5 Benefits Gained from Cloud Optimization

When making a cloud migration, a common term that gets tossed around is “cloud optimization”. If your organization is new to the cloud, optimizing your environment is essential to ensuring your migration pays off quickly and continues to do so in the long term.

If your organization is already established in the cloud, you may observe higher costs than expected due to cloud sprawl, under-utilized resources, and improper allocation of resources. Cloud optimization helps your organization reduce these costs and improve overall efficiency in the cloud

What is cloud optimization?

The definition of cloud optimization may vary from one cloud service provider to another, but generally, cloud optimization is the process of analyzing, configuring, provisioning, and right-sizing cloud resources to maximize performance and minimize waste for cost efficiency. The reality is that many organizations’ cloud environments are configured in an inefficient manner that creates unnecessary cloud spend. With proper cloud optimization tools and practices, these unnecessary costs can be eliminated.

While cloud optimization is mostly discussed in terms of cloud spend, cost optimization is simply a faucet of cloud optimization and can extend to overall performance and organizational efficiency. Some examples of cloud optimization practices that your organization can adopt right now include:

  • Right-sizing: Matching your cloud computing instance types (i.e. containers and VMs) and sizes with enough resources to sufficiently meet your workload performance and capacity needs to ensure the lowest cost possible.
  • Family Refresh: Replace outdated systems with updated ones to maximize performance.
  • Autoscaling: Scale your resources according to your application demand so you are only paying for what you use.
  • Applying Discounts: Reserved instances (RIs) allow companies to commit to cloud resources for a long period of time. The longer the discount and the more a company is prepared to pre-pay at the beginning of a period, the greater the discount will be. Discounted pricing models like RIs and spot instances will drive down your cloud costs when used according to your workload.
  • Identity use of RIs: Identifying the use of RIs can be an effective way to save money in the cloud if used for suitable loads.
  • Eliminate Waste: Regulating unused resources is a core component of cloud optimization. If you haven’t already considered cloud optimization practices, you are most likely using more resources than necessary or not certain resources to their full capacity.

Why is cloud optimization important?

Overspending in the cloud is a common issue many organizations face by allocating more resources to a workload than necessary. Integrating cloud optimization practices can reap many benefits for your cloud infrastructure and your organization, including the following:

  • Cloud Efficiency: When workload performance, compliance, and cost are continually balanced against the best-fit infrastructure in real-time, efficiency is achieved. Implementing cloud optimization practices will eliminate as much cloud resource waste as possible, increasing the performance of your cloud environment.
  • Cost Savings: Although cloud optimization comes in a variety of forms, cost optimization is the most important component for many organizations. By reducing waste in the cloud, costs are reduced as a byproduct.
  • Greater Visibility: Cloud optimization practices utilize analytics to provide visibility into your cloud environment to make data-driven decisions. Implementing optimization tools also provides cost visibility, so your organization has a better perspective on cloud spend.
  • Increased Productivity: Once a cloud optimization strategy is implemented, IT teams will spend less time trying to solve problems because an optimized environment prevents problems before they occur.
  • Organizational Innovation & Efficiency: Implementing cloud optimization often is accompanied by a cultural shift within organizations such as improved decision-making and collaboration across teams.

What are cloud optimization services?

Public cloud services providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have over 500,000 distinct prices and technical combinations that can overwhelm the most experienced IT organizations and business units. Luckily, there are already services that can help your organization achieve the cloud optimization it needs to drive business outcomes. Cloud optimization services help your organization identify areas of improvement in your cloud for cost savings and efficiency, create an optimization strategy for your organization, and can manage your cloud infrastructure for continuous optimization.

At 2nd Watch, we take a holistic approach to cloud optimization. We have developed various optimization pillars based on real-time data to ensure your cloud environments are running as efficiently as possible. Behind our solutions for cloud optimization is a team of experienced data scientists and architects that help you maximize the performance and returns of your cloud assets. Our services offerings for cloud optimization at 2nd Watch include:

  • Strategy & Planning: Define your optimization strategy with our proven methodology, tailored to meet your desired business outcomes and maximize your results.
  • Cost Optimization Assessment: Gain the visibility necessary to make data-driven decisions. Identify opportunities across our Pillars of Optimization to maximize cost savings and cloud environment efficiency.
  • Spot Instance & Container Optimization: Save up to 90% compared to traditional cloud infrastructure by running both Instances/VMs and Containers on spot resources for relevant workloads.
  • Multi-Cloud Optimization: Cloud optimization on a single public cloud is one challenge but optimizing a hybrid cloud is a whole other challenge. Apply learning from your assessment to optimize your cloud environment for AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and VMware on AWS.
  • Forecasting, Modeling, & Analytics: Understand your past usage, and model and forecast your future needs with the analytical data needed for visibility across your organization.

Our cloud optimization process starts with data, and you have a lot of it. But data alone can lead you astray yielding wasted resources and overspend. There are many other factors to evaluate, such as EDP/EA agreements and Savings Plans/RI Purchases, to ensure you choose the most cost-effective option for your business. Strategically, our data scientists and architects map connections between data and workloads. We then make correlations between how workloads interact with each resource and the optimal financial mechanism to reach your cloud optimization goals.

