Everyone's journey to the cloud is unique and it can be difficult. There are numerous common cloud migration challenges that can derail an organisation’s cloud aspirations but what are they?
In an exclusive interview with DSA, David Lim, APJ Head of VMware Cloud on AWS at AWS, Ted Aravinthan, CRO at Cloud Kinetics, and Ng Wen Chi, CTO at Cloud Kinetics, helped us understand these challenges and how an integrated approach like VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC on AWS) can help businesses accelerate their journey towards digital innovation.
Mind the Skills Gap
When a company embarks on a cloud journey, it’s crucial that the people involved understand what they’re getting themselves into. According to Ted, the biggest challenge that he has come across is the knowledge gap regarding the cloud. Although people understand what the technology is, they only understand a fraction of what it is about.
“It’s a lot about educating our customers when we engage with them,” said Ted. “Whenever there is a huge gap in knowledge, that’s where either communication breaks down or customers’ expectations are not met.”
David agreed with Ted’s statement. He also mentioned a report that AWS released early this year, highlighting that for APAC, the need for cloud skills is expected to triple by 2025. These include advanced skills in cloud computing, data, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine-learning (ML) – skills that will become highly sought after from digitally skilled workers in the not-so-distant future.
They also found that one of the biggest challenges customers have is the culture skills gap they have in their organisation – specifically in the public sector. “When I talk to many public sector customers, moving from on-premises workloads and refactoring, re-architecting into the cloud takes a lot of skills to do. And a lot of organisations and government departments don’t have the skillsets within their people. So, this is a huge impact for their businesses.”
The second challenge is about engaging with customers and understanding what business objectives they really want to achieve. “Are they doing this from a tactical perspective? Or do they really have a strategic intent to do this?”
The third challenge is based on speed, whereby customers expect different processes to be executed simultaneously and they want to do many things.
Apart from that, Wenchi mentioned that there is an increase in enterprise customers looking to adopt the hybrid cloud approach and that their role at Cloud Kinetics is to ensure that customers have a seamless experience doing so. All in all, they consider VMC on AWS to be one of the best hybrid cloud architectures capable of meeting those requirements.
Why are Businesses Turning to VMC on AWS?
Today’s businesses are drawn to VMC on AWS for a variety of reasons, most notably due to the consolidated strengths of both VMware and AWS, arguably two of the biggest names in enterprise IT. Not only does it allow companies to accelerate and migrate their workloads to the cloud very quickly – up to 46% faster according to IDC – but they also gain access to 200+ services that AWS offers in order to start leveraging their hybrid cloud extension.
David highlighted that “Many customers won’t modernise or transform on-premises legacy applications; however, they may choose to integrate some of those services from AWS once those workloads are on VMC because they can seamlessly do so with an elastic network interface that we provide between the two accounts. And this really gives the customers seamless integration and an opportunity to start to innovate.”
VMC on AWS also enables businesses to benefit from the TCO associated with their VMware licencing costs. Companies that have an enterprise licencing agreement with VMware would only need to add a small incremental cost.
“Then if you have your entire company processes, know-how tools, all aligned with VMware, then reskilling, hiring new skill sets, retaining them, all of that is something that you may not have to do too much, so there’s a fair amount of cost savings there,” Ted explained.
In addition, existing skills are still applicable with VMC on AWS. This means that the organisation’s leaders do not have to massively upskill their employees or force them to choose whether or not to upskill. This enables organisations and government departments to leverage existing investments in people and upskill them over time.
Typically, when a customer raises a trouble ticket on-premises, they do it via vSphere, email, or phone call, and the issue is resolved on the customer’s premises. Moving to the cloud would mean they may have to deal with someone else.
However, if they adopt VMC, they’re not working with anyone else; they’re still engaging with VMware. So, the same mechanism for raising a troubled ticket and getting a VMware engineer to help them out on-prem will be the same with any issues they have on the VMware Cloud around their operations or platform.
“So [it’s about] having that single point of contact for support, knowing that the workloads are running on the latest versions because often, on-premises customers run on the ‘n minus one’ or ‘n minus two version’ and aren’t always up to date on the latest versions. These are really the kind of key benefits that customers are looking for,” David explains.
VMC on AWS in Action
David shared a case study in which the New Zealand Qualification Authority, a Crown entity of the New Zealand government tasked with administering educational assessment and qualifications, was one of the organisations that benefited from leveraging VMC on AWS. They provide education, training, and qualification certification to thousands of students in New Zealand.
In their case, they needed to quickly migrate ten applications to the cloud. Their data centre had been shut down and they had a very specific timeline, so they were under pressure to support their 10,000 students by moving those ten critical applications off-premises and into the cloud.
They had to rethink their model and wanted to use AWS' cloud services but this had an impact on their business because time was of the essence. Worse, this occurred during the pandemic, so there were no IT teams available in the data centre to complete the migration.
Knowing this, they would have to move their workloads remotely. And they did that! According to David, they were able to migrate the ten applications from on-premises into VMC over the weekend and have it back up and running by the following Monday. This was only made possible through VMC’s Data Centre Extension capability.
“Since moving to VMware Cloud, they’ve been able to save a full day a week having staff travel to the data centre to reach out to stack and provision servers. They can do that remotely or on-site now from their business and that day saved is allowing those workers and those data operations people to start to upskill into cloud services. They’ve been able to start working on more strategic workloads and applications that they want to start to modernise.”
What a Cloud Migration Partner Brings to the Table
Cloud Kinetics is an AWS Consulting Partner, who works closely with its customers to adopt hybrid cloud solutions like VMC on AWS. “If customers want to go on a cloud-native approach, Cloud Kinetics have all the resources to help them with their migration or scale up their resources to manage the entire environment,” explained Ted.
Again, it is vital for any organisation that wants to move to the cloud to understand why and how they want to make it happen. This requires them to look at the cloud migration options and understand the reasons behind them. Organisations need to build intelligent business cases by identifying key objectives and then clearly communicate these based on the expected benefits of the cloud migration initiative.
Ted explained that a migration partner like Cloud Kinetics can help them understand those things upfront and then give them the options to see what are the best ways they can move to the cloud. If they are a VMware customer and are entrenched in the VMware ecosystem, for example, then one of the clear options is VMC on AWS.
Once the customers have reached that level of understanding, Ted said it is time to focus on the potential risks associated with the migration and how to manage them through a programme and professional services to complete the migration. Because of its partnership with AWS and VMware, Cloud Kinetics is able to provide its cloud expertise to its customers and help them migrate seamlessly using VMC on AWS.
Adding to that, Ted also highlighted three areas where Cloud Kinetics can help further:
Provide training services to build a competitive edge by upskilling and reskilling employees with the latest technology skills.
Provide bespoke customers with lab activities from industry courses and contextualise them to the organisation’s environment. They will use the customer’s data to recreate the environment and mirror the implementation as close as possible within the lab activities.
Provide access to the engineers for a mentoring session.
Cloud Kinetics structure these training packages based on customer’s requirements.
“Our hope is, as we build our capabilities in our teams, that [the] culture of helping each other and training each other, it kind of flows on from our team to the customers on every engagement that they do. So, I think that’s the way that we look at when upscaling our customers,” Ted concludes.