IT Transitions at a Glance
Many paths lead into the cloud - achieving the goal with the right strategy
There is no way around the cloud. It is therefore all the more surprising that this realization has reached private users and end customers earlier than it has reached the boardrooms of German companies.
Many music fans no longer maintain their own music collections. Instead, they rely on the convenience of the cloud. The songs are accessible with a click. And the billing of costs is also clear, concise and usually fair. In addition, the effort of maintaining and dusting off one's own library and always keeping it up to date is eliminated.
This trend towards increased cloud usage is now - belatedly - also reaching IT managers. More and more companies are deciding to transfer their own IT to the cloud.
The Advantages of the Cloud "in a Nutshell
For companies, using the cloud means automating their own IT value creation. What is meant by this?
From an almost inexhaustible range of different cloud providers, every company can tailor its own IT systems and software solutions to meet its own usage requirements and those of its customers. The portfolios of cloud providers range from simple office applications and database systems to software platforms for the use of artificial intelligence and IoT.
The move to the cloud visibly minimizes the number of manual operations required to run the company's own IT systems. Almost all processes along the IT value chain can be automated by the existing cloud services. This reduces the need for classic IT janitor services: the maintenance and upkeep of IT systems are simply outsourced to the cloud providers.
In such a scenario, a company's IT infrastructure is no longer a means to an end, serving merely to implement the requirements of day-to-day business. Rather, the myriad cloud services help companies move their own business forward. However, this also means that companies cannot suddenly do without the human factor after a successful cloud transition. Rather, the company's IT staff will be able to concentrate on the tasks that are actually significant: offering the company's customers new and better products.
Example: Live Update
One example of the efficiency of the cloud in the area of corporate IT is provided by so-called live updates. While operators of internal server systems have to make an enormous internal effort for every new software version in order to get the new applications running on all devices, an IT environment in the cloud ensures that the corresponding updates are available to all users in a matter of seconds and with just one mouse click.
Up-to-Date with the Cloud
However, the change triggered by the use of the cloud does not stop at transferring the existing IT infrastructure to the cloud - it goes much further: With the transition from the "old time without cloud" to the "new time with cloud", fundamental changes are taking place for many companies: Companies' customer relationships, products and ultimately their entire business model can be rethought and transformed from the cloud.
The use of the cloud leads to the fact that companies can use the possibilities of modern software applications to improve their own business processes. In all areas of the business, the cloud now offers cost-effective access to software solutions that help increase business efficiency; whether in logistics, production, research, marketing or sales.
Examples of these new possibilities are provided by the extraction, storage and analysis of internal company data. While it is time-consuming to keep one's own data "under control" on in-house systems in the context of on-prem database systems, modern data management systems from the cloud help companies maintain an overview in the area of Big Data. For example, it is simply not possible for many companies to integrate the latest data analytic tools in the grown data silos. It is only when data structures are moved to the cloud that AI-powered analytics software can be used to find new relationships in data sets that would have remained hidden from managers under existing OnPrem database solutions.
Digital Transformation and Cloud Transition
Companies that decide to move to the cloud often have the impression that they are facing a Herculean task. The path of cloud transition seems long and rocky to many IT decision-makers. Legacy IT systems, have been performing their service in enterprises for decades. This enterprise software and hardware was often designed for specific tasks and over time added other applications that were important to the operation of the business.
Many IT managers have a great deal of respect for making changes to these systems because of the complexity of these organically grown enterprise monoliths. This is because the systems must be retested and restarted for each addition step. In addition, every change to corporate IT leads to a great deal of effort in the form of internal training to familiarize employees with the new features in the systems.
Nevertheless, in many cases there is no way around an IT reorganization. With increasing digitization, the demands placed on corporate IT are growing. These include, for example, a high degree of automation or the processing of large volumes of data in real time (big data analytics). Old applications are too slow, too rigid, too user-unfriendly in an economy that is changing ever faster.
On the way to the cloud, a structural change can thus begin in the area of corporate IT. From compartmentalized IT silos that want to be involved as little as possible in business processes, departments are gradually developing that can help shape the next steps in the company's development on an equal footing with management. With this new role, the IT department can become a business innovator within the company and ultimately anchor digitization ever more firmly in the company's business model.
