Cloud migration strategy: How to build a team of experts

In order to pull off a cloud migration successfully you will need a team of experts. Here is a look at the roles you need to on your enterprise cloud migration team.

cloud migration

It’s one thing to move a few applications to the cloud and call it a day. It’s another thing entirely to launch a major cloud computing migration that encompasses virtually every facet of the IT environment.

The latter is becoming increasingly common, as organizations look to digitally transform themselves with the cloud as a centerpiece of the strategy. With a hybrid, multi-cloud approach, companies can leverage these services not only for end-user applications but for storage, development, security and other areas.

Research firm Gartner in May 2019 noted that most enterprise adopters of public cloud services use multiple providers, and adopt a multi-cloud strategy out of a desire to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed offerings. The firm expects most large organizations to continue to pursue this approach.

Multi-cloud computing decisions usually rest on three considerations, Gartner says. One is the desire to increase agility and avoid or minimize vendor lock-in. Another is that modern applications are, by design, created in a more modular style and can span multiple cloud providers or consume services from multiple clouds. And a third is to unify administration and monitoring of their IT systems in order to ensure operational control. They do this by standardizing policies, procedures and processes across multiple cloud providers.

The kinds of “cloud-first” initiatives organizations are launching require teamwork and lots of skill sets, and enterprises need to make sure they have the right players in place to ensure a successful strategy.

Key members of an enterprise cloud migration team

Executive leadership

Any good migration strategy needs to have a leader who is primarily accountable for the success or failure of the overall effort. It might be the CIO, CTO or some other high-level IT official. Or it could be the chief cloud officer (CCO), a relatively new addition to the C-suite who is responsible for managing and governing the entire cloud environment within an organization.

Expect to see more organizations appointing CCOs — who are charged with making sure the organization gets the most value out of cloud initiatives while at the same time mitigating risk — as the cloud becomes more prominent. This is achieved in large part by closely aligning cloud services with the business goals of the organization.

Regardless of who runs the cloud show, this individual needs to oversee every phase of the strategy, including assessing the needs of the organization, evaluating cloud providers, deploying the cloud services, and maintaining the services. The cloud leader should also work closely with those managing security, availability and other areas of cloud management.

Executive sponsors

Any major technology initiative can benefit from having sponsors or supporters at the highest level of the organization, and a cloud migration is no exception. Depending on the size of the business or the magnitude of the project, this could be the CEO, COO, CFO, CIO or the entire C-suite and board of directors for that matter.

The key point is that buy-in from senior-level management is vital to the success of the cloud migration strategy. Without support from the top, funding and other resources for the endeavor could be much harder to come by.

The thing about the cloud is that it can have an impact of virtually every facet of the business: IT, human resources, finance, marketing, sales, product development, legal, customer support, and other areas. There are lots of stakeholders who stand to be affected by a cloud migration, and it could have an impact on the organization for years to come. That calls for full attention — and support — from the highest levels of the enterprise.

Cloud architect

Just as a building — or an internal IT infrastructure — needs an architect, so does a cloud strategy. Without one chaos can reign.

A cloud architect is someone who creates the design for the cloud environment and performs ongoing maintenance on the cloud architecture. This person should be well versed in the IT and business goals and challenges of the organization, because he or she needs to keep the architecture aligned with those goals and take into consideration the challenges.

A knowledge of IT infrastructure, internal service-level agreements (SLAs), various cloud technologies, programming languages, legal and regulatory issues, and cybersecurity are also important.

The cloud architect by necessity needs to work in close collaboration with other team members to make sure the design is meeting the requirements of stakeholders such as business users. The more complex the cloud environment the more vital this position becomes.

Cloud engineers

Another important member of the cloud infrastructure team is the cloud engineer, who’s responsible for many technical aspects related to cloud computing. These include design, management, maintenance and support, which are performed in collaboration with other team members such as the cloud architect. In fact, the cloud engineer in some cases might also function as a cloud architect.