Cloud Optimization with 2nd Watch

Working with a managed cloud service provider like 2nd Watch will give your organization the expertise needed for cloud optimization. If you want to learn more about cost savings or are interested in fully optimizing your cloud infrastructure, contact us to take your next steps.

 

Data Center Migration to the Cloud: Why Your Business Should Do it and How to Plan for it

Data center migration is ideal for businesses who are looking to exit or reduce on-premises data centers, migrate workloads as is, modernize apps, or leave another cloud. Executing migrations, however, is no small task, and as a result, there are many enterprise workloads that still run in on-premises data centers. Often technology leaders want to migrate more of their workloads and infrastructure to private or public cloud, but they are turned off by the seemingly complex processes and strategies involved in cloud migration, or lack the internal cloud skills necessary to make the transition.

 

Though data center migration can be a daunting business initiative, the benefits of moving to the cloud is well worth the effort, and the challenges of the migration process can be mitigated by creating a strategy, using the correct tools, and utilizing professional services. Data center migration provides a great opportunity to revise, rethink, and improve an organization’s IT architecture. It also ultimately impacts business critical drivers such as reducing capital expenditure, decreasing ongoing cost, improving scalability and elasticity, improving time-to-market, enacting digital transformation and attaining improvements in security and compliance.

What are Common Data Center Migration Challenges?

To ensure a seamless and successful migration to the cloud, businesses should be aware of the potential complexities and risks associated with data center migration. The complexities and risks are addressable, and if addressed properly, organizations can create not only an optimal environment for their migration project, but provide the launch point for business transformation.

Not Understanding Workloads

While cloud platforms are touted as flexible, it is a service-oriented resource, and it should be treated as such. To be successful in cloud deployment, organizations need to be aware of performance, compatibility, performance requirements (including hardware, software, and IOPS), required software, and adaptability to changes in their workloads. Teams need to run their cloud workloads on the cloud service that is best aligned with the needs of the application and the business.

Not Understanding Licensing

Cloud marketplaces allow businesses to easily “rent” software at an hourly rate. Though the ease of this purchase is enticing, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only option out there. Not all large vendors offer licensing mobility for all applications outside the operating system. In fact, companies should leverage existing relationships with licensing brokers. Just because a business is migrating to the cloud doesn’t mean that a business should abandon existing licensing channels. Organizations should familiarize themselves with their choices for licensing to better maximize ROI.

Not Looking for Opportunities to Incorporate PaaS

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model where a cloud service provider delivers hardware and software tools to users over the internet versus a build-it-yourself Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model. The PaaS provider abstracts everything—servers, networks, storage, operating system software, databases, development tools—enabling teams to focus on their application. This enables PaaS customers to build, test, deploy, run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively than they could if they had to build out and manage an IaaS environment on top of their application. While businesses shouldn’t feel compelled to rewrite all their network configurations and operating environments, they should see where they can have quick PaaS wins to replace aging systems.

Not Proactively Preparing for Cloud Migration

Building a new data center is a major IT event and usually goes hand-in-hand with another significant business event, such as an acquisition, or outgrowing the existing data center. In the case of moving to a new on-premises data center, business will slow down as the company takes on a physical move. Migrating to the cloud is usually not coupled with an eventful business change, and as a result, business does not stop when a company chooses to migrate to the cloud. Therefore, a critical part of cloud migration success is designing the whole process as something that can run along with other IT changes that occur on the same timeline. Application teams frequently adopt cloud deployment practices months before their systems actually migrate to the cloud. By doing so, the team is ready before their infrastructure is even prepared, which makes cloud migration a much smoother event. Combining cloud events with other changes in this manner will maximize a company’s ability to succeed.

Treating and Running the Cloud Environment Like Traditional Data Centers

It seems obvious that cloud environments should be treated differently from traditional data centers, but this is actually a common pitfall for organizations to fall in. For example, preparing to migrate to the cloud should not include traditional data center services, like air conditioning, power supply, physical security, and other data center infrastructure, as a part of the planning. Again, this may seem very obvious, but if a business is used to certain practices, it can be surprisingly difficult to break entrenched mindsets and processes.

How to Plan for a Data Center Migration

While there are potential challenges associated with data center migration, the benefits of moving from physical infrastructures, enterprise data centers and/or on-premises data storage systems to a cloud data center or a hybrid cloud system is well worth the effort.

Now that we’ve gone over the potential challenges of data center migration, how do businesses enable a successful data center migration while effectively managing risk?

Below, we’ve laid out a repeatable high level migration strategy that is broken down into four phases: Discovery, Planning, Execution, and Optimization. By leveraging a repeatable framework as such, organizations create the opportunity to identify assets, minimize migration costs and risks using a multi-phased migration approach, enable deployment and configuration, and finally, optimize the end state.

Phase 1: Discovery

During the Discovery phase, companies should understand and document the entire data center footprint. This means understanding the existing hardware mapping, software applications, storage layers (databases, file shares), operating systems, networking configurations, security requirements, models of operation (release cadence, how to deploy, escalation management, system maintenance, patching, virtualization, etc.), licensing and compliance requirements, as well as other relevant assets.

