When evaluating the move from on-premise to the cloud, IBM Power customers across various industries typically ask the same two questions. What stays the same? And, what do I have to give up? It is important for organizations to take the time to complete a careful evaluation to determine their particular business reasons for making the move to the cloud, as well as evaluate the business risks.

Business Drivers for Moving to the Cloud

There are several reasons why organizations are looking to take their IBM Power infrastructure and move it into the cloud:

  • It is becoming too complicated to manage and they do not want to be in their own data center.
  • The technology doesn’t match their other technology; “It’s a black box, an orphan.”
  • It is difficult to find staff that can understand and manage the technology. In addition, it isn’t clear what types of skills are required in order to maintain it.

Organizations are looking at how they can divest from these problems but keep the solution in the technology, as it is the core of their business. They want to be able to keep the best parts of it but remove it as a distraction.

The Business Impacts of Moving to the Cloud

As organizations move core applications, such as an ERP system, insurance system, or freight management system into either a private cloud or a public cloud scenario, they are divesting a critical application into the cloud, moving it one step away from the organization. The IBM i and Power technology is extremely powerful and stable. When you move to the cloud environment, the expectation is that it is going to be as stable, as robust, and as powerful as it is on your own premises.

To clearly evaluate your decision to move from on-premise to the cloud, you need to consider the business impacts. How do you manage it? How do you confirm that it is doing everything that you need it to do? Many organizations forget that when they move to the cloud, it is 100% network bound. Everything about it is now constrained by its network. All the interfaces that you have between other applications, the interface points between your users in the application, your internal applications to internal applications, and your external B2B (business to business) are all going to be impacted. That is a business risk that you are offsetting against the divestiture of having your solution on-premise.

All too often, organizations are not looking at the potential business impacts when they make these changes. They understand that they can move their application into the cloud and that the Power platform can run extremely well inside the cloud; however, they haven’t accounted for the impacts of the fact that it is now a step removed from them. For a lot of organizations, that box has been running stable for decades. As a result, they are dealing with tribal knowledge that has long left the organization. There needs to be a very pragmatic approach when making the decision to move your core into the cloud, including proper testing plans.

From a management perspective, you then need to ensure that it is running as effectively and efficiently as possible. Is the machine healthy? And most importantly, are you getting the required throughput from your B2B conductivity? Complete a solid assessment of your environment today to take a closer look at how the platform is being utilized from a conductivity, user experience, and data flow perspective.


Evaluating the Risks

Making the move to the cloud is a large business investment — not just in dollars, but also in mindshare and user experience. If you’re going to make those investments, then it’s necessary to do the work upfront to understand your risks as well as your cost differentials.

Network Risk

The customer’s tribal knowledge can be key to determining the associated business impacts and level of risk. When customers move to the cloud, where it’s a move of a data center from data center A to data center B, they often don’t realize that the distance and bandwidth between those two points can become a critical factor. The first step in evaluating the risk is to assess how your network is being used and what network design makes the best sense.

From a B2B perspective, you need to determine if you are managing everything through a central corporate gateway or if you are recommending that each individual player has their own gateway. With the second option, you will be able to use gateways and firewalls within the cloud provider’s realm to handle that for you. However, if your organization is too large, you will need to have a central ingress and egress. If that stays on your corporate side of the walls, then you will need to do a LAN extension or a site-to-site between you and the cloud. Many customers overlook the fact that you have to pay for all of their egress.

Having unnecessary egress going on in your environment can be very costly. If you are going to implement a backup strategy, then you’re encouraged to back up inside the cloud, as you don’t get charged for that ingress and egress. If you are going to back up to a central repository because you have other infrastructure that you need to support, then you need to factor in those costs. Those costs occur whether you pay through credits or whether you pay through a monthly subscription — and they are long-term.

Security Risk

When moving to the cloud, it is vital to assess your security profile and determine your security stance. How will you control ingress and egress and how will you control ingress and egress for your B2B applications? This includes your business-to-business data, internal data, and your public facing data. You need to vet how you will position that cloud and how traffic will flow in and out of it. Many customers ignore this issue to their own peril. They begin the process and are quickly too far down the path before they realize that they have not laid it out properly. Even though Mid-Range is not in the network business, we spend a lot of time working with customers on their networks because it is essential. It is the bottom of the IT stack; everything rides on the network. If you haven’t thought that through, it will impact your business performance and your security posture.

