Where to Start with Microsoft Azure

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Cloud migration often comes across as an immediate win for organizations, making infrastructure simpler and less expensive to manage. In truth, making the move to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure can be a complex, protracted process.

In many cases, expert guidance makes the difference between success and failure.

Cloud transitions often don’t succeed — at least not right away. Many run into problems like spiraling costs, misconfigurations and challenges surrounding shared security responsibilities.

None of this is to say that migrating to the public cloud is a bad idea. On the contrary: Moving the right workloads into Azure will yield considerable operational benefits. Nonetheless, your success depends on taking an approach that accounts for all relevant infrastructure, dependencies and possible risks along the way.

For example, Azure can provide the scalability, security and deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem to modernize existing IT environment and address evolving business requirements. Of course, this only works with proper planning and management.

Let’s look at some of the common roadblocks to a successful Azure deployment and how to overcome them.

Common Cloud Challenges

Every Azure migration needs a detailed plan that accounts for:

  • The technical feasibility of migrating the workload in questions
  • All associated risks and costs
  • Any relevant application dependencies
  • Formal management and governance policies

While building such plans, you will likely flag one or more of these concerns. In some cases, moving and supporting a given workload in Azure may require a skill set your organization doesn’t have on staff.

The Skills Gap in the Cloud

The early 2019 edition of the Emerging Risks Survey from Gartner found that “talent shortage” had become the top concern for IT decision-makers, up from third place in the previous quarter.

Public cloud infrastructure requires skills, like scalable architecture, cloud security and cloud-specific technologies such as microservices or containerization. In today’s tech talent marketplace, all of these are in short supply.

The services within Azure are undergoing continuous updates and improvements. This means Azure consumers need to dedicate time and resources to keeping up with these changes and mitigating the impact on their IT environments.

In response to the need for specialized expertise and practices like DevOps, many organizations have built strategic partnerships with managed service providers (MSPs). As overall public cloud consumption continues to grow, the need for specialized assistance with cloud migration and management will likely grow in tandem.

Budgetary Pressure During Cloud Migrations

Cost savings are perhaps the most well-publicized benefits to cloud adoption and migration. Moving from capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of procurement in the data center to operating expense (OPEX) in the cloud has a certain appeal.

But shifting workloads into the public cloud is far from guaranteed to save organizations money. In fact, in the following situations,  migrating to the cloud increases costs:

  • Limited or no accountability for commissioning and decommissioning workloads, resulting in unnecessary or redundant cloud resources.
  • Inadequate visibility into existing cloud resources, some of which may no longer be needed (such as instances spun up for testing or now-defunct projects).
  • Over-provisioning resources to accommodate peak capacity, a practice held over from the on-premise data center that’s often unnecessary.

A survey of decision-makers in enterprise IT found that many were disappointed with the level of savings they realized in the cloud. This was especially true for “lift-and-shift” transitions, where few if any modifications are made to a given workload prior to migration. These results highlight the need for rightsizing of cloud resources, i.e. ensuring that the services being used match the customer’s actual needs.

Misconfigurations and Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches have only grown more expensive, as organizations place more strategic assets and operations into complex cloud architectures. These often require precise management by both the cloud service provider and the customer. Misconfigurations are a common cause of these breaches because they can leak data or expose resources to direct attack.

The 2020 Cloud Misconfigurations Report estimated that organizations worldwide collectively lost about $5 trillion across 2018 and 2019 due to configuration errors in the cloud.

Ensuring the right configurations and mapping the relevant application dependencies is complex work. A shortage of specialized skills, combined with fluctuating IT budgets and the growth of remote work, make it tough to coordinate in-house efforts to find and address every vulnerability. Working with a managed IT service and solutions provider is often a necessary step for mitigating risk in the cloud.

How Softchoice Will Help Guide Your Azure Journey

Many of the challenges above are relevant to organizations moving into Azure for the first time.

However, even organizations with one or more workloads running in Azure today can benefit from reassessing their current status, internal skill sets, cloud budgets and security practices. In our experience, there’s always room for improvement.

Softchoice is a certified Azure Expert MSP (Microsoft’s highest designation for cloud MSPs) with 500+ cloud migrations under our belt. We have designed solutions, including the Softchoice Public Cloud Accelerator and Cloud Workload Assessment, to provide the full breadth of support you need for a successful Azure migration, from technical support to ongoing technology mentorship.

To learn more,  download our guide, “The Essential Starter’s Guide to Microsoft Azure for IT Leaders” or connect with a member of our team.

 

How to Add to Your IT Environment without Adding Costs

Part 2 of our 2-part series on Driving Efficiency through Infrastructure Optimization. Read Part 1 “Where to Find Cost Savings in Your Cloud or Data Center Environment

In the response to the current global crisis, short-term cost reductions have been prioritized by many  organizations looking to keep their businesses viable during the economic downturn.  Quite often they are looking to drive greater efficiency in their IT environments.

However, as organizations move from efficiency into recovery and beyond, the need to add new applications and workloads won’t disappear. It’s important for organizations to consider ways to optimize infrastructure to add new workloads while incurring minimal or no additional costs.

Why is this so important?  In the data center, 67% of organizations over-invest in data center storage while 33% have run out of capacity or experienced high utilization that impacted up-time (Source: Futurum Research). In the cloud, 60% of organizations have overspent their planned budgets at some point (Source: Rightscale).

Organizations that sustain efficiencies found in the short term will equip themselves to compete and thrive in recovery and beyond. This is where looking into the data center to find excess capacity and resources, tiering storage appropriately and choosing cloud over new servers all come into play.

