How to develop the right strategy and find the right people for your cloud migration

As an increasing number of organizations move their applications to the cloud, CIOs must find staff with the right cloud-based skills to optimize their migration strategies.

You may be one of the 81% of business leaders embracing the cloud because you're concerned about missing out on the many benefits it will provide to your organisation.

However, while a highly scalable, robust and cost-effective solution to store and access your corporate data is an attractive option, you should not rush into your cloud migration.

High-profile businesses, including Netflix, Dropbox, and Apple’s iCloud, have all fallen foul of poor cloud strategies and suffered from significant outages and security breaches as a result.

Yet, such scenarios have done little to quash the demand for cloud computing. The market is currently growing by 40% every year and cloud infrastructure service revenues reached $12 billion in Q3 2017, according to a recent report from Synergy Research.  

Research house Gartner also predicts that by 2020 the global public cloud market will grow to $383.4 billion and that a corporate ‘no-cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today.

However, some industries are embracing the cloud more readily than others. Of the five industries surveyed in a recent report from the Economist, banking and retail were the only sectors where the majority of experts thought that cloud computing was already a “pervasive” or “significant” factor in their industry; whereas cloud computing has had much less of an impact in the healthcare sector.

As advancing digitisation sweeps across every industry, I would not expect this trend to continue; innovations such as telemedicine and digitised medical records almost guarantee that the healthcare industry will embrace the cloud fully.

Across every sector, 93% of IT leaders said some of their processes are moving to the cloud and more than half said they have already moved, or intended to move, all their processes to the cloud, according to a recent report from Commvault and CITO Research.

However, such rapid expansion has created a shortage of qualified cloud professionals; CIOs need to address this skills gap alongside a range of other issues to facilitate a seamless cloud migration. 

Devise a robust cloud migration strategy

As a first step, you need to devise a detailed operational plan that encompasses the benefits of cloud computing for your specific business, the applications you should and should not run on the cloud, and a detailed proposal of how you intend to implement your migration.

For instance, a lift-and-shift migration takes an on-premise application and then replicates it to the cloud with no modifications to its design or architecture. Alternatively, you may want to change an application’s performance before moving it to the cloud – this is known as a re-architecting approach or application refactoring.

Hybrid cloud solutions are another viable option for some businesses that need portability between public and private clouds. Also, consider the fate of your legacy applications, business drivers and cloud economics.

When should you migrate, and to which provider?

There are a handful of natural inflection points for moving to the cloud including: relocating your offices or data centres, developing a large set of new applications and implementing a more robust infrastructure upgrade.

You will also need to pick the right partner for your migration, with cloud platform services, infrastructure and application vendors forming the three main types of cloud migration partner. You may even consider working with all three partner types to find the most effective solution. 

Hiring futureproofed, cloud-skilled professionals

You need to evaluate the skill set of your staff when you start to plan your cloud migration. Vital cloud-based skills could be lacking, according to the recent Microsoft UK Cloud Skills Report, which states: “3,500 organisations in the UK will be hamstrung by a lack of cloud-skilled staff” in the near future.

Moreover, the report reveals that 83% of technical leaders believe cloud skills are critical to the digital transformation of their organisation. As a result, it’s imperative to migrate in the right way and with the right people.

So, if your IT operations team does not have the experience to manage your applications in the cloud, you will have to upskill your existing workforce or hire people with the relevant experience.

A managed service provider can also run your cloud applications in the early days and teach your IT operations team how to get to grips with your new infrastructure.

However, you will still need to find the right candidates with the right skill sets to optimise your cloud migration. For instance, your operations team should be familiar with at least one major cloud computing service. If they are well-versed in one stack, that knowledge can be transferred easily to design software for other stacks.

The underlying foundation of any cloud infrastructure is based on web services and APIs, and experience in virtualisation, storage and networking is also key for designing and operating applications.

Finally, I would recommend that your staff need to understand methodologies, including disaster recovery, high availability, fail over and redundancy, to keep your cloud service up and running.

Cloud computing is a fast paced industry and recent research has identified these must-have emerging cloud-based skills:

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Major cloud providers, including Google, AWS and Azure, continue to roll out new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning services. So, IT professionals with advanced data science skills and cloud-native AI technologies will be key.

2. Serverless architecture

Also known as Function as a Service (FaaS), a serverless architecture eliminates the need for developers to provision and manage the underlying infrastructure for building and running their applications. Serverless architectures are a relatively new phenomenon but many experts predict they will replace containers and DevOps (development operations) in the near future.

3. Knowledge of multiple providers

The flexibility of the cloud allows you to choose different hosting environments based on cost, performance and other features. As a result, IT professionals need to expand their cloud computing skills across multiple providers.

4. Cloud-native platforms

Many organisations are now building cloud-optimised applications to benefit from its automation and scalability. And cloud skills related to DevOps will continue to be sought by organisations that build these native apps.

5. Cloud security specialists

The demand for cloud security skills shows no signs of stopping; global spending on cloud security tools will reach $3.5 billion by 2021 – a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the next five years – according to research house Forrester. As such, you should recruit candidates with a deep knowledge of provider-native security tools. Key areas to cover include: protection against incidents, incident detection and incident response. This will drive a devsecops agenda that prioritises security across your infrastructure management, plus continuous integration and delivery pipelines.

Remember: there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to an enterprise cloud migration; so, do not underestimate the time, effort and risks it presents. Technically, moving your applications to a cloud-based infrastructure is not overly demanding, but the continual running and managing of that service with the right contingency plans in place represents a huge operational challenge for any CIO.

An enterprise cloud migration relies on more than just the infrastructure it uses – its success depends on the skills of the people who implement and manage your cloud-based strategy now, and in the future.

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