The objective of this phase is to have a detailed view of all relevant assets and resources of the current data center footprint.

The key milestones in the Discovery phase are:

  • Creating a shared data center inventory footprint: Every team and individual who is a part of the data center migration to the cloud should be aware of the assets and resources that will go live.
  • Sketching out an initial cloud platform foundations design: This involves identifying centralized concepts of the cloud platform organization such as folder structure, Identity and Access Management (IAM)  model, network administration model, and more.

As a best practice, companies should engage in cross-functional dialogue within their organizations, including teams from IT to Finance to Program Management, ensuring everyone is aligned on changes to support future cloud processes. Furthermore, once a business has migrated from a physical data center to the cloud, they should consider whether their data center team is trained to support the systems and infrastructure of the cloud provider.

Phase 2: Planning

When a company is entering the Planning phase, they are leveraging the assets and deliverables gathered in the Discovery phase to create migration waves to be sequentially deployed into non-production and production environments.

Typically, it is best to target non-production migration waves first, which helps identify the sequence of waves to migrate first. To start, consider the following:

  • Mapping the current server inventory to the cloud platform’s machine types: Each current workload will generally run on a virtual machine type with similar computing power, memory and disk. Oftentimes though, the current workload is overprovisioned, so each workload should be evaluated to ensure that it is migrated onto the right VM for that given workload.
  • Timelines: Businesses should lay out their target dates for each migration project.
  • Workloads in each grouping: Figure out what migration waves are grouped by i.e. non-production vs. production applications.
  • Cadence of code releases: Factor in any upcoming code releases as this may impact the decision of whether to migrate sooner or later.
  • Time for infrastructure deployment and testing: Allocate adequate time for testing infrastructures before fully moving over to the cloud.
  • Number of application dependencies: Migration order should be influenced by the number of application dependencies. The applications with the fewest dependencies are generally good candidates for migration first. In contrast, wait to migrate an application that depends on multiple databases.
  • Migration complexity and risk: Migration order should also take complexity into consideration. Tackling simpler aspects of the migration first will generally yield a more successful migration.

As mentioned above, the best practice for migration waves is to start with more predictable and simple workloads. For instance, companies should start with migrating file shares first, then databases and domain controlled, and save the apps for last. However, sometimes the complexity and dependencies don’t allow for a straightforward migration. In these cases, utilizing an experienced service provider who has experience with these complex environments will be prudent.

Phase 3: Execution

Once companies have developed a plan, they can bring them to fruition in the Execution phase. Here, businesses will need to be deliberate about the steps they take and the configurations they develop.

In the Execution phase, companies will put into place infrastructure components and ensure they are configured appropriately, like IAM, networking, firewall rules, and Service Accounts. Here is also where teams should test the applications on the infrastructure configurations to ensure that they have access to their databases, file shares, web servers, load balancers, Active Directory servers and more. Execution also includes using logging and monitoring to ensure applications continue to function with the necessary performance.

In order for the Execution phase to be successful, there needs to be agile application debugging and testing. Moreover, organizations should have both a short and long term plan for resolving blockers that may come up during the migration. The Execution phase is iterative and the goal should be to ensure that applications are fully tested on the new infrastructure.

Phase 4: Optimization

The last phase of a data center migration project is Optimization. After a business has migrated their workloads to the cloud, they should conduct periodic review and planning to optimize the workloads. Optimization includes the following activities:

  • Resizing machine types and disks
  • Leveraging a software like Terraform for more agile and predictable deployments
  • Improving automation to reduce operational overhead
  • Bolstering integration with logging, monitoring, and alerting tools
  • Adopting managed services to reduce operational overhead

Cloud services provide visibility into resource consumption and spend, and organizations can more easily identify the compute resources they are paying for. Additionally, businesses can identify virtual machines they need or don’t need. By migrating from a traditional data center environment to a cloud environment, teams will be able to more easily optimize their workloads due to the powerful tools that cloud platforms provide.

How do I take the first step in data center migration?

While undertaking a full data center migration is a significant project, it is worthwhile. The migration framework we’ve provided can help any business break down the process into manageable stages and move fully to the cloud.

When you’re ready to take the first step, we’re here to help to make the process even easier. Contact a 2nd Watch advisor today to get started with your data center migration to the cloud.

 

Why Media Companies Should Adopt the Cloud

The Advantages of Cloud Computing for Media & Entertainment

We are living in a revolutionary era of digital content and media consumption. As such, media companies are reckoning with the new challenges that come with new times. One of the biggest changes in the industry is consumer demand and behavior. To adapt, M&E brands need to digitally transform their production, distribution, and monetization processes. Cloud solutions are a crucial tool for this evolution, and M&E organizations should prioritize cloud strategy as a core pillar of their business models to address industry-wide shifts and stay relevant in today’s ultra-competitive landscape.

