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How to get everyone on-board with a cloud migration project

Cloud naysayers reject the idea that benefits of a migration outweigh the trouble, but AWS customers list five benefits that could prove them wrong.

LAS VEGAS -- For a cloud migration project to be successful, all company teams must be onboard with the move. And because each team has different priorities, getting everyone to agree can be a challenge.

At the AWS re:Invent conference last week, a panel of Amazon Web Services customers discussed their personal cloud migration challenges and cloud's main selling points.

While initially there will be skepticism, two panelists -- Rich Gopstein, director of infrastructure at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Lex Crosett, EVP of software and services at Conservation Services Group Inc. -- noted they didn't see a consistent response to the cloud move across staff members. Business teams have a clear priority in terms of costs and visibility for billing, and traditional and old-line developers didn't believe a cloud migration would work.

"Traditional developers, unless they've looked at the technology, often don't get it," Crosett said. "IT folks have been much more onboard from the start."

The real driver, the business driver, was data center modernization.
Lex CrosettEVP, Conservation Services Group Inc.

Gopstein, whose company is in the early stages of a cloud migration project, added that he was "still wrestling with traditional operations teams."

"There was an overall push from our CIO to get more into the cloud," said Gopstein, who needed to explain the move to his staff.

While selling your company on cloud may not be easy, panelists and other event speakers agreed there are five drivers and cloud benefits that appeal to various corners of the business.

1. Scalability and agility

The ability to scale up and down as needed is appealing to nearly all teams across companies. The main success is cycle times and more agility, Gopstein said, especially for certain industries.

"In weather businesses there's an awful lot of peak load problems when hurricanes or tragic events come along, and then the rest of the time we had 85% or more excess capacity," said Crosett, speaking of his previous experience as CIO and vice president of product development at Earth Networks, which created WeatherBug. "We certainly could have done a traditional virtualization approach and pulled that off very nicely, but we had the opportunity to become more agile and flexible and scalable in [cloud]."

Crosett agreed that cloud allows the Conservation Services Group to scale up and down more intelligently. The company ended up with a smaller overall environment that he could scale up during weather events and down in the middle of the night, and that could be shut down quickly.

2. Visibility and governance

Despite existing concerns with governance in cloud, panelists argued cloud computing's innate features and tools can offer even more visibility, and thus governance, into their IT environments.

"Developers, if left to their own devices, would leave everything on -- lights on, coffeemakers on," said Crosett, who noted that his increased visibility saves on unnecessary running instances.

"One of the key tenets of our environment … is not so much for business to tell IT what they can and cannot do, but to give visibility," said Bristol-Myers Squibb's Gopstein, who said he sees giving visibility as a key issue in governance, despite his project's early status.

3. Cost

Gopstein and Crosett dismissed common cost complaints about cloud computing, and other speakers mentioned the cost benefits that cloud could bring a company, particularly startups.

"While certainly there are people who are hard-core advocates of on-premises and virtualization … it gets back to this same economic argument -- you buy equipment and you virtualize heavily and maybe run the costs down significantly by running some stuff locally," Crosett said. "But what everybody leaves out of that analysis is the people costs: the costs of the folks that are responsible for keeping the machines running themselves … I don't know why that is, because it's so obvious."

"Cost savings were still there; it's just a radical shift in belief systems," Crosett added.

While panelists discussed life in the enterprise, the re:Invent keynote spoke to a different set of companies: startups, which often have very different cost structures.

"We did not want one of these … server rooms with power-hungry, expensive equipment that's hard to cool," said Kevin Baillie co-founder of Atomic Fiction Inc., a digital effects company that runs on AWS. "And we couldn't afford one even if we wanted to."

4. Talent and innovation

A cloud move can often cause IT staff to worry about job security. However, panelists and other speakers argued the loss to staff was minimal and cloud could actually lead the way to hire more impressive, necessary talent -- something vital to a creative industry.

"We hired a group of the best people we could possibly find," Baillie said. "And that was the most important lesson that we learned over the years in the industry. Technology and the economics of that technology are just there to serve their creativity."

Conservation Services Group's Crosett admitted to reducing his "pure IT staff" by about 10%, but claimed that some of the number left on their own accord after the move. Panelists said the shift to cloud allowed IT pros to be less hampered by tedious, daily tasks and allowed for more innovation.

Crosett argued that some of his IT staff was happier post-cloud migration because they weren't just "fixing bugs."

5. Planning ahead

Sometimes the benefit is actually just avoiding failure, panelists said.

"The real driver, the business driver, was data center modernization," Crosett said, whose company had outdated IT systems in place.

"Moving to cloud gave us the opportunity to clean up a lot of our practices and processes," Bristol-Myers Squibb's Gopstein added.

Because of the time-sensitive nature of Earth Networks' move to the cloud, Crosett advocates planning a move before you have to move, which gives you the time and understanding needed to move legacy applications to the cloud.

Caitlin White is site editor for SearchCloudComputing. Contact her at [email protected].

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