I have spent most of my last years working with clients excited about the prospect of moving to the cloud. There are a lot of expectations and a justified enthusiasm.
The cloud provides lots of benefits like business agility, flexibility, resilience, and security. With the big investments Hyper-scalers are doing in becoming carbon neutral and free, there is also an undeniable positive impact on the sustainability and environmental goals of any organization.
Data Centres built years ago can‘t compete in terms of energy efficiency and green impact and carbon footprint with the new modern facilities.
But to achieve these benefits companies need to first address challenges coming from their current IT architecture and properly assess the three layers, which are applications, data, and infrastructure.
KPMG has developed different tools such as the Transformation Impact Modeler, which has helped IT organisations make hosting decisions around billions of pounds worth IT infrastructure spend. The Sustainability Module is a KPMG created tool that instantly turns information into intelligent insights via an interactive dashboard assisting our clients in developing their sustainability strategy.
I will not investigate, in this analysis, the Operating model that is, in my opinion, one, or maybe the most critical issue in the transformation of any organization that aspires to become a native multi-cloud organization. Transforming the processes, redefining roles and responsibilities, and addressing the skill gaps in the change from a world where everything is physical and hardware to a world where everything is software, is really a game changer.
But I will leave this topic to another post as it deserves the right space and time to be addressed.
My experience in many domains and industries from finance to health helped me to recognize some typical and common patterns and pain points. After a clear definition of the Cloud strategy, business and IT drivers, and the Cloud business case, the next step is to understand the current As-Is architecture.
What I have seen in my IT assessment is that many teams have piled up, year after year, a huge technical debt. This is fully understandable considering the constant business pressure and lack of resources and time the IT has daily to deal with. Finally, there are other external factors, such as Brexit and Covid, that have contributed to adding additional challenges.
Below are some critical areas that I have identified
- The presence of old legacy systems, for example, core banking system or a patient tracking system, and unsupported software platforms
- The lack of integration results in complex point-to-point connections, sometimes even at a data layer.
- Data silos and replication with inevitable data quality issues, and lack of transparency of processes with security risks related to poor IAM.
This very common scenario has an immediate consequence with the lack of responsiveness of the IT team to the business requests for more speed and agility.
In our architecture world we can have a specific word and definition that, being Italian, I love to recall. We call it “spaghetti” architecture. It is like admiring a modern abstract painting without understanding what the sense is, the purpose, and the message of the artist. Never happened?
Now, the business is very excited by the potential benefits of a cloud migration such as business agility, cost optimization, flexibility, and reduced time to market, but, sometimes, there is a potential risk of thinking that the Cloud will miraculously transform your four mice and a pumpkin in a wonderful Cinderella-style carriage.
Addressing the challenge imposed by the As-Is architecture and its current state and limitations is critical in the Cloud migration journey or the risk of failure in the process is looming in front of you.
To address these challenges, I recommend some possible remediations.
- The first is to review your monolithic solutions and modernise your legacy software. This could result in a long and expensive process and needs, therefore, to be properly prioritized and planned.
The market offers different solutions and platforms like, for example, OpenShift from RH or Anthos from Google, that allows a company to start modernising their application in the data centre. Using containers for separating the service components allows more flexibility and finally a simplification of the cloud migration. When services run in a docker container it’s very easy to ship them in another Private or Public cloud environment. Hyper-scalers already provide native solutions to run and orchestrate dockers microservices or Kubernetes managed platforms.
- The second is to entangle the conundrum of point-to-point connection using modern messaging systems or middleware software whose purpose is to decouple services that need to be interconnected. Again, there are different possible Solutions depending on the software architecture requirements. Vendors in the market provide MQ solutions, like RabbitMQ and Pub-Sub platforms, like Google Pub/Sub. There are also amazing open-source solutions such as Kafka, a distributed event store and stream-processing platform, to address more advanced and intensive use cases.
This approach has also a beneficial impact on breaking data silos and facilitating data transparency and communication.
This must be accompanied by significant investment in training and the formation of the internal IT staff. The software development world has evolved, and new practices are thriving like event-driven architecture, microservices agility, and serverless functions. The DevOps practices and Agile methodologies are pushing teams to automate continuous code development and deployment with the support of the simplification of environment creation, with Infrastructure as Code tools like Terraform.
Now the real risk companies run in embracing their journey to the Cloud is that the business expectations and plans could be seriously frustrated by the reality of the DC hyper-complexity.
I remember the case of one of my clients, a bank I've been working on, whose ambition was to move 80 percent of all their estate to the cloud. After the assessment, the 5 R’s analysis, and the final designs they realised that they could just migrate 20 percent of the applications.
I have helped many clients to successfully migrate to the Cloud, but this requires having a clear vision and strategy, a continuous monitoring of KPI and a review of the business case, and the capability to adapt to the changes and difficulties you will encounter and finally a great communication and collaboration environment. Every employee needs to be involved and feel part of the group and share the same ambition and purposes. That’s not easy as any system has a natural resistance to change and movement. In Physics it is called inertia. It’s very common in big and structured organizations and in any digital transformation projects.
Finally, these are all organizational, technical, and technological challenges that need to be addressed in the initial phase of the Cloud journey to align the strategy, the design, and the execution and avoid frustration and disaffection.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact our KPMG Cloud Transformation lead Adrian Bradley, Amit Gupta-Chaudhary, or myself Davide Gorini