The 5 R's of cloud transition
IT systems are now integrated into all of a company's processes. At the same time, companies cannot stop regular operations during the realignment of IT systems. The resulting economic damage would be too great. For this reason, cloud transitions are always "open-heart surgery" for everyone involved.
In order to minimize the risk to the company's ongoing operations, the transition from the old world, in which the company's applications were hosted on its own servers, to a new world of the cloud in many cases takes place gradually. And it takes the form of many small transitions. The sum of many small individual steps results in an overall concept: the digital transformation of the company.
The analyst firm Gartner has divided the different types of transitions on the way to the cloud into five different areas - the so-called "5 R's": Rehost, Replatform, Revise, Rebuild and Replace.
Rehosting" refers to the transfer of the existing IT system landscape to a new hardware environment. Therefore, the process of rehosting is often also referred to as "lift and shift". This means that the existing IT systems are "lifted" from the server landscapes used and transferred to a cloud environment.
Thus, "rehosting" refers to the infrastructure change of the hardware used by a company. Cloud providers in this area refer to their offered solutions as "IaaS": "Infrastructure as a Service" (IaaS). Behind the abbreviation IaaS are, for example, virtual servers but also networks and storage systems - in other words, the hardware that was previously located in the company's data center.
This form of migration can usually also be automated and tool-supported and is therefore certainly the fastest approach to moving workloads to the cloud.
Revise is the modification of existing software code to make enterprise applications "fit for the new cloud world" before transferring them to a cloud infrastructure. Revise is thus in many cases the prerequisite for being able to use the advantages of the cloud with the company's own software.
In contrast to rehosting, replatforming does not select entire IT systems, but only individual applications of the company and transfers them to the cloud as stand-alone solutions.
This approach offers the opportunity to increase the degree of automation by using software offerings from the cloud. One example of replatforming is the transfer of a licensed MYSQL database, which was previously operated on the company's own server, to an open source database from a cloud provider.
Instead of changing the existing systems, new applications can be developed that eventually replace the old applications. This process is known as a "rebuild". An example of such a rebuild is provided by a company which, in the course of its cloud transition, discovers that the invoicing program it has been using up to now no longer meets its own requirements or those of its customers.
Instead of painstakingly revising this program, the company can decide to reprogram the program using the software development solutions available in the cloud.
The three transition forms "Replatform", "Revise" and "Rebuild" refer to the level of software development or further development. Cloud providers who offer services in this area are classified as "Platform as a Service" (PaaS). The abbreviation PaaS is representative of a huge and constantly growing range of software services that enable companies to digitize their own business models and develop new products for customers.
In larger migration projects, it can be observed that all three forms of software development and enhancement are used. Here, it can be decided on a case-by-case basis which scenario can be used for which application.
The process of "replacement" refers to the discarding of existing application structures and the replacement of these structures with the use of commercially provided cloud software. An example of replacement is the switch that has already taken place in many companies from office solutions that were run on local computers to Microsoft's Office 365.
Replace refers to the level of use of the software applications by the end users. The cloud providers' offerings in this area are referred to as "Software as a Service" (SaaS). In addition to Microsoft, providers such as Adobe with the Adobe Creative Cloud and Salesforce with numerous enterprise applications are successful in this line of business.
Finding the Right Cloud Strategy
But how can a company ensure that it is choosing the right path to the cloud? The problem facing many IT managers is the question of where the company is headed in the coming years. In order to avoid making the wrong decisions, people often either think "too small" - and from the decision-makers' point of view, it is best not to make any decision at all. Or the management decides too strategically and forgets to anchor the cloud transition in concrete projects.
Outsourcing individual areas of the IT landscape to the cloud in order to reduce costs or to be able to save employees who are entrusted with operating the systems also falls short in many cases.
Instead, the topic of cloud transition should be strategically anchored in the company's digital transformation strategy. With its multi-cloud approach, Arvato Systems helps to set the right course on the way to the cloud. It helps to adequately assess the issue of vendor lock-in and to develop a concept that supports IT on its way to becoming a business innovator.
This path begins with a strategic analysis of the existing corporate IT. In a second step, this results in the identification of potentials and fields of action in which the company should become active.
Only when equipped with this prior knowledge can the right action strategy be implemented, enabling the company to transform its IT step by step during ongoing business operations.