Rackspace-AWS Roundtable: Solving the Cloud Migration Dilemma

Public cloud is becoming mainstream. CIOs are moving their workloads to clouds at ever faster rates--22% CAGR according to Forrester. More importantly, they are embracing public clouds. Despite stringent regulations and fears about losing control, many firms are adopting the public cloud.

Migrating your workloads to the public cloud is not straightforward, however. Unless you are an internet-born firm, moving mission-critical workloads from on-premise infrastructure to the public cloud needs proven plans and strong governance. To understand the challenges that many face, CDOTrends, together with AWS and Rackspace, invited business leaders to discuss at a luncheon roundtable.

They include:

The participants joined Gene Tang, Head of Professional Services, Rackspace and Wilfred Wah, Senior Advisory Consultant, Amazon Web Services to discuss how they are facing off their cloud migration challenges. Below are some key insights from the discussion.

Insight 1: Diverse Regulations Makes Public Cloud Migration Complex

The benefits of public cloud are clear. Some of these include quick scalability, access to compute resources, better economics, no on-site hardware management and faster technology refresh.

However, regulators see it differently. Many are concerned about customer data privacy. If they need to investigate, it will be better if the data is onshore.

“Regulators need to know where your data resides. So, we need to do a lot of things onshore to satisfy these requirements. Corporate governance is very important for regulators,” Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific) Ltd’s Guyodo said.

The good news is that perceptions among regulators are changing. Both Manulife Financial Asia Limited's Lam and Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific) Ltd's Chu agreed that regulators are slowly shifting their perspectives about public cloud adoption. Still, they do face hurdles with their compliance teams.

China CITIC Bank International Ltd's Law noted the more significant challenge in the Asia Pacific region is that companies need to deal with several regulators, each with their expectations and requirements. 

Persistence is key. "Regulators, in my experience, tend to give you lots of guidelines. But you need to be persistent. Once you have done it once, the second time is easier," Lockton Companies' Kwok said.

Insight 2: Talent Gap Another Hurdle for Cloud Migration

Migrations face challenges for a variety of reasons. But talent is a big one. Often, the lack of the right talent can derail a public cloud migration project.

It is why many of the participants see vendor partnerships as vital for any public cloud success. "Finding the right technology partner is like finding a partner in life we should always try before we commit. If it works, I get into the ‘marriage'," Kwok said.

Hanas Group's Bhandari noted that some of the talents that they need are still unavailable in the market. With a small talent pool, he sees the value in building stronger partnerships with vendors.

AXA Hong Kong's Gregory and Crown Worldwide Holdings Ltd's Davis-Pipe are already starting to build up their internal talent pools. But in the meantime, they are looking to their partners to provide the necessary knowledge to fill the gaps.

Overall, participants see vendors as an extension of their teams. “Even if you find the right talent, they will not stay with you for long. So, I see the partner resources as an extension of your own resources,” Kwok added.

Rackspace’s Tang sees partnership no longer an option, but necessary for cloud migration success. "Utilizing partners to execute is no longer an option in the world of cloud – it is required for any strategy utilizing the cloud,” he said.

Insight 3: Standardizing Methodology Vital for a Multi-cloud Future

The discussion ended with a forward-looking take on the role of multi-cloud architectures.

Participants noted that many firms are already connected to various cloud providers for multiple reasons, especially redundancy. At the same time, each cloud platform releases new updates regularly. To keep up, many are looking for vendors who can simplify multi-cloud connections.

However, Amazon Web Services’ Wah warned firms that they will need to be prepared for additional costs and complexity. “Some companies start off thinking they should use multiple clouds, but when they get deeper into their planning, we find the vast majority don’t end up choosing to be multi-cloud. If a customer maintains a multi-cloud environment, the actual investment could be higher than expected due to the technical complexity and the additional skill sets required to maintain more than one platform,” he said. 

Firms can reduce complexity by adopting a standard migration methodology noted Rackspace's Tang. He said that firms often face a myriad of issues when migrating or managing workloads across platforms when they see it as an engineering exercise.

"A standard methodology can help your company to prepare and maximize your chances of success. You can then use the same approach on a different cloud platform--it is all about balancing risks," Tang said.

Participants agree that the need for a strong methodology toward cloud migration is critical.