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Want to Migrate to Cloud IaaS? What Is Your Hurry?

For the question: "Should my cloud migration strategy focus on cloud-based services or a lift and shift to cloud infrastructure as a service?" I'm answering with a question: "Well, how much of a hurry are you in?"

This is a key question in cloud strategy for many organizations, as both traditional Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and advanced cloud-native services gain market traction.

Public cloud adoption continues to grow in the enterprise (and among midsized organizations), but a public cloud service like Amazon or Azure is not just IaaS. Most offer a broader range of higher-level services such as:

  • Platform-as-a-Service (develop code and runtime environment in the cloud).
  • Database-as-a-Service (databases are hosted in the cloud and accessed as a service with no need to configure and manage database servers).
  • Containers-as-a-Service (for executing code in runtime containers instead of traditional virtual servers of IaaS).
  • Functions-as-a-Service (invoke programing functions in the cloud without the need to configure and manage application servers for so-called “serverless” computing).

RightScale also notes that use of these “extended cloud services” is growing at a significant clip. In fact, “A significant number of public cloud users are now leveraging services beyond just the basic compute, storage, and network services. Among the most popular extended services, relational DBaaS, push notifications, and caching continue to hold the top three positions in 2018.”

Short Game Versus Long Game

Consuming cloud based services will be more efficient, flexible, and ultimately cheaper than traditional IaaS. But cloud-native demands more time and effort up front, especially if you have no experience here. This is akin to the difference between moving servers to a different hosting facility and re-platforming your applications and data.

Another way of putting it:

  • Moving your infrastructure (in the form of virtualized servers and storage) to a cloud IaaS is faster and less disruptive to operations but has lower long-term value. The pennies per gigabyte for storage and processor cycles will add up over time to significant cost. Operationally you still have to manage server and storage entities, only now they are in the cloud instead of your on-premises data center.
  • Moving your data to the cloud and then developing applications in the cloud that consume cloud services (like database services) will take longer as the apps and data need to be refactored. Once you get there the cloud will be more cost-efficient and much of the infrastructure management overhead will be taken over by the cloud provider. But you have to get there.

Another survey report, from Cloudfoundry, (where PaaS, containers and serverless stand in a multi-platform world) says that use of services beyond traditional IaaS continues to grow with:

  • 77 percent using or evaluating Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
  • 72 percent using or evaluating containers.
  • 46 percent using or evaluating serverless computing.
  • More than a third (39 percent) using a combination of all three technologies together.

The report also notes that the robust growth of PaaS is bolstered by cost savings results, with “62 percent of IT Decision Makers report[ing] their companies save over $100,000 by using a PaaS, an increase of eight percentage points (from 54 percent) since late 2017.”

Cloud in a Hurry IaaS Use Cases

If there is less value in IaaS, why use it at all? Here are three examples of migration in a hurry where lift and shift tends to make sense.

  • Everything must go!
    Some IT organizations are faced with a straight on outsourcing quandary. It has been decided by the powers that be that the on-premises data center will be shut down within the year. The core computing infrastructure is Windows-based and nearly 100 percent virtualized. The organization’s short-term migration strategy is to adopt SaaS for some “commodity” applications like Office and move the rest to Microsoft Azure IaaS. (For example, Info-Tech is aware of one manufacturer that must have 60% of its infrastructure moved to Azure by November 2018).
  • Need capacity in a hurry for a new app or service.
    Say there is a new web app that the company is excited about deploying but current on-premises infrastructure just doesn’t have the capacity for the servers and storage needed to back end the app. As the app prototype has already been developed on traditional Intel servers, the production version is instantiated on virtual server instances on Amazon’s IaaS.
  • Failover Infrastructure for Disaster Recovery Planning.
    When it comes to “in a hurry” there is no greater urgency than “now.” Full site disaster recovery planning requires that a back-up be available at any time because the critical outage can happen at any time. The cloud makes a handy target for full system and data back-ups. In public cloud DR those backups are restored to a virtual failover facility on IaaS.

Even IaaS Providers Would Rather You Migrate to Cloud-Native Services

When one thinks “public cloud” the typical image is Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS has been offering pay-per-use IaaS since 2006. But though elastic compute cloud has been a flagship, Amazon has always wanted customers to use its cloud-native services.

Interestingly, when Amazon’s rival Microsoft debuted its Azure cloud service in 2010 the focus was on PaaS. IaaS was prioritized soon after as Amazon’s IaaS business was taking off and Microsoft didn’t want to miss the train as it was leaving the station. IaaS gave Azure a foothold, but today Microsoft is building a lot of its business on cloud-native services such as SQL data services, PaaS, containers, and serverless functions.

Short Versus Long Term Explains VMware/AWS Partnership

The term “hybrid” gets used a lot in relation to the future of cloud, but here I go using it again. Where higher-level abstraction of cloud services (beyond IaaS) is the future, we are likely to see hybrid portfolios of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS in the intermediate timeframe.

An example of a hybrid approach is VMware cloud on AWS. In this service VMware offers its virtual infrastructure stack running on Amazon servers. This provides a frictionless target for lift and shift migration of a VMware virtual infrastructure environment to the cloud. But some have wondered what Amazon is getting out of the deal (other than rental fees on its servers).

The answer is that VMware is playing the short game while AWS is playing the long game. Subscribers to VMware on AWS have access to a wide range of AWS cloud-native services. So a company can get off-premises to meet a short-term requirement but then continue to develop its capabilities which will in turn mean more usage of AWS services.

Recommendations

  1. Develop a cloud strategy that has both short and longer-term goals.
    Info-Tech’s cloud strategy blueprint includes cloud suitability analysis for figuring out what form of cloud is right for a given workload. In formulating longer term goals, Info-Tech believes there will be more value in exploiting cloud-native services that are at a higher level of abstraction than base compute and storage units of IaaS.
  2. Leverage cloud DR to get a baseline of the real costs of lift and shift.
    A good DR strategy includes testing. Testing recovery on a public cloud IaaS, such as Amazon or Azure, will give you an accurate understanding of the real cost of operating critical apps and services on the cloud 24/7 in IaaS.
  3. Resist pressure to lift and shift right away to the cloud because “cloud is cheaper.”
    Info-Tech clients who we have worked with on costing out a full on lift and shift with no modification have been surprised at the potential annual operational bill. If one of your goals in cloud strategy is to save money, be sure to fully explore the potential of refactoring applications for cloud-based services. For more see this article, “The Best Cloud Migration Path: Lift And Shift, Replatform Or Refactor?” at Forbes.

Bottom Line

Cloud IaaS is only one option for cloud migration. Your cloud strategy should be asking what type of cloud service – IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS – is the best fit for a given application. IaaS might be the most attractive in the short term but longer term will likely lay in a higher form of abstraction.


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