If you answered this question honestly, you probably came up with “over budget,” “behind schedule,” or most painfully of all “already obsolete.” Requirements change fast, even strategic requirements, and IT leaders all around the world are already pressed to stay on budget despite the pains of upkeeping aging infrastructure. That’s before we get into the lack of flexibility and the lead time it takes to bring new on-premises infrastructure online to meet those changing requirements.
So, how do you — the enterprising IT leader — manage the compounding concerns of infrastructure upkeep, asset management, obsolescence, flexibility, budget, and speedy response to changing requirements that modern business demands? Cloud Technology.
You’ve got concerns, I’m sure.
“We tried migrating to the cloud and it didn’t work, or we’ve only managed to implement it for a small section of our business because we can’t figure out a broader use case.”
Every company I’ve seen take a run at migrating to cloud technology by themselves hits a stumbling block because the process seems straightforward, but they invariably come across one of the irreconcilable differences between on-prem infrastructure and cloud infrastructure. They believe that their workflows can only perform on their hardware, and that the cost of rebuilding those workflows to be cloud-compatible isn’t worth the advantages. They can’t find the use case that brings value to the table for migrating now rather than later, or migrating at all. And worst of all, they usually believe that because they can’t see a solution, one doesn’t exist.
The reality of the situation is that if your workflows, highly-customized commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software or the applications you’ve developed in-house can’t operate as smoothly or better on cloud technology, you’ve got larger concerns than the cloud. Monolithic systems and those with tight/immutable bindings aren’t just concerns for cloud migrations: they’re a time bomb ready to take your business-critical processes down at the worst moment and should be addressed. The good news is that you’ve found a reason to fix those problems before they can get bigger.
“Migration looks expensive, time-consuming, and downtime prone.”
A properly planned cloud technology migration takes into account the pitfalls that drive these concerns and includes the strategies necessary to avoid them. Downtime can be negated with a carefully designed and executed cutover, active-active replication, message bus gateways, and other well-developed procedures for moving operations from site to site.
During infrastructure changes, costs tend to spiral out of control. As technology leaders, we know this, and try to account for it to little avail. One of the major drivers of cost tends to be poor planning: in an attempt to bring down costs, in-house resources are allocated to research the subject as thoroughly as possible and create a plan blindly, while external resources are often ignored. Almost inevitably these plans fail to take into account the complexities and nuances of such a migration, and generate greater long-term costs, financially and in terms of resources. Worse yet, while a migration might appear to have gone off successfully, it’s more than possible that some subsurface flaw can end up lurking in your infrastructure unaddressed and lead to the need for attention down the road — at which point it might be too late to bring in external help without causing serious disruptions.
Better to do it right the first time.
“I feel more secure having everything in my server rack/telco room/etc.”
On-site hardware used to make sense for startups and enterprises from a security and maintenance perspective — as long as you were able to have your own people directly interfacing with the infrastructure on a daily basis, where they could reach out and touch it, it was easy to feel secure. After colocation started to become popular, the value became apparent: someone else provides physical and basic network security, and all I have to do is maintain my hardware. However, it really only worked for the “medium” business, since startups saw colocation as an unnecessary expense, and for enterprises, it was impractical to rent a whole datacenter when they could just run one on-site.
Cloud technology brings an interesting opportunity, though. By leveraging standard features for modern cloud service providers such as autoscaling infrastructures, machine templates with built-in security, serverless architectures, and out-of-the-box multi-factor authentication, one has access to what have historically been enterprise-level security resources as part of the core feature set of the infrastructure. In the world of small businesses and startups, this is nothing shy of miraculous. You don’t need to become or hire an IT security expert, and you don’t need to subscribe to CVE (Common Vulnerability & Exposures) mailing lists or spend countless hours researching best-practices and waste more of your precious time wearing yet another hat.
Meanwhile, for enterprises cloud technology offers a different set of opportunities. If you have a dedicated infrastructure security team, their responsibility domain shrinks dramatically with the appropriate cloud service provider to the extent that their concerns stop being whatever new infrastructure exploit is on the horizon. Instead, it gives them the time they need to respond to every other security threat out there. This freedom made available because cloud providers grant a sort of “herd immunity” to their clients — a single security incident for one client is usually enough to drive a systemwide response to patch that vulnerability, with no effort from you. Because their core competency as a company is infrastructure and security, they’ve taken the time to curate the best of the best in the field, with a subject-matter expert headcount dwarfing most enterprise IT departments as a whole.