Since cloud engineers work in areas including network design, storage, virtual machine (VM) resource allocation and security, the cloud team will likely include different engineers who focus on specific areas. These include cloud software engineers, cloud security engineers, cloud systems engineers and cloud network engineers.

Cloud engineers need to be familiar with areas such as the cloud service environments from the leading cloud providers, software development, system engineering, Web services, and programming languages.

System administrators

A cloud system administrator provides ongoing administration and support within a cloud environment, just as an administrator would provide similar functions in an on-premises data center. But within the context of a cloud service such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), the role of an administrators is quite different because there is no longer a need to manage hardware such as servers. These are owned and managed by the cloud service provider.

Instead, cloud system administrators focus on managing and customizing cloud resources to meet the needs of the organization.

Whereas cloud architects design the overall framework for the cloud environment and cloud engineers ensure that the proper technologies are being used to fit the framework, administrators handle the day-to-day tasks needed to keep services running.

Cloud administrators need to have a strong understanding of VMs and cloud networking, and experience with IaaS and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings.

Cloud security manager

Any company launching a cloud strategy knows — or should know — just how important it is to ensure that data and applications are protected against attacks.

The SANS Institute, a cooperative research and education organization, in its 2019 SANS State of Cloud Security survey released in May 2019, noted that organizations are placing more and more sensitive data in the cloud and facing a variety of security concerns. More organizations experienced unauthorized access to cloud environments or cloud assets by outsiders in 2019 compared with 2017, according to the organization’s research.

While public cloud service providers are responsible for much of the security that’s needed — for instance, they are accountable for their entire infrastructure — cloud customers are not off the hook.

The role of the cloud security manager is to determine what the organization needs to do related to cloud security, and make sure all the necessary tools and services are deployed and maintained. This person is responsible for setting up and managing access controls for cloud resources, such as applications, development and storage.

Cloud security managers need to have a thorough understanding of the cybersecurity risks of the cloud, including the latest threats and vulnerabilities. Given the importance of having strong security, this individual will likely work with every other member of the cloud team at one point or another. Close collaboration with senior security executives such as the CSO and CISO is also important.

Compliance/privacy expert

Having a compliance expert on the cloud team might sound like a bit of a stretch in terms of available resources. But in these days of increasing regulatory scrutiny regarding data privacy, it makes good sense.

Aside from long-standing regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which governs data privacy in the healthcare sector, other regulations have emerged more recently or are on the verge of being implemented.

One of the most prominent, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is designed to protect the privacy of data owned by residents of the European Union. Another, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), is designed to bolster the data privacy rights and consumer protection of California residents and is set to take affect on Jan. 1, 2020.

With so much data in the cloud and steep fines for being non-compliant with these types of regulations, ensuring that proper steps are being taken to protect data is vital. That’s where the compliance and privacy experts play a big role, working closely with the cloud security manager and others to make sure the organization is compliant.

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Summing up — Why harmony matters

Despite the great promise of the cloud for adding efficiency and agility, the fact is not everyone is going to be thrilled with a move to the cloud because it means change. While much of the change might be for the better, it’s still a shift in the way things are done — and that can promote dissention and resentment.

That’s why it’s important for members of the cloud team to work together in harmony, not just to ensure a successful move to the cloud but also to promote the effectiveness of the cloud for the entire organization.

To that end, every member of the cloud migration team needs to also be a cheerleader. Management needs to promote the potential opportunities of a cloud migration, such as the chance to learn new skills.

For example, there’s going to be increased demand for skills related to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Staffing firm Akraya says the 2020 forecast for machine learning and AI related to cloud computing is showing a significant increase.

Over the past few years, cloud vendors have developed and expanded their sets of tools and services that allow organizations to gain the benefits of machine learning and AI in the cloud, the firm says.

Other top cloud skills expected to be in high demand serverless architecture. databases, programming languages and DevOps.

There is no doubt that the rise of cloud computing is fully underway. The question is how prepared will organizations be to make the jump and thrive in this new environment. The answer might lie in how well they assemble the teams needed to guide enterprises along the cloud journey.