Outage Risk

Without a backup strategy plan, you could end up with an unexpected outage that can be extremely difficult for you to take control of when you need to restore and recover. The fact that it’s in the cloud is problematic because you don’t have the unlimited controls to do your recoveries. You are beholden to a platform owner that allows you only certain interfaces to look at it. Your speed of recovery is now impacted; your speed to act and react is now hampered. Customers that would be greatly affected by this type of situation should possibly consider a private cloud.

Financial Risk

As a CIO, you would also consider the risk versus cost profile. By moving to the cloud, you may gain an OpEx (operating expenditure) advantage, however, it could change your risk profile. Or your risk profile could be acceptable, but it could impact your cost profile. For example, if you are pushing out a significant amount of data, your cost profile is going to change dramatically. Take the time to examine the potential costs over time and look at the whole picture.

Considerations that May Affect Your Risk Evaluation

There are also some key considerations that may affect your risk evaluation:

Full Migrations Take Substantial Time

Many organizations forget that moving to the cloud is a full migration exercise. This is typically not a process that can be completed over one weekend. You have to go through all of the migration protocols and processes that confirm everything has been brought over and that all of your interfaces are working. You have to do a lot of testing. It can be a strain on the organization. It is a difficult process and can take several months from the time you make the decision and choose your cloud provider.

Private versus Public Cloud

Organizations that choose the private cloud route are far nimbler than if they were to go to the public cloud where they would have to fit “in the box.” If your organization doesn’t fit in the box, then you must find a way to navigate around those constraints. You need to determine the business reasons for choosing either option, in order to find the best solution for your organization. If you just want it outside of your walls, then you have two solid options in front of you.

If you go to a public cloud, it’s almost as if you receive a checkmark that recognizes that you are now in Azure, AWS, or the IBM i Cloud. That checkmark may be important for your auditors or investors and could therefore represent a critical business reason for choosing to go to a public cloud. However, if you just need to divest and get help with the day-to-day care and management, then the private cloud offerings may be a better fit. The key is to address the business reasons for making your decision.

Keep in mind that moving to the cloud does not necessarily remove your operational constraints. What it will do is just move your hardware into the cloud. You have just the same number of concerns as you had before, they’re just in a different place. You will still need somebody to manage the day-to-day care. Managed services should also be a consideration as it can solve that problem exactly the same way, whether it’s on-premise, private cloud, or public cloud.

Your Ability to Outsource Decisions  

All systems have some decisions that require human judgment or tribal knowledge to complete. Those types of decisions are the ones you need to control and keep in-house. Those require business skills. There are people in your organization that understand your business, for example, what your month-end looks like, or a typical day of processing.

On the other hand, there are decisions that can be made based solely on technical skills. If a technical skill is required to answer a question, then those processes can be automated and outsourced because your organization has little value to add. This can include your operating system, patches, backup schedules, the care and feeding of the machine, and the environment. Best practices decisions can be made without needing to know anything about the customer. That’s the piece you want to outsource, the piece that’s distracting you. Those technical tasks need to be completed by qualified employees who are difficult to find and hire.

Understanding the business reasons for moving to the cloud, as well as evaluating the associated risks, will help you make the most informed choice for your organization.

There’s never been a better time to discuss your options for your journey to the cloud. With 35 years of supporting companies with all of their IT needs, you can count on Mid-Range to provide you with custom solutions to meet your specific requirements. Contact us to discuss your Cloud IT needs with a professional. Get in touch with us today for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your needs. 

Information Flow, [Part 3] IBM Power in the Cloud: Considerations and Practical Realities

Tim Lalonde

Tim Lalonde is the VP of Technical Operations at Mid-Range. He works with leading-edge companies to be more competitive and effective in their industries. He specializes in developing business roadmaps leveraging technology that create and support change from within — with a focus on business process re-engineering, architecture and design, business case development and problem-solving.

With over 30 years of experience in IT, Tim’s guiding principle remains simple: See a problem, fix a problem.

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