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Taking the leap towards public cloud

By Contributor
Fri 29 Oct 2021

Article by New Relic Asia Pacific and Japan CTO Michael Fleshman.

Public cloud adoption has been hampered in Australia and New Zealand in recent years, with the security of data being top of mind for technology leaders operating in industries that handle highly sensitive information. 

Conservative organisational cultures and a lack of internal CloudOps groups, platform groups and DevSecOps expertise have been notable roadblocks to facilitating migration to cloud, with the sheer cost of an upgrade proving to be another hurdle.

Despite these issues, an increasing number of organisations across the region have started to embrace the benefits of public clouds, with aggressive plans afoot over the next three years to migrate. According to New Relic’s 2021 Observability Forecast, A/NZ companies have a strong desire to shift to a primarily public cloud set-up (from 2% in 2021 to 24% in 2024) or an all public cloud environment (from 2% to 11% in the same period).

Aligning strategic outcomes with technology investment

The decision to move to the public cloud is much easier to facilitate when aligned with a business’ overarching strategic goals, such as a product deployment, new market expansion or product revamp caused by an increasingly competitive landscape. 

For companies undertaking a merger or acquisition, the business must look to hasten their shift to the public cloud so that technology can be standardised across all business functions. 

For one leading newspaper publisher, the dramatic shift to digital-first from print-first was the catalyst to embrace a public cloud. The investment to achieve this transformation would have been prohibitive if not for the introduction of the public cloud and cloud-based services into the new platform.

Given the rapid change in the competitive landscape, the publisher knew it had to transform or disappear. So the organisation moved their data centers, enterprise messaging, and services formerly developed in-house for capabilities like subscription management, authentication and customer service to cloud providers.

This allowed them to focus internal resources on core, business differentiating services and user experience while leveraging low or zero capital investment into cloud services with features far richer, more secure and more reliable than any developed internally. 

This business became one of the leaders in the new digital publishing market, and those that survived the same transition have made similar choices.

Setting the migration up for success

Before migrating a single application to the cloud, technology teams must adopt modern observability tools to understand the current state of on-premise workloads. Major cloud vendors typically divide a cloud migration into three phases: plan, migrate and run, but observability is essential to each stage of the process. It is the only way to identify the root cause of problems and makes it a key driver for successful cloud migrations.

Additionally, moving to the cloud is not necessarily a wholesale, immediate, all-at-once process. Organisations must take a staged approach and be selective in what they choose to migrate and when. 

In the case of the publisher, subscriptions and payments were the first parts of technology to be migrated to the cloud while other applications remained on-premise. The move to a cloud-based subscription management system alone allowed the publisher to reallocate the cost of 50 developers and reduce operating costs by over 30% while at the same time materially increasing the functionality available. Similar dollar savings were achieved by moving customer service based systems to the cloud.

Securing business-wide support for the migration

Public cloud represents a significant shift for many organisations across the region, which is why it’s vital to have senior leadership backing for the migration process. Some leaders tend to have an aversion to change, particularly those in more conservative organisational cultures that lack the agility of smaller, younger businesses.

A conversation must be had between IT and senior management about the business case for cloud migration. This discussion requires persistence and patience, and IT leaders must listen to concerns and clearly articulate the advantages and value that the cloud offers.

IT leaders also need to be prepared to re-evaluate their strategy if implemented solutions don’t achieve the intended goals. This is another area where observability is essential in measuring the business impact and KPIs. 

It’s important to ask if all security and compliance requirements have been met and whether performance is at the same level or better than before the migration. Moving a database to the cloud may mean faster queries, but it could also cause increased network time to process requests. 

Having observability enables IT teams to track changes, rapidly identify any new issues and fix them before they impact end-user experience.

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