Path to the AWS Cloud

Ramu Kambalapuram
Ramu Kambalapuram

August 22, 2017

Introduction

You’ve heard of software as a service (SaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, There is XaaS to describe Anything as a Service.  Now you can provide all of your company’s functions “as a Service” – Your Company as a Service (YCaaS).  You will be more scalable, more available, more connected to employees and customers, as well as suppliers.  Just hop on this cloud…

This blog is written to simplify your trip to the cloud.  It is written as a general-purpose document and specific details will vary with your needs.  This guide is written for migration to the AWS Cloud Platform. You will need an AWS account to begin this migration.  The result will be a very flexible and highly available platform that will host services for internal or external use.  Services may be turned up or discontinued, temporarily or permanently, very easily.  Services may be scaled up or down automatically to meet demands.  Because AWS services are billed as a service, computing services become operational rather than a capital expense (CAPEX).

The Framework

Exact needs will vary based on the services being migrated to the AWS Cloud.  The benefits of a structured, reliable framework will transform your organization’s approach to planning and be offering online services.  The AWS CAF (Cloud Adoption Framework) offers a structure for developing efficient and effective plans for cloud migration.  With guidance and best practices available within that framework, you will build a comprehensive approach to cloud computing across your organization.

Planning

Using the Framework (AWS CAF) to break down complicated plans into simple areas of focus, will speed the migration and improve success.  People, process, and technology are represented at the top level.  The components of the focus areas include:

  • Value (ROI)
  • People (Roles)
  • Priority and Control
  • Applications and Infrastructure
  • Risk and Compliance
  • Operations

Value, or Return on Investment, measure the monetary impact on your business.  For customer facing services, this could mean reaching more customers faster.  Customer engagement and meaningful transactions.  For internal services, ease of access and pertinence of content adds value.

People occupy many roles.  Organizationally, internal stakeholders will need to be involved in decision making and in ongoing support.  Business applications’ stakeholders have outcomes which they own in the planning stages and in the long term utilization. The content provider will have initial and ongoing responsibilities.  The end user is dependent on the platform and the other stakeholders.

Priority and control of the service are defined with the resources dedicated to the service migration and allowable disruption.  Priorities are affected by readiness.  New services are often easier to migrate due to the compatibility of platforms.  These may be migrated quickly ahead of more cumbersome services.  Mission critical services will require the resources and special attention that goes with critical status.

Risk and compliance are defined by the category of the usage of the service.  Commerce with external entities will demand PCI compliance.  Personal information of internal entities will demand HIPPA compliance.  CRM and general information will need copyright identification.

Operations are involved in the migration phase as the process of service migration affects business operations.   Because migration is not a day to day business process, it will require its own resources, planning, and priorities.  These priorities affect the resources available for the migration.  A fast migration may require more resources, people, bandwidth, communications.  Lower priority allows for fewer resources and, typically, less disruption.

Migration process

Migration is a process that will ride on top of the normal business process.  In order to successfully migrate to the cloud, all of these considerations will affect planning.  Given priorities that are decided upon, identify the people and roles that will be involved in the migration.  Communicate the specific outcomes the team will be responsible for.  Be specific, gain agreement and ownership.  Deliver the resources that the team identifies as needed to meet goals.  This includes time.  If the team has to be away from normal day to day responsibilities business process must be temporarily re-routed.  This will involve support teams one level removed from the migration.

Outsourced teams can provide temporary resources in highly specialized roles to reduce the impact on business operations.  Do the initial planning to determine your needs.  Choose an outsourced team based on experience in the specific roles you will need to fill.  Integrate the imported resources with appropriate internal team members.  Give ownership to the internal team and empower them to act when needs arise.

Construct the entire migration model before beginning the process.  Build the budget and prepare for the impact of resource dedication up front.  Measure progress against the model on weekly basis.  Communicate to the team that adjustments will be needed, and communication is the way these adjustments are dealt with.  Remember the butterfly effect: every change will result in cascading consequences.  With reliable communications, everyone will be more comfortable with the temporary effects of this over the top process.

When the team and their roles are communicated, the non-human resources can be quantified.  How much bandwidth will be required to meet identified goals?  Is the network capable of delivering on the required bandwidth, or will infrastructure need to be upgraded?  Consider the impact on infrastructure on critical business services that may occur during the migration.  Be prepared for contingencies and unexpected demands.

If network augmentation is required, how deep into your infrastructure will you need to adjust.  As data migration paths are identified and bandwidth is dedicated, will other segments of the network be affected?  These network augmentations have power and space impacts. Downstream, there will be additional people affected as configurations and replacement equipment are implemented.

Peak demand capacity is often a separate planning impact.  Peak busy hours will result in oversubscription of available bandwidth.  With oversubscription, will come service impact.  The impact is easily underestimated because saturation will lengthen the impact duration.  Along with the capacity planning, there needs to be service level consideration.  What tolerance to latency will the user base have?

Availability planning during migration will determine impact in the event of the disaster.  Business continuity plans may need to be modified during the migration period.  Existing failover functions will not include the migration paths.  If not addressed in advance, an unplanned outage will disrupt your migration and likely have a negative business impact.  Whatever availabilities are associated with your services which are migrating will need planning for the migration.

The cost of maintaining duplicate services during migration include licensing.  When two systems are running simultaneously, the license expense is double.  Depending on demand, and with planning, some efficiencies may keep this cost under the maximum.  While this may be an opportunity to eliminate some marginally needed or legacy expenses.

In the long run, you will reap the rewards.  Savings include the server maintenance, break-fix, and upgrades, backups, both local and off-site, environmental conditioning maintenance, power savings.  People time involved with the maintenance, break-fix, upgrades, and the bill paying for these services.  Importantly, scalability in the AWS cloud does not require as much advanced planning, over capacity implementation and over provisioning for future expansion.  Capacity can be reduced on the fly as well.

The total return on investment will include a cost increase during planning and migration and long-term savings due to increased efficiencies and cost reductions.   The total cost of ownership grows over time, but will not include associated direct and indirect costs.  Intangible return is in technology upgrades.  The obsoleting of capital investments will greatly decrease.  Technology will evolve and be implemented invisibly for immediate use in the cloud platform.   

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