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Cloud Modernization: Why Lift and Shift Can Lead to Drift

Cloud modernization is more than the technology industry's favorite new buzzword. It is a critical process for enhancing operations and taking advantage of the flexibility and range of new possibilities offered by cloud environments. Yet while many organizations are now pushing to move more of their applications and operations to the cloud, only a handful may derive real value in the short- and long-term. This comes from relying on more basic cloud migration versus approaches that can drive far greater impact.

At its heart, cloud modernization means converting legacy applications to cloud-based applications. This involves breaking down applications into their component parts and rebuilding each of those parts for the cloud environment. While this process can be complex, establishing a thorough plan will help organizations reap desired benefits and drive bottom-line business impact. 

Recent years have seen a rapid rate of growth in application modernization. This is due in part to the many start-ups "born" with a cloud-native architecture. The nimble and flexible nature of these architectures can provide a significant competitive advantage. This has pushed many incumbent organizations to move more quickly toward their own cloud strategy. 

In throwing themselves into this race against competitors, many leaders may be attracted to what appears to be the easier "lift and shift" model. This is typically defined as moving an application as-is to another IT environment – in this case, the cloud. While this gains some efficiencies, it often leaves organizations lost in the drift of legacy systems that have not been modernized to effectively compete in a cloud-first marketplace. 

For companies seeking to implement a successful cloud modernization strategy, start by considering these three areas:

Understand the art of the possible when it comes to cloud

Organizations should start by working to understand the range of possibilities that a defined cloud strategy can bring to their operations – and specifically how it will help advance core business objectives. This process should include defining the "why." Is the goal greater speed and efficiency in operations or delivery of products and services? A nimbler development environment? More resiliency and support for business continuity? Greater opportunities for innovation? Support for an increasingly remote workforce? Often an organization's "why" is a combination of these factors.

Once the decision is made, leaders should be confident in moving forward with a defined plan, avoiding the tendency to lag or drift. Many organizations struggle with being consistent in their cloud strategy, approaching implementation as a piecemeal process. We call this "tip toeing." To derive tangible value, companies must move past the "tip toe" stage and commit with clarity of purpose.

Apply a strategic process to rationalize your applications

The next step in developing a clear and cohesive cloud strategy requires addressing two key aspects of the business. The first is core IT infrastructure and its associated enterprise/legacy applications. This is the technology that tends to run the business day-to-day. The second aspect involves incremental, cloud-native applications and their associated cloud infrastructure – the "heart and soul" of true modernization. Making this distinction is mission critical as not every application is the same when it comes to priority or performance in a cloud environment. 

By applying this process with thoughtfulness and discipline, organizations can determine which applications should be replaced, retired or simply rehosted – versus which applications should be refactored or rewritten to function natively in the cloud. 

Once there is clarity on which applications are most strategically important to modernize, the next step is building a staged roadmap. Remember, this is not about the wholesale movement of a given app to the cloud like in the traditional "lift and shift" model. It is crucial to take an agile approach that attacks this work in stages. 

By making incremental progress and improvements along the way, organizations will start to see critical technology infrastructure and operations start to take shape in the cloud – and can assess the associated impact. An agile development process will also help leaders maintain a clearer understanding of financial implications throughout the project and to consistently optimize the cost model within cloud over time.

Find a trusted partner to help make the leap

Once a decision has been made to make a move to the cloud, it is critical that companies find a trusted partner to guide them on this journey. This requires care and due diligence. 

  • Start with an advisory relationship: Your partner should be able to guide you with a plan and strategy that are in line with business needs and budget. If they cannot serve as an effective, expert advisor from a strategic perspective, look elsewhere.

  • Hybrid is the operating model of the next decade: Many IT operators can move key aspects of your business from on-premises to cloud. Yet they cannot (or will not) support your on-premises environment. Hybrid is the operating model of the next decade. To keep your business up to date, you need a partner that does both.

  • Migration and modernization: Ensure your proposed partner knows the difference between cloud migration versus cloud modernization and has a clear perspective on how and when to apply each approach. Analyze if the partner can operate and manage the cloud or key parts of the cloud per your business plan.

  • A true services continuum: The ideal partner will move with you through the whole lifecycle of this process – from setting your strategy, to balancing migrations versus modernizations, to defining who should own the operation and management of cloud infrastructure and applications to addressing other critical needs like data management and security. 

This article originally appeared in CIO Dive.

Take the first step to executing cloud modernization

The volume of discussions around cloud can seem overwhelming, as can the sheer scope of issues to be considered before diving in. By putting a thoughtful framework and plan in place, alongside a trusted partner with the right expertise, organizations can reduce time to achieving real value – and ensure they get the most from their cloud investment. To explore how migrating workloads to the cloud can benefit your organization, schedule a Cloud Migration Workshop today. Schedule your workshop
About the author:
Tim Femister is the senior leader for C1’s award-winning Cloud & Digital Infrastructure Group. Tim is fiercely passionate about helping organizations connect, protect and leverage their digital assets in a manner that drives transformational value. He is a keynote speaker and presenter on topics related to digital, cloud and security transformation as well as an active member of the Forbes Technology Council, contributor to and featured in local and national media and entertainment coverage.