The Challenge: Addressing Greater Audience Expectations and Volatility

Viewing behavior and media distribution has greatly impacted the M&E industry. Entertainment content consumption is at an all-time high, and audiences are finding new and more ways to watch media. Today, linear television is considered old-school, and consumers are favoring platforms that give them the power of choice and freedom. Why would you tune in to your cable television at a specific time to watch your favorite show when you can watch that same show anytime, anywhere, on any device or platform?

With new non-linear television services, media companies have less control over their audiences’ viewing experience. Before, viewers were constrained by broadcasting schedules and immobile, unconnected TVs. Now, audiences have taken viewership into their own hands, and M&E brands must discover ways to retain their viewers’ attention and loyalty in the era of endless options of content creators and streaming platforms.

The Cloud Has the Flexibility and Scalability to Handle Complex Workflows

OTT streaming services are the most popular alternative to linear television broadcasting. It is a solution that meets the audience’s expectation of access to content of their choosing whenever and wherever they want. However, OTT platforms require formatting multiple video files to be delivered to any device with varying connection speeds. As such, OTT streaming services need advanced video streaming workflows that encode and transcode, protect content, and possess storage capacities that continuously grow.

Because OTT broadcasting has complicated workflows and intense infrastructure needs, M&E companies need to consider scalability. OTT streaming that utilizes on-premises data centers will stymie growth for media organizations because legacy applications and software are resource and labor intensive. When OTT services are set up with on-premises streaming, it requires a group of configured live encoding and streaming services to deliver content to audiences.

The in-house services then need to have the computing capacity and capabilities in order to deliver content without interruptions. On top of that, technical staff are necessary to maintain the proprietary hardware, ensure its security, and continuously upgrade it as audiences grow. If companies opt for on-premises OTT streaming, they will not be able to achieve the scalability and quality of experience that they need to keep up with audience expectations.

A cloud-based infrastructure solves all of these issues. To reiterate, on-premises OTT platforms are very resource-intensive with complex ongoing maintenance and high upfront costs. Using cloud services for OTT streaming addresses the downfalls of on-premises streaming by leveraging a network for services dedicated to delivering video files. The benefits of cloud computing for OTT workflows immensely impact streaming latency and distribution, leading to a better end user experience. Cloud infrastructures have the following advantages to on-premises infrastructure:

  • Geography: Unlike in-house data centers, cloud servers can be located around the world, and content can be delivered to audiences via the closest data center, thereby reducing streaming latency.
  • Encoding and transcoding: Cloud services have the ability and capacity to host rendered files and ensure they are ready for quick delivery.
  • Flexible scalability: Providers can easily scale services up or down based on audience demands by simply adding more cloud resources, rather than having to purchase more infrastructure.
  • Cost optimization: Cloud cost is based on only the resources a business uses with none of the maintenance and upkeep costs, and the price adjusts up or down depending on how much is consumed. on-premises costs include server hardware, power consumption, and space. Furthermore, on-premises is inflexible based on actual consumption.

The Cloud Can Help You Better Understand Your Audiences to Increase Revenue

Another buzzword we hear often these days is “big data.” As audiences grow and demonstrate complex behaviors, it’s important to capture those insights to better understand what will increase engagement and loyalty. Cloud computing is able to ingest and manage big data in a way that is actionable: it is one thing to collect data, but it is another thing to process and do something with it. For M&E organizations, utilizing this data helps improve user experiences, optimize supply chains, and monetize content better.

Big data involves manipulating petabytes of data, and the scalable nature of a cloud environment makes it possible to deploy data-intensive applications that power business analytics. The cloud also simplifies connectivity and collaboration within an organization, which gives teams access to relevant and real time analytics and streamlines data sharing. Furthermore, most public cloud providers offer machine learning tools, which makes processing big data even more efficient.

From a data standpoint, a cloud platform is an advantageous option for those who are handling big data and want to make data-driven decisions. The compelling benefits of cloud computing for data are as follows:

  • Faster scalability: Large volumes of both structured and unstructured data requires increased processing power, storage, and more. The cloud provides not only readily-available infrastructure, but also the ability to scale this infrastructure very rapidly to manage large spikes in traffic or usage.
  • Better analytic tools: The cloud offers a number of instant, on demand analytic tools that enable extract, transform, and loading (ETL) of massive datasets to provide meaningful insights quickly.
  • Lowers cost of analytics: Mining big data in the cloud has made the analytics process less costly. In addition to the reduction of on-premises infrastructure, companies are reducing costs related to system maintenance and upgrades, energy consumption, facility management, and more when switching to a cloud infrastructure. Moreover, the cloud’s pay-as-you-go model is more cost-efficient, with little waste of resources.
  • Better resiliency: In cases of cyber-attacks, power outages or equipment failure, traditional data recovery strategies are slow, complex, and risky. The task of replicating a data center (with duplicate storage, servers, networking equipment, and other infrastructure) in preparation for a disaster is tedious, difficult, and expensive. On top of that, legacy systems often take very long to back up and restore, and this is especially true in the era of big data and large digital content libraries, when data stores are so immense and expansive. Having the data stored in cloud infrastructure will allow your organization to recover from disasters faster, thus ensuring continued access to information and vital big data insights.

