Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Migrating To Azure? Avoid ‘Lift & Shift’. ‘Lift & Transform’ Is The Way To Go.

Azure is like a huge collection of Lego building blocks. You can do almost anything and everything with it. As such it’s very tempting for companies to move their current on-premise workloads as-is to the Azure cloud. Many times because it’s the way they always did their IT, so why change a winning team? Just rebuild your on-premise IT in the cloud and migrate. This is also called Lift & Shift migrations. Just do it and you’re in the cloud.

Sure, you can do it. And yes, it will work. But you know, even though you’re in the cloud now, you’re missing out on tons of advantages which the cloud has(had) to offer.

Why? Simply because you’re skipping the biggest parts of the cloud, titled PaaS and SaaS. Instead you’re using Azure as a pure and simple IaaS provider: Microsoft delivers the compute, networking, storage and virtualization layer and you’ll do the rest (from the Azure VMs and further).

However, multiple things happen in such a scenario:

  • Azure VMs don’t come cheap, especially when you require Azure VMs with lots of CPU, RAM and good IOPS;
  • Azure services, like MFA are easily integrated into other Azure services, especially when those services are SaaS based;
  • You’re Azure environment becomes a mere copy from your current on-premise data center. So why even bother going to the cloud?

Now it’s time to retrace your steps. Think about WHY your company thought about going to the cloud. When it’s about lower IT costs, think again. When it’s because your company wants IT to become more agile, more capable and flexible, Azure is a valid solution.

But as stated before, Azure delivers way much more besides IaaS. Even better, many offerings are on PaaS or even SaaS level. And the integration between them is much better, compared to ‘good old’ IaaS.

In order to get the most out of Azure without paying too much, it’s much better to rethink your IT. Like:

  • Why does my company run those servers?
    • Not because I love the server OS…
    • Not because I love to maintain it…
  • Why does my company run those SQL/web/etc. servers?
    • Not because I love to install SQL/web/etc…
    • Not because I love to maintain SQL/web/etc…

Sooner (or later) you’ll start realizing that at the end of the day, your company runs all those servers in order to facilitate certain applications, or services even.

So why not splitting to those services (web, database and so on) and use them in Azure instead? Now you’re getting there, since the webservers, database servers and so on are hosted and maintained by Microsoft.

You’re only responsible for the workloads running on top of it, like the websites and databases. So no more IaaS for those workloads, but PaaS instead. Wh00t!!!

Take it even a step further. Aren’t there other services your company consumes which are offered like a SaaS solution already? Like Azure AD (mark my words, on-premise AD is ending), VSTS, Exchange-Online (or O365), MFA and so on?

Sure, these services can be tied into the on-premise equivalents as well. It requires additional resources and efforts, but it can be done. But before going there, try to connect it first to the Azure workloads only, and go from there.

Say hello to ‘Lift & Transform’
Yes, I know. This is a process which requires time. It can’t be done in a few weeks. But still, simply BEGIN with small (baby) steps. Take care first of the ‘low hanging fruit’, in this case the easy on-premise parts which are easy to ‘lift & transform’.

Learn. Adapt. Transform. Microsoft knows and recognizes the hybrid world. Meaning IT, mixed of on-premise workloads combined with cloud based ones.

But PLEASE, in order to get the most out of it, TRANSFORM your IT when migrating to the cloud. And no, not everything can be transformed. But let those be exceptions and not the default migration path to the cloud. Now the value proposition of the Azure cloud grows significantly for your company, thus greatly enhancing the added value of your IT assets.

Real life experiences
No, I am NOT talking theoretically here. I see this happening at my company’s customer base with an almost weekly frequency. People and organizations require coaching, support and positive discussions about how IT is done.

As soon as the cloud is involved, many people tend to think about it in the old way. Cloud is nothing but a BIG data center. Period. In real life however, the cloud means DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION.

For us consultants, the first and foremost challenge is to start to change their mindset: Think services! First with small steps. The moment they embrace it however, it’s me and my colleagues who are learning many new things/approaches instead.

For instance a huge insurance company who started on a small scale with their migration to the cloud, opting for ‘lift & transform’. The moment they got the ‘hang of it’ (they noticed the many advantages of this approach), they decided to move as much on-premise IT to the cloud.

They projected almost two years for it. Instead they finished it a year(!) before schedule! Now they’re looking at their on-premise IT (better, what’s left of it) in order to get it to the cloud as well, as far as allowed by law and regulations.

To me this is a splendid showcase of the real cloud power and the digital transformation. We’re living in a very exciting world today, with many mind blowing changes ahead!

1 comment:

rob said...

Great post Marnix. Some common sense amongst the Tsunami of Azure literature!