“We’ve got unique considerations like PCI, Sarbanes-Oxley, and/or HIPAA compliance.”
What do health insurance companies, eCommerce sites, banks, and realtors have in common? They’ve all got to follow compliance standards. Some of these compliance standards concern how data is stored, which data has to be stored, which data cannot be stored, how long it has to be stored for, and what level of access has to be made available. This all drives companies with compliance needs to decide that the fastest or easiest way to solve their concerns is to do everything in-house. This tends to go poorly: it drives up costs, reduces actual security, and creates massive growing pains anytime infrastructure has to be replaced or expanded upon.
The hard fact is that there are no snowflakes in the land of business compliance needs, and while circumstances may have come to a point where it seems that your concerns are unique, the question you really ought to be asking is “have my compliance concerns become so tangled they just seem unique?”.
There are plenty of cloud service providers who offer compliant infrastructures or Compliance as a Service (CaaS) to their clients, with certifications to match and back their offerings. Such companies have well-trained and well-versed compliance experts who work closely with their security departments to ensure that every move they make keeps their clients audit-ready and secure. On their own, these service providers offer the basis for companies with sensitive needs to flourish in the cloud, though often external resources — such as the AI Team — play an important role in matching up these businesses with the right provider and guiding the way securely, and compliantly, through a cloud migration.
“Our infrastructure works. Why move it to the cloud?”
“My operations are incredibly delicate and require the kind of uptime I can only ensure with my on-prem/colocation solution.”
Many are concerned that they lose direct control of the thing that facilitates every aspect of their business — the IT infrastructure — as it moves into the cloud. It’s easy to fall into the belief that everything is simpler if you take care of it in-house, that solutions to problems are faster and better if you take care of it; in which case I have to ask: why are you spending time, energy, and resources on something that isn’t your core competency? Shouldn’t your company’s resources be directed at selling your product or service? Making it better, advancing the state of your art, and becoming a leader in your industry, rather than a follower weighted down by your wheezing IT infrastructure?
Cloud services offer dozens of out-of-reach advantages to anyone but the largest enterprises, which can bring your operational level to a new tier. Geographically distributed datacenters with expert network engineering teams allow for rapid recovery from disasters, hot site failovers, and things like Anycast — the ability to direct users to a portion of your cloud infrastructure located nearest to them for the most responsive experience on their end, while lowering the resource consumption on your end. Autoscaling allows you to use exactly the resources needed to provide the level of service clients demand by automatically standing up new members of your web farm, search cluster, or worker collection as your requirements change in real-time. Serverless architectures and containerization allow you to run your services and workflows without needing to worry about patching, licensing, and machine resource management, all while making demand responsiveness even easier.
While these features increase your operational capacity and integrity and free up your resources to do what you do better, they also introduce complexity. The AI Team is well-versed in the operational needs of all sorts of businesses and familiar with the considerations that the potent features cloud service providers require in order to be leveraged properly. By being able to draw the line between your operations and the many advantages of the cloud, we can put you on the operational forefront of your industry.
I know The Cloud may seem like a buzzword-riddled fad, but it’s a natural consequence of our technical evolution: as internet connections become faster content delivery becomes easier and centralizing infrastructure makes more sense, while specialization and the drive for companies to focus on their core competencies in order to get a competitive edge increases. The field of IT is becoming more complex by the day, with new threats to businesses coming out as quickly as new technologies that can give them an advantage. and We’re rapidly approaching the point where the only way a beleaguered IT department — especially the small ones — can keep up with business demands is with reinforcements. They need more control, more visibility, more capacity to expand on demand, and more ability to plan how they use their never-quite-big-enough budget.
The cloud offers all this and more.
Stop spending money and time replacing servers and network hardware every couple of years, risking your security and operational integrity, and start living in the modern IT era in the cloud with the rest of us.
The AI Team is well versed and extensively credentialed as some of the foremost experts in distributed systems and cloud-based architecture solutions. We understand how to optimize cloud infrastructures to fit any enterprise architecture and can advise in the planning and preparation phases needed to bring your cloud migration to fruition and drive your roadmap home.