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Opinion

What clients look for in a cloud migration provider

Understanding customer needs is key to exploiting demand for migration services, says Issy Ben-Shaul

It's no secret that migrating customers to the cloud has become a staple offering among partners and channel providers. There is a huge need right now for services dedicated to cloud migration, and while this is driven by many factors, the most prominent is often a customer's lack of internal subject matter experts to help properly guide the company to this brave new (cloud) world.

A question that customers often ask is "what strategy do we want to use to get our applications into the cloud?".

The question isn't without warrant, as a recent study found that most companies embarking on cloud migration projects found them to be more difficult than expected, with some failing entirely. Specifically, nearly 75% of participants stated migration projects are taking a year or longer, with a majority also reporting that projects are running late and over budget.

Enterprises are looking for a robust cloud migration strategy because they've seen the struggles faced by companies engaged in similar cloud-related projects. This means that the skillsets of both IT integrators and cloud consultants are crucial - they have the depth of experience and knowledge needed to navigate this journey successfully.

The realities of cloud migration

Channel partners should anticipate an increase in clients seeking assistance in cloud migrations, a rapidly growing space that is still facing many obstacles.

Initially, the dream of enterprises and cloud experts alike was a set of applications that were tailor-made to run in the cloud, as well as the ability to take advantage of the cloud's endless scale up and scale out architecture.

But this isn't how it has actually panned out. The truth is that enterprises and channel partners are struggling with the cost and complexity of rewriting applications from scratch in the cloud to achieve maximum cloud performance.

What we're seeing, as a result, is the emergence of a more agile migration strategy that involves two phases.

The first phase, sometimes referred to as 'lift and shift', involves moving the application basically as-is into the public cloud. Code or architectural changes are kept to a bare minimum, so as to get the application up and running in the cloud quickly and with minimal friction. Any changes made, such as cloud instance options, are usually only at the platform level. The advantage to this approach is, of course, that it requires the least amount of time and energy.

The second phase, 'analyse and optimise', involves evaluating how the applications run in the cloud and then adjusting as you go. These are typically moderate changes or light transformations - such as shifting from an on-prem optimised database to a cloud's database-as-a-service, as just one example. These light optimisation decisions can now be made after getting the application "lifted and shifted," into the cloud first

What does the channel need to provide to be successful?

From the channel perspective, the areas where customers report needing the most assistance are in planning and strategy, application discovery, and execution of the migration - a broad sweep of issues across multiple migration stages.

The flow of an "analyse and optimise" strategy gives the channel and their customers a fast, easy and agile route to the public cloud, but all cloud projects are unique. That said, there are some general considerations the channel should keep in mind if they want to win over clients.

Firstly, most clients will be looking to minimise or avoid cloud re-writes. The gains achieved with a tightly integrated app in the cloud is usually erased by all of the cost and complexity that goes into the re-write itself. The trick is to stick with applications that can be moved mostly as-is, then optimised as you go.

Customers will also be looking for partners that can leverage flexible technologies and architectures. Specifically, solutions that allow for simple and fast migration of workloads to one or multiple clouds, as well as between clouds with minimal disruption, downtime, and/or re-configuration.

Finally, those partners that offer unified, cloud-agnostic management and configuration are also likely to attract the greater number of clients. For example, only using those orchestration and management frameworks that are able to interface to the native cloud management systems but also operate uniformly across clouds.

If a channel offers services that excel in these areas, these key components should be featured prominently in advertising since companies are aggressively seeking outside solutions to help them.

Issy Ben-Shaul is CEO and co-founder of Velostrata

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