Cloud transformation is one of the latest hot trends in IT. Whereas last decade digital transformation was the trending phenomenon – and it has become a “mainstream” best practice since then – cloud migration or transformation is steadily becoming the new go-to strategy for modern businesses. But what makes cloud transformation so appealing, and what does that tell us about its “rivals” that also vie for the crown of best architecture-based solutions for greater scalability, availability, and cost-effective operation? Let’s take an in-depth look — by the end of this blog post; we will have our answers.
Alternatives to Cloud Transformation
Among on-premises alternatives, we chose two options that we consider potentially viable for toppling cloud transformation: on-prem enterprise software and microservices. The question is whether they genuinely provide the same — or mostly the same — advantages that the cloud does and without unnecessary drawbacks or difficulties?
On-prem Enterprise Software
On-premises enterprise software solutions are designed with the specific intent of helping business organizations perform basic tasks such as workforce support, business transactions, and internal services and processes. It is a rather popular alternative with numerous advantages. It can serve a company as a secure and efficient enterprise-wide private cloud installed on the company’s home turf. However, to get the most out of it, it’s essential to consider the following principles at all times:
Avoiding hardware lock-in
To make use of hardware investments already implemented in their organization and manage hardware resources in the future, IT managers should prefer a hardware-agnostic solution and avoid one that specifies strict hardware requirements.
Avoiding vendor lock-in
A responsible IT manager will choose an on-prem platform that can be easily replaced in the future or bolstered by another platform without reworking all of the organization’s code.
To let an organization maintain its competitive edge and support rapid application delivery across all platforms, any on-prem platform should consistently support DevOps automation with the other platforms (whether on the public cloud or on-prem) in use by the organization.
Computing power is the most basic service a developer needs from any cloud platform. An on-prem platform should support different compute instances to meet the developers’ various needs.
For developers, a real benefit of the cloud is the ability to “just spin up” compute instances, databases, storage, and other services on demand without having to go through a lengthy approval process with IT. To keep developers agile and innovative, any on-prem platform adopted must support the same self-service, on-demand paradigm of deploying service.
Automatic resource life cycle management
To keep IT free of mundane, day-to-day tasks that become more burdensome as an enterprise scales, an enterprise platform must automate operations such as setup, updates, patching, and backups.
Consolidated monitoring and alerts
An on-prem cloud platform should provide a consolidated view of the different resources and services it provisions so IT can respond to bottlenecks and usage spikes quickly and easily.
Support for public cloud APIs
The private cloud is server-based. You are provisioning servers and virtual machines, configuring these environments and then deploying and running apps on these servers and VMs.
In the public cloud, however, you are driving infrastructure with APIs. The public cloud’s API-driven nature enables its incredible adoption and most significant benefit — near-instant and infinite capacity through developer self-service.
Microservices – Pros and Cons
The other cloud challenger is microservices. Organizations can optimize their custom code and workflow for a streamlined code execution process. However, this will require a great deal of effort and attention from all involved teams. Besides the need for increased project management, it will be challenging to cover all scenarios emerging from various business needs.
Here’s a concise rundown of the advantages and disadvantages that come with a microservices approach:
|Greater agility||Requires DevOps culture and heightened collaboration between development teams.|
|Improved scalability||Reduced performance (microservices must communicate, resulting in increased network latency)|
|Increased flexibility due to communication being distributed over the network||Requests traveling between modules must be handled carefully (might require extra code to avoid disruption)|
|Better fault tolerance due to isolated services||More potential security issues (distributed communication can fall apart more easily)|
|Cloud readiness||Slower and more complicated to implement for small companies that need to create and iterate quickly|
|A better time to market (faster and easier development cycles)||More difficult to maintain the network, requiring more load balancing|
|Improved debugging capabilities||Testing and monitoring become more difficult due to the architecture’s complexity|
|Platform- and language agnostic services||Refactoring an app across a multitude of services is much more challenging|
What Makes Cloud Solutions So Appealing?
There are a few important considerations that can help us determine which option serves our organization the best. What we found in the case of these two on-prem solutions boils down to three critical concerns when directly compared with the cloud:
- Elastic scalability does not exist in on-premises solutions.
- Most of the currently available technology does not support horizontal scaling.
- Almost all of the currently available technologies used for infrastructure software or microservices have critical limitations, making them hard to extend with custom solutions.
On the other hand, a complete cloud transformation yields plenty of benefits for any organization. With a cloud-based solution, a company can turn upfront expenses into variable expenses, reduce costs by doing away with running and maintaining data centers, increase operational speed and agility, and auto-scale without additional hardware requirements.
Within a cloud solution, we don’t have to worry about guessing server capacities anymore. Instead, our business can go global in minutes without many of the requirements and issues that arise from having to fire up on-prem hardware and configure the software that will run it.
Cloud is essentially your best tool to provide your organization with massive economies of scale; you will save on many costs by making both production and operation more efficient and perform at higher, optimal levels.
You will no longer have to operate server farms and pay the enormous costs of maintaining them. Instead, you will gain access to a virtual cluster of computers available to you 24/7/365, offering the triumvirate of cloud computing models (IaaS — PaaS — SaaS) in a single package.
What makes the cloud so stable and reliable compared to an in-house solution? The fact that the entire infrastructure rests on firm foundations built by a much larger body of highly experienced professionals who maintain and upgrade those foundations — as well as the services built upon them.
Furthermore, as the security component is always a vital element to consider in any solution, you can rest easy knowing that with high compliances and other services available in the cloud, your data and business will always be safe and secure up there.
This high level of attention and quality extends to resilience as well. With the proper configuration of Domain Controllers (DCs), Availability Zones, and Regions, cloud-based services can achieve even 11 9’s of durability — something that would be impossible at worst or hardly feasible at best within an on-premises environment.
All in all, these features and benefits boil down to one major takeaway: with cloud supporting your business, you can expand your company’s coverage regionally or even globally in minutes, giving the organization the means to leave global footprints across the market.
Questions to Help in the Decision
Regardless of the choice you make, it is imperative to discuss a set of essential questions with relevant stakeholders when deciding on cloud transformation — or an alternative option.
First, the best question is this: how can we measure the system we currently use and determine if it’s suitable for our business goals?
At this stage, identifying blind spots in the system and examining subcomponents can help discover just how good the overall quality and efficiency are.
The next batch of questions should revolve around the means and costs of operation, maintenance, and optimization. As you sit down together, you have to make sure consensus is reached on the following agenda items:
- What is the level of optimization that we want to achieve, and when do we get there?
- What are the viable options for increasing the level of optimization?
- How much does it currently cost us to keep the system up and to run? (Underused on-premises servers running 24/7 can and will generate wasteful costs.)
- How much does maintain and supporting the system cost us?
- Do we have enough resources available to support the next big scheduled event or update? If yes, how much will it cost us?
- Have we taken all hidden, non-direct cost elements (e.g., guards on DCs, travel costs, etc.) into account
Our previous blog post on getting started with a cloud transformation project includes a detailed approach to creating an effective transformation strategy and a general roadmap on how to be best prepared for the transformation’s iterative nature.
At Blue Guava, we help businesses unlock their true potential by assisting them to undergo a complete cloud migration. As longstanding Amazon Web Services (AWS) partners, we are licensed to boost and implement organizations’ AWS-based transformation and enable them to achieve massive economies of scale, reduce capital investment costs by switching to reduced operational costs, and all the while taking their business to a global level.
We have overseen several such transformations — including our very own — and can say with complete conviction that AWS provides the best outcomes in establishing a global presence for your business that is resilient, functions with high availability and simplified architecture, and leads to cost optimization across all areas.