You’re essentially paying for space you don’t need or use. Your needs have changed, but you’re still paying for the whole house. Ultimately, overhead costs are spread over a smaller basis, increasing unit costs. Different policies. If an organization has both a cloud team and a non-cloud team, it has essentially told its people that they are on the varsity or junior varsity team. I’ve talked to too many clients who have unwittingly caused this issue, which can lead to resentment in the team. When the company says “we are cloud IaaS first”, expect everyone to want to be on the cloud team. If the organization says the future is in the cloud, but they want IT staff to continue to manage on-premises, what will those staff be doing three years from now when their colleagues are working in the public cloud? How are they retrained and retrained? Organizations need to be aware of the problems that these types of situations can create over time.

Like most things, it comes down to people

Companies need to think about what it takes to support their on-premises and cloud IaaS based on the talent available. If you reach a certain level based on size and scale and need 24/7 coverage – essentially all businesses in this era need that level of support – how many technicians do you need to run all your different systems 365 days a year? cover?

There are certainly organizations that have recruited a team of smart people who have stuck with them over time, but this team eventually realizes that it is difficult to have a life outside of work too. It’s not just the sheer hours, but the constant stress of waiting for that phone call. Planning activities is always a problem because you know you are responsible; if something happens, it could cost you a weekend. This realization ultimately impacts innovation – you can’t expect people to stand by every week and then implement that next software/hardware solution that moves the business forward.

Ultimately, a hybrid model is inevitable during a transition to cloud IaaS, so the idea is to make that transition as efficient and cost-effective as possible. With that in mind, here are three steps to get the ball rolling:

Involve all stakeholders in the discussion. Technical leaders need to work with CFOs and other business leaders to map and explain why every step of a cloud migration makes business sense. Perform a full TCO analysis. Analyzing the costs associated with a cloud migration requires: much more zeal than just using the online calculators of the major cloud providers. Create a roadmap for three years. Make a plan to migrate to the cloud incrementally based on business priorities and make sure that plan goes ahead.

Most agree that migrating customer-facing and internal systems is a top priority; that’s where you get the “big bang” and where ROI is generally made. Where it is not created is in file systems or network devices. That said, if you run out of money or time before completing the migration of these legacy systems, you’re stuck with a sub-optimal solution and your business could suffer.

Ultimately, there is no cookie cutter solution that will work for every business, and these are just some of the issues to consider. Getting to the public cloud may look different from a peer or competitor, but the fact remains that limiting the amount of time you spend working under a hybrid model almost always gives you the best chance of success.

Michael Bathon is Vice President & Executive Advisor, IT at Rimini Street

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