In cloud migrations, not all data is created equal

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This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of CRN magazine.

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In cloud migrations, not all data is created equal

COMMENT  A recent article penned by Rabid’s esteemed editorial director, Steven Kiernan, documented the sad tale of some companies’ not-so-happy experiments in cloud migration.

The TL;DR takeaway was that it’s not really a good idea to just download the entire contents of your server room onto a USB drive and export it to the nearest cloud service provider. It could cost a lot more than the theoretical savings, and performance might just be an ‘issue’.

Why is it so? Well, for starters, it all depends on what’s running on those humming servers in the lunch room, or broom closet, depending on your definition of in-house data centre. Too often the in-house kit is hosting seriously resource-intensive legacy business systems, that were designed (and we use that term loosely) to achieve a desired outcome with scant regard as to how much grunt and RAM were consumed in the process. Hardware was, and remains, cheap.

What’s not so cheap is keeping the lights on and everything running smoothly, despite the ever-increasing stability and self-healing abilities of the latest operating systems and the hardware they run on. Smaller companies can no longer afford in-house tech support, and so conscript remote help from the army of managed services providers out there. 

These MSPs mostly do a damn fine job, but their ability to respond to an actual hardware failure is limited by time and geography.

If a company can afford massive redundancy via hot standby hardware, then they probably also have in-house techs, so it’s a bit of a Catch-22 for those at the lower end of the IT food chain. Hence, the appeal of the cloud. Rent some grunt off one of the big boys who have data centres the size of Bunnings Warehouses, and tech support staff a-plenty. Makes sense on budget spreadsheets.

Then comes the crunch. Your in-house ERP system works fine (so you say) but is probably ancient code, written with no provision for remote access by your staff, never mind allowing access for your customers and suppliers. In fact, it probably requires an actual installation of the client software on a PC for each user. So, you won’t just be sending the server platform up into the cloud, you’re probably also going to need a rental contract for virtual PCs in the cloud.

Ka-ching! Your cloud services provider is smiling all the way to the bank. And you’re still paying huge annual maintenance fees for your bespoke ERP system, regardless of where it lives. Your accountant is less happy.

Clearly, the cloud can, and does, work well for an awful lot of companies. Why is it so? Because they are renting ERP software in the sky that was designed to live there, and designed to be accessed using a skinny client with a browser, which might be a PC, but might also be a tablet or a smartphone.

This cloud-based software was built from the ground up to run efficiently and leanly, using only essential resources, and was also designed to massively scale with thousands of users connected. It still costs a small fortune to host these cloud-dwelling beasts, but the cost is shared amongst the huge user base of terrestrial renters.

And guess what? By their very nature, these ERP cloud-based systems provide direct access for your customers and suppliers. Out of the box. Gotta be happy about that.

Gotta go! Storm clouds gathering!  

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