The Cloud is Secure

There is a misconception that the public cloud is less secure than traditional data centers. Of course, these are valid concerns: media companies must protect sensitive data, such as customers’ personally identifiable information. As a result, security and compliance is crucial for an M&E business’s migration to the cloud.

We have read about cloud security breaches in news headlines. In most cases, these articles fail to accurately point out where the problem occurred. Usually, these breaches occur not due to the security of the cloud itself, but due to the policies and technologies for security and control of the technology. In nearly all cases, it is the user, not the cloud provider, who fails to manage the controls used to protect an organization’s data. The question for M&E business should not be “Is the cloud secure?” but rather “Am I using the cloud securely?”

Whether M&E organizations use a public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, they can be confident in the security of their data and content. Here is how the cloud is as secure, if not more secure, than in-house data centers:

  • Cloud architecture is homogenous: In building their data centers, cloud providers used the same blueprint and built-in security capabilities throughout their fabrics. The net effect is a reduced attack footprint and fewer holes to exploit since the application of security is ubiquitous.
  • Public cloud providers invest heavily in security measures: The protection of both the infrastructure and the cloud services is priority one and receives commensurate investment. Public cloud providers collectively invest billions in security research, innovation, and protection.
  • Patching and security management is consistent: Enterprises experience security breaches most often because of errors in configuration and unpatched vulnerabilities. Public cloud providers are responsible for the security of the cloud, which includes patching of infrastructure and managed services.

-Anthony Torabi, Strategic Account Executive, Media & Entertainment

Cloud Migration Challenges: 6 Reasons the Cloud Might Not be What You Think it Is

A lot of enterprises migrate to the public cloud because they see everyone else doing it. And while you should stay up on the latest and greatest innovations – which often happen in the cloud – you need to be aware of the realities of the cloud and understand different cloud migration strategies. You need to know why you’re moving to the cloud. What’s your goal? And what outcomes are you seeking? Make sure you know what you’re getting your enterprise into before moving forward in your cloud journey.

1. Cloud technology is not a project, it’s a constant

Be aware that while there is a starting point to becoming more cloud native – the migration – there is no stopping point. The migration occurs, but the transformation, development, innovation, and optimization is never over.

There are endless applications and tools to consider, your organization will evolve over time, technology changes regularly, and user preferences change even faster. Fueled by your new operating system, cloud computing puts you into continuous motion. While continuous motion is positive for outcomes, you need to be ready to ride the wave regardless of where it goes. Once you get on, success requires that you stay there.

2. Flex-agility is necessary to survival

Flexibility + agility = flex-agility, and you need it in the cloud. Flex-agility enables enterprises to adapt to the risks and unknowns occurring in the world. The pandemic continues to highlight the need for flex-agility in business. Organizations further along in their cloud journeys were able to quickly establish remote workforces, adjust customer interactions, communicate completely and effectively, and ultimately, continue running. While the pandemic was unprecedented, more commonly, flex-agility is necessary in natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes; after a ransomware or phishing attack; or when an employee’s device is lost, stolen, or destroyed.

3. You still have to move faster than the competition

Gaining or maintaining your competitive edge in the cloud has a lot to do with speed. Whether it’s the dog-eat-dog nature of your industry, macroeconomics, or a political environment, these are the things that speed up innovation. You might not have any control over these things, but they’re shaping the way consumers interact with brands. Again, when you think about how the digital transformation evolved during the pandemic, you saw winning business move the fastest. The cloud is an amazing opportunity to meet all the demands of your environment, but if you’re not looking forward, forecasting trends, and moving faster than the competition, you could fall behind.

4. People are riskier than technology

In many ways, the technology is the easiest part of an enterprise cloud strategy. It’s the people where a lot of risk comes into play. You may have a great strategy with clean processes and tactics, but if the execution is poor, the business can’t succeed. A recent survey revealed that 85% of organizations report deficits in cloud expertise, with the top three areas being cloud platforms, cloud native engineering, and security. While business owners acknowledge the importance of these skills, they’re still struggling to attract the caliber of talent necessary.

In addition to partnering with cloud service experts to ensure a capable team, organizations are also reinventing their technical culture to work more like a startup. This can incentivize the cloud-capable with hybrid work environments, an emphasis on collaboration, use of the agile framework, and fostering innovation.

5. Cost-savings is not the best reason to migrate to the cloud

Buy-in from executives is key for any enterprise transitioning to the cloud. Budget and resources are necessary to continue moving forward, but the business value of a cloud transformation isn’t cost savings. Really, it’s about repurposing dollars to achieve other things. At the end of the day, companies are focused on getting customers, keeping customers, and growing customers, and that’s what the cloud helps to support.

By innovating products and services in a cloud environment, an organization is able to give customers new experiences, sell them new things, and delight them with helpful customer service and a solid user experience. The cloud isn’t a cost center, it’s a business enabler, and that’s what leadership needs to hear.

6. Cloud migration isn’t always the right answer

Many enterprises believe that the process of moving to the cloud will solve all of their problems. Unfortunately, the cloud is just the most popular technology operating system platform today. Sure, it can help you reach your goals with easy-to-use functionality, automated tools, and modern business solutions, but it takes effort to utilize and apply those resources for success.