Here are the steps you can take to optimize your infrastructure to add new workloads cost effectively by optimizing the on-premise data center and moving the right workloads into the cloud.

Optimizing Your On-Premise Data Center

As application workloads change, the optimal infrastructure setup to support them changes, too. When the time comes to add new applications to the IT environment, adding new hardware or spinning up new workloads in the cloud without a plan in place often results in unnecessary waste.

Instead, look for opportunities to optimize existing data center infrastructure to support new workloads without additional costs.

The following actions will help you understand your applications and ensure you have each running on the ideal compute and storage resources:

  • Take a comprehensive inventory: Use data collection tools to gather a holistic view of your existing on-premise environment, including devices and workloads. Capturing and analyzing current usage and performance data will uncover opportunities for greater efficiency. In turn, this data can inform your decisions about where to make changes based on accurate estimates of cost and business impact.
  • Consolidate the data center: Now is the time to assess the business value of owning multiple data center sites and whether there is an opportunity to consolidate these. Shutting down unnecessary sites and leveraging lower-cost cloud backup and disaster recovery could provide considerable infrastructure efficiency benefits.
  • Defer data center refresh costs: If you have hardware devices that have or are about to reach end-of-support (EOS) or end-of-life (EOL) and migrating to the cloud isn’t an option, a refresh may be unavoidable. Fortunately, many hardware providers have deferred some or all upfront costs until 2021 to help organizations through cash flow issues. It may also be worth considering other alternatives to an upfront capital expenditure, such as leasing or pay-per-usage options.

Migrating the Right Workloads to the Cloud

For many organizations, COVID-19 has put plans to migrate applications and workloads to the cloud on fast-forward. This has the potential to increase agility and cost efficiency by reducing technical debt and physical footprint associated with the traditional data center.

In fact, the Flexera State of the Cloud Report 2020 finds that more than half surveyed have seen increased cloud usage due to reliance on cloud-based applications since stay-at-home orders came into effect worldwide (Source: Flexera).

Reduced IT operations personnel, difficulties in accessing data center facilities and delays in hardware supply chains have all contributed to this shift.

Nonetheless, not every application or workload makes sense in the cloud. Furthermore, challenges in understanding application dependencies, assessing the feasibility of migration and predicting the costs to run a given workload on-premise versus in the cloud all get in the way.

The following steps will help you identify the best candidate workloads for cloud migration:

  • Assess suitability and identify migration risks: Analyze application, data and dependencies to determine the most suitable workloads for cloud migration and address potential performance and downtime risks.
  • Conduct total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analysis: Equipped with insights into applications, you’ll be able to define the infrastructure requirements to run applications in the cloud at optimal performance and cost.
  • Compare the cost-benefit of running each workload in the cloud vs. on-premise: The next step is to estimate the cost and business impact of running a given workload on-prem or in the cloud.
  • Plan and migrate: From here, you can determine the appropriate migration strategy to move workloads into the cloud with minimal risk. With complete and accurate documentation, you can establish the best migration sequence and apply dependency controls to avoid downtime.

Taking steps to optimize infrastructure and minimize the cost of adding new application workloads to your environment is a big milestone on the road to recovery.

We offer the following solutions to assist organizations like yours to move ahead with infrastructure optimization in the data center and migrate the right workloads to the cloud.

  • Workload Assessment: Evaluate the technical feasibility and cost of migrating and running application workloads in the public cloud based on usage, performance and technical characteristics of existing workloads to identify application dependencies, total cost of ownership and cost management considerations.
  • Public Cloud Accelerator: Leverage an operating expense (OPEX) model to meet new workload needs by reducing the risk of deploying workloads to the cloud and mitigating cost overruns based on proven experience earned through hundreds of cloud engagements.

Our team of licensing and technology vendor experts are ready to help you find efficiencies wherever you are in your journey from response to recovery.

Looking for further insights to help  drive efficiency and optimize the infrastructure in your IT environment? 

Watch our webinar, “Cloud Cost Optimization: How to Avoid Overspend and Control Costs,” on-demand or connect with an expert.

What to Know Before You Migrate – [Cloud Migration Checklist]

The drive to modernize IT infrastructure by adopting public cloud services and infrastructure is an established fact of business today. 

In fact, Forrester Research finds 76% of enterprises in North America and Europe have or plan to start migrating their applications to one or more public cloud providers[1]. However, many of these organizations fail to consider the cost and complexity involved in moving existing workloads.  

For example, applications built to run on legacy infrastructure often suffer from performance decline in the cloud. The resources required to rehost, refactor or redesign applications for cloud readiness are often difficult to predict. Meanwhile, there are many reasons that moving a given workload to the cloud may be a bad idea.     

Without a clear understanding of the business and technology drivers behind your move to the cloud and a clear plan to get there, you may not realize all the expected benefits of migration.  

Based on our experience helping 1,400+ customers move to the cloud, we created this quick checklist to outline the 5 steps to successful workload migration.  

Making a Move to Public Cloud? Read this First.  

 Cloud migration is a common approach to modernizing not only IT infrastructure but also the way your organization goes to market and reaches your customers (internal or external).   

Despite its growing popularity, however, cloud migration isn’t always easyCommon misunderstandings about what’s involved with cloud migration and how you’ll benefit can create confusion between IT and the business.  

 To dive deeper into the who, what, why and how of cloud migration, check out this Forrester report, Top 10 Facts Tech Leaders Should Know About Cloud Migration 

 Looking for help across any aspect of cloud migration and adoption? Explore Softchoice cloud services or check out these resources for further reading: 

 1 – “Top 10 Facts Tech Leaders Should Know About Cloud Migration,” Forrester Research Inc., June 5, 2019.