Common Causes of "Cloud Stall" and How to Avoid Them
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"Cloud stall" occurs when a cloud migration or adoption initiative slows down or grinds to a halt, thereby preventing an organization from fully realizing the many benefits of its investment. Cloud stall is relatively common and can occur for a number of reasons, as detailed below.
As we reach the nexus point where IT spends more on cloud than on traditional infrastructure, the work of integrating, optimizing and maintaining cloud environments while ensuring successful adoption of the cloud operating model has inevitably led to more complexity.
As you'll learn, overcoming this complexity and avoiding the pitfalls of cloud stall is best accomplished at the early planning stages, before migration activity begins.
The lack of a well-defined migration strategy is a leading cause of cloud stall. Because cloud touches so many elements of the business — from applications to infrastructure to security to data management to consumption models to cost management — organizations without a solid strategy risk frustration when trying to realize the many benefits of cloud.
Without a clear migration plan, organizations are prone to hasty decision-making that frequently results in misconfigurations. These misconfigurations, in turn, lead to suboptimal cloud deployments and an inevitable need to backtrack and remedy prior errors. To ensure success from the outset, a comprehensive migration strategy is indispensable.
Yet given the overwhelming number of tools and services for placing workloads on-premises, off-premises and in multiple public clouds, it's no surprise organizations struggle to solidify a clear vision and strategy.
We recommend engaging a partner who is an expert in maturing capabilities across the entire cloud lifecycle — from strategic planning through workload migration to ongoing management and optimization. Such a partner can help identify business needs and goals, validate the appropriate cloud operating model for your business, define a well-rationalized migration strategy, and establish the governance controls needed to execute and manage your cloud environment going forward.
Underestimating migration complexity is another leading cause of cloud stall.
Legacy IT systems can present intricate migration and integration challenges, many of which are industry-specific. Complex interdependencies between applications and workloads are often difficult to unravel. Data transfer challenges, such as volume and compatibility issues, often arise.
This complexity can quickly overwhelm unprepared or inexperienced cloud migration teams. Underestimating these challenges can lead to project delays and, in some cases, complete migration failure.
Comprehensive migration planning can shine a light on the potential complexities of a proposed migration before they have a chance to derail the effort and lead to costly delays.
Successful migration demands a specific set of skills and expertise in various cloud technologies. Because trained IT staff are essential for grasping and applying cloud best practices, a lack of qualified personnel can lead to difficulties in planning and executing cloud migration efforts. Moreover, ineffectual or insufficient cloud expertise at the management level can further exacerbate the risk of cloud stall.
The demand for cloud skills exceeds the number of available experts, meaning it can be challenging to attract and retain the right cloud experts. For that reason, we recommend taking a multi-pronged approach to accessing the right cloud talent. This might include offering professional development opportunities to upskill current employees on cloud skills; engaging a strategic resourcing partner to plug critical skills gaps on a shorter-term basis; or ensuring your HR department is optimizing its cloud job descriptions and benefits to compete for the level and amount of talent you need to achieve your business objectives via migration.
However you choose to address these talent gaps, competency in cloud technologies and best practices will continue to play a crucial factor in the long-term success of organizational cloud adoption.
Security and compliance issues pose substantial challenges to successful cloud migration. Common risks include:
- Data loss from files that become incomplete, corrupt or missing during the migration process.
- Misconfigured apps or cloud services that expose corporate data or enable unauthorized access.
- Security breaches that impact available services from public cloud hyperscalers or third-party vendors.
- Direct attacks that aim to exploit vulnerabilities in cloud systems or networks (e.g., DoS, phishing, ransomware, SQL injection, etc.).
- Contractual noncompliance or violation of industry regulations, standards and protocols that result from reliance on third-party vendors (who are often not held to the same legal standards).
In short, data security and industry regulation adherence are paramount. Neglecting these concerns can bring cloud migrations to an abrupt standstill. Moreover, failure to address security and compliance issues can lead to project failure.
To mitigate these risks, organizations should ensure cloud security is purposefully designed into the entirety of their migration roadmap. That means conducting the requisite risk and gap assessments pre-migration; hardening your security posture through zero trust best practices; ensuring cloud data is properly stored, managed and monitored; establishing full visibility over all cloud and integrated IT environments; leveraging the right cloud-native security tools; and fostering a culture of cybersecurity throughout your workforce and partnerships.