For most organizations, moving to the cloud is the right answer, but it could be the wrong time. The organization might not know how it wants to utilize cloud functionality. Maybe outcomes haven’t been identified yet, the business strategy doesn’t have buy-in from leadership, or technicians aren’t aware of the potential opportunities. Another issue stalling cloud migration is internal cloud-based expertise. If your technicians aren’t cloud savvy enough to handle all the moving parts, bring on a collaborative cloud advisor to ensure success.

Ready for the next step in your cloud journey?

Cloud Advisory Services at 2nd Watch provide you with the cloud solution experts necessary to reduce complexity and provide impartial guidance throughout migration, implementation, and adoption. Whether you’re just curious about the cloud, or you’re already there, our advanced capabilities support everything from platform selection and cost modeling, to app classification, and migrating workloads from your on-premises data center. Contact us to learn more!

Lisa Culbert, Marketing

Google Cloud, Open-Source and Enterprise Solutions

In 2020, a year where enterprises had to rethink their business models to stay alive, Google Cloud was able to grow 47% and capture market share. If you are not already looking at Google Cloud as part of your cloud strategy, you probably should.

Google has made conscious choices about not locking in customers with proprietary technology. Open-source technology has, for many years, been a core focus for Google, and many of Google Cloud’s solutions can integrate easily with other cloud providers.

Kubernetes (GKE), Knative (Cloud Functions), TensorFlow (Machine Learning), and Apache Beam (Data Pipelines) are some examples of cloud-agnostic tools that Google has open-sourced and which can be deployed to other clouds as well as on-premises, if you ever have a reason to do so.

Specifically, some of Google Cloud’s services and its go-to-market strategy set Google Cloud apart. Modern and scalable solutions like BigQuery, Looker, and Anthos fall into this category. They are best of class tools for each of their use cases, and if you are serious about your digital transformation efforts, you should evaluate their capabilities and understand what they can do for your business.

Three critical challenges we see from our enterprise clients here at 2nd Watch repeatedly include:

  1. How to get started with public cloud
  2. How to better leverage their data
  3. How to take advantage of multiple clouds

Let’s dive into each of these.

Foundation

Ask any architect if they would build a house without a foundation, and they would undisputedly tell you “No.” Unfortunately, many companies new to the cloud do precisely that. The most crucial step in preparing an enterprise to adopt a new cloud platform is to set up the foundation.

Future standards are dictated in the foundation, so building it incorrectly will cause unnecessary pain and suffering to your valuable engineering resources. The proper foundation, that includes your project structure aligned with your project lifecycle and environments, and a CI/CD pipeline to push infrastructure changes through code will enable your teams to become more agile while managing infrastructure in a modern way.

A foundation’s essential blocks include project structure, network segmentation, security, IAM, and logging. Google has a multi-cloud tool called Cloud Operations for logs management, reporting, and alerting, or you can ingest logs into existing tools or set up the brand of firewalls you’re most familiar and comfortable with from the Google Cloud Marketplace. Depending on your existing tools and industry regulations, compliance best practices might vary slightly, guiding you in one direction or another.

DataOps

Google has, since its inception, been an analytics powerhouse. The amount of data moving through Google’s global fiber network at any given time is incredible. Why does this matter to you? Google has now made some of its internal tools that manage large amounts of data available to you, enabling you to better leverage your data. BigQuery is one of these tools.

Being serverless, you can get started with BigQuery on a budget, and it can scale to petabytes of data without breaking a sweat. If you have managed data warehouses, you know that scaling them and keeping them performant is a task that is not easy. With BigQuery, it is.

Another valuable tool, Looker, makes visualizing your data easy. It enables departments to share a single source of truth, which breaks down data silos and enables collaboration between departments with dashboards and views for data science and business analysis.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

Google Cloud offers several services for multi-cloud capabilities, but let’s focus on Anthos here. Anthos provides a way to run Kubernetes clusters on Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, on-premises, or even on the edge while maintaining a single pane of glass for deploying and managing your containerized applications.

With Anthos, you can deploy applications virtually anywhere and serve your users from the cloud datacenter nearest them, across all providers, or run apps at the edge – like at local franchise restaurants or oil drilling rigs – all with the familiar interfaces and APIs your development and operations teams know and love from Kubernetes.

Currently in preview, soon Google Cloud will release BigQuery Omni to the public. BigQuery Omni lets you extend the capabilities of BigQuery to the other major cloud providers. Behind the scenes, BigQuery Omni runs on top of Anthos and Google takes care of scaling and running the clusters, so you only have to worry about writing queries and analyzing data, regardless of where your data lives. For some enterprises that have already adopted BigQuery, this can mean a ton of cost savings in data transfer charges between clouds as your queries run where your data lives.

Google Cloud offers some unmatched open-source technology and solutions for enterprises you can leverage to gain competitive advantages. 2nd Watch has helped organizations overcome business challenges and meet objectives with similar technology, implementations, and strategies on all major cloud providers, and we would be happy to assist you in getting to the next level on Google Cloud.