In short, establishing a robust security and compliance strategy is indispensable for successful cloud migrations.
Inaccurate or incomplete data assessment is a common contributor to cloud stall. A lack of precise data understanding and application rationalization may lead to the migration of unnecessary or irrelevant data. In fact, the inclusion of unnecessary data can directly result in increased storage costs and data management complexity. Migrating irrelevant data can also cause confusion and hinder application performance.
Types of data assessment to consider pre-migration include assessing data risk levels; categorizing the types, volumes and formats of data to be migrated; and exploring all relevant data resilience and privacy requirements.
To avoid this common cause of cloud stall, organizations should invest in thorough data assessment, categorization and app rationalization before migration.
Cloud migration costs can escalate swiftly, catching unprepared organizations off guard. Absent proper consumption monitoring and governance principles, controlling migration costs can feel like a moving target always out of reach.
Potential costs to be aware of include:
- The upfront costs of moving apps and workloads to the cloud (e.g., software licensing, data transfer fees, bandwidth charges, consulting fees, training costs, etc.).
- The operational costs of running and maintaining cloud services and applications (e.g., fees related to storage, security, networking, compute, backup, support, etc.).
- The optimization costs of enhancing cloud applications, services and resources (e.g., monitoring, automation, testing and optimization tools, etc.).
- Costs from migration missteps (e.g., from misconfiguration, human error, infrastructure modernization, cyber breaches, etc.).
Ignoring such costs can result in unexpected and unsustainable expenditures that can derail any migration. Diligent monitoring and resource management are pivotal in averting cost overruns during migration.
Continuous monitoring and optimization post-migration are likewise imperatives for application performance and cost control. Neglecting these aspects can lead to performance degradation over time. Moreover, inefficient resource utilization may result in escalating operational costs.
We recommend learning about the different facets of cloud optimization and cost management, including assistance with consumption visibility and management, navigating cloud marketplaces, and the emerging practice of cloud FinOps.
Inadequate testing is another frequent cause of cloud stall. This type of oversight can lead to application performance problems from slow, unstable systems; unexpected downtime that disrupts business operations and incurs financial losses; and even data loss or corruption — one of the more severe consequences of inadequate testing.
Cloud testing should play a key role in every migration initiative as it ensures that migrated applications function as expected post-migration and are aligned with the organization's business requirements and goals. Testing typically requires vetting each application to be migrated in areas such as functionality, performance, security, compatibility, usability and compliance.
Not only is comprehensive testing pre-migration pivotal to the success of any migration project, but it's also key to delivering a positive end-user experience for application users.
Transitioning to a cloud operating model necessitates a cultural shift in both IT and business teams. Organizational or cultural resistance to change can be a substantial barrier to migration success. Employees and stakeholders often hesitate to embrace unfamiliar cloud-based workflows. This resistance can lead to delays as individuals struggle to adapt to new processes. A lack of buy-in and engagement can also negatively impact overall migration success.
Failure to understand and address these cultural changes can result in friction and/or pushback from employees.
Your Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) can be instrumental in anticipating and addressing these types of cultural challenges. Not only it can help ensure alignment between technical and business stakeholders, but it can establish effective change management and communication best practices useful to overcoming barriers of resistance to cloud adoption.
The absence of comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery planning poses a substantial risk of cloud stall.
Protecting data and minimizing downtime are key elements of a successful cloud migration. Inadequate planning pre-migration can result in data loss during unforeseen events like system failures or natural disasters. Moreover, prolonged downtime from poor business continuity planning can disrupt business operations.
It's worth ensuring that your business continuity and disaster recovery plans are updated to address the challenges of protecting data and minimizing downtime within the parameters of your specific cloud operating model.
Cloud stall is common, but it doesn't have to happen to you. Many of the pitfalls can be avoided through careful planning; aligning business and IT objectives; establishing governance and management best practices; developing a culture of data and cloud literacy; selecting the right tools, platforms and partners for your business; modernizing IT and data delivery systems as needed; and being specific about the cloud outcomes and goals you want to achieve in the short-term and long-term.