2nd Watch is here to serve as your trusted cloud data and analytics advisor. When you’re ready to take the next step with your data, contact Us.

Learn more

Webinar: 6 Essential Tactics for your Data & Analytics Strategy

Webinar:  Building an ML foundation for Google BigQuery ML & Looker

-Aleksander Hansson, 2nd Watch Google Cloud Specialist

Cloud Crunch Podcast: You’re on the Cloud. Now What? 5 Strategies to Maximize Your Cloud’s Value

You migrated your applications to the cloud for a reason. Now that you’re there, what’s next? How do you take advantage of your applications and data that reside in the cloud? What should you be thinking about in terms of security and compliance? In this first episode of a 5-part series, we discuss 5 strategies you should consider to maximize the value of being on the cloud. Listen now on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CloudCrunch@2ndwatch.com with comments, questions and ideas.

Ready to Migrate your Data to the Cloud? Answer these 4 Questions to find Out

Many companies are already storing their data in the cloud and even more are considering making the migration to the cloud. The cloud offers unique benefits for data access and consolidation, but some businesses choose to keep their data on-prem for various reasons. Data migration isn’t a one size fits all formula, so when developing your data strategy, think about your long-term needs and goals for optimal results.

We recommend evaluating these 4 questions before making the decision to migrate your data to the cloud:

1. Why do you Want to Migrate your Data to the Cloud?

Typically, there are two reasons businesses find themselves in a position of wanting to change their IT infrastructure. Either your legacy platform is reaching end of life (EOL) and you’re forced to make a change, or it’s time to modernize. If you’re faced with the latter – your business data expanded beyond the EOL platform – it’s a good indication migrating to the cloud is right for you. The benefits of cloud-based storage can drastically improve your business agility.

2. What is Important to You?

You need to know why you’re choosing the platform you are deploying and how it’s going to support your business goals better than other options. Three central arguments for cloud storage – that are industry and business agnostic – include:

  • Agility: If you need to move quickly (and what business doesn’t?), the cloud is for you. It’s easy to start, and you can spin up a cloud environment and have a solution deployed within minutes or hours. There’s no capital expense, no server deployment, and no need for an IT implementation team.
  • Pay as you go: If you like starting small, testing things before you go all in, and only paying for what you use, the cloud is for you. It’s a very attractive feature for businesses hesitant to move all their data at once. You get the freedom and flexibility to try it out, with minimal financial risk. If it’s not a good fit for your business, you’ve learned some things, and can use the experience going forward. But chances are, the benefits you’ll find once utilizing cloud features will more than prove their value.
  • Innovation: If you want to ride the technology wave, the cloud is for you. Companies release new software and features to improve the cloud every day, and there’s no long release cycles. Modernized technologies and applications are available as soon as they’re released to advance your business capabilities based on your data.

3. What is your Baseline?

The more you can plan for potential challenges in advance, the better. As you consider data migration to the cloud, think about what your data looks like today. If you have an on-prem solution, like a data warehouse, lift and shift is an attractive migration plan because it’s fairly easy.

Many businesses have a collection of application databases and haven’t yet consolidated their data. They need to pull the data out, stage it, and store it without interfering with the applications. The main cloud providers offer different, but similar options to get your data into a place where it can be used. AWS offers S3, Google Cloud has Cloud Storage, and Azure provides Blob storage. Later, you can pull the data into a data warehousing solution like AWS Redshift, Google BigQuery, Microsoft Synapse, or Snowflake.

4. How do you Plan to use your Data?

Always start with a business case and think strategically about how you’ll use your data. The technology should fit the business, not the other way around. Once you’ve determined that, garner the support and buy-in of sponsors and stakeholders to champion the proof of concept. Bring IT and business objectives together by defining the requirements and the success criteria. How do you know when the project is successful? How will the data prove its value in the cloud?

As you move forward with implementation, start small, establish a reasonable timeline, and take a conservative approach. Success is crucial for ongoing replication and investment. Once everyone agrees the project has met the success criteria, celebrate loudly! Demonstrate the new capabilities, and highlight overall business benefits and impact, to build and continue momentum.

Be Aware of your Limitations

When entering anything unknown, remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. You may have heard things about the cloud or on-prem environments anecdotally, but making the decision of when and how to migrate data is too important to do without a trusted partner. You risk missing out on big opportunities, or worse, wasting time, money, and resources without gaining any value.

2nd Watch is here to serve as your trusted cloud advisor, so when you’re ready to take the next step with your data, contact Us.

Learn more about 2nd Watch Data and Analytics services

-Sam Tawfik, Sr Product Marketing Manager, Data & Analytics

Cloud Crunch Podcast: Moving to the Cloud for the Right Reasons

When you’re considering moving to the cloud, it’s important to take a personal examination of your goals for migrating, outside of the basic benefits achievable with the cloud. To maximize the value of the cloud, you have to make sure you’re moving for the right reasons. Today we discuss just that with our very own 2nd Watch CEO, Doug Schneider. Listen now on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CloudCrunch@2ndwatch.com with comments, questions and ideas.

Migrating Data to Snowflake – An Overview

When considering migrating your data to the cloud, everyone’s familiar with the three major cloud providers – AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. But there are a few other players you should also take note of. Snowflake is a leading cloud data platform that offers exceptional design, scalability, simplicity, and return on investment (ROI).

What is Snowflake?

The Snowflake cloud data platform was born in the cloud for data warehousing. It’s built entirely to maximize cloud usage and designed for almost unlimited scalability. Users like the simplicity, and businesses gain significant ROI from the wide range of use cases Snowflake supports.

Out of the box, Snowflake is easy to interact with through its web interface. Without having to download any applications, users can connect with Snowflake and create additional user accounts for a fast and streamlined process. Additionally, Snowflake performs as a data platform, rather than just a data warehouse. Data ingestion is cloud native and existing tools enable effortless data migration.

Business Drivers

The decision to migrate data to a new cloud environment, or data warehousing solution, needs to be based on clearly defined value. Why are you making the transition? What’s your motivation? Maybe you need to scale up, or there’s some sort of division or business requirement for migration. Often times, companies have a particular implementation that needs to change, or they have specific needs that aren’t being met by their current data environment.

Take one of our clients, for instance. When the client’s company was acquired, they came to utilize a data warehouse shared by all the companies the acquiring company owned. When the client was eventually sold, they needed their own implementation and strategy for migrating data into the cloud. Together, we took the opportunity to evaluate some of the newer data platform tools, like Snowflake, for their specific business case and to migrate quickly to an independent data platform.

With Snowflake, set up was minimal and supported our client’s need for a large number of database users. Migrating from the shared data warehouse to Snowflake was relatively easy, and it gave all users access through a simple web interface. Snowflake also provided more support for unstructured data usage, which simplified querying things like JSON or nested data.

Implementation

Migrating data to Snowflake is generally a smooth transition because Snowflake accepts data from your existing platform. For instance, if data is stored in Amazon S3, Google Cloud, or Azure, you can create Snowflake environments in each then ingest the data using SQL commands and configuration. Not only can you run all the same queries with minor tweaks and get the same output, but Snowflake also fits additional needs and requirements. If you’ve worked in SQL in any manner – on an application database, or in data warehousing – training is minimal.

Another advantage with Snowflake is its ability to scale either horizontally or vertically to pull in any amount of data. And since it is cloud native, Snowflake has embraced the movement toward ‘pay as you go’ – in fact, that’s their entire structure. You only pay for the ingestion time and when the data warehouse is running. After that, it shuts off, and so does your payment. Cost-effective implementation lets you experiment, compare, test, and iterate on the best way to migrate each piece of your data lifecycle.

Long Term Results

Snowflake has yielded successful data migrations with users because of its ease of use and absence of complications. Users also see performance improvements because they’re able to get their data faster than ever and they can grow with Snowflake, bringing in new and additional data sources and tools, taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, increasing automation, and experimenting and iterating.

From a security and governance perspective, Snowflake is strong. Snowflake enforces a multi-layer security structure, including user management. You can grant access to certain groups, organize them accordingly, integrate with your active directory, and have it run with those permissions. You assign an administrator to regulate specific accessibility for tables in specified areas. Snowflake also lets you choose your desired security level during implementation. You have the option of enterprise level, HIPAA compliance, and a maximum security level with a higher rate per second.

Do you want to explore data migration opportunities? Make the most of your data by partnering with trusted experts. We’re here to help you migrate, store, and utilize data to grow your business and streamline operations. If you’re ready to the next step in your data journey, Contact Us.

Learn more about 2nd Watch Data and Analytics services

-Sam Tawfik, Sr Product Marketing Manager, Data & Analytics

McDonald’s France Gains Business-Changing Insights from New Data Lake

McDonald’s is famous for cheeseburgers and fries, but with 1.5 million customers a day, and each transaction producing 20 to 30 data points, it has also become a technology organization. With the overarching goal to improve customer experience, and as a byproduct increase conversion and brand loyalty, McDonald’s France partnered with 2nd Watch to build a data lake on AWS.

Customer Priorities Require Industry Shifts

As is common in many industries today, the fast-food industry has shifted from a transaction centric view to a customer centric view. The emphasis is no longer on customer satisfaction, but on customer experience. It’s this variable that impacts conversion rate and instills loyalty. Consequently, McDonald’s wanted to build a complete perspective of a customer’s lifetime value, with visibility into each step of their journey. Understanding likes and dislikes based on data would give McDonald’s the opportunity to improve experience at a variety of intersections across global locations.

McDonald’s is a behemoth in its size, multi-national reach, and the abundance of data it collects. Making sense of that data required a new way of storing and manipulating it, with flexibility and scalability. The technology necessary to accomplish McDonald’s data goals has significantly reduced in cost, while increasing in efficiency – key catalysts for initiating the project within McDonald’s groups, gaining buy-in from key stakeholders, and engaging quickly.

From Datacenter to Data Lake

To meet its data collection and analysis needs, McDonald’s France needed a fault-tolerant data platform equipped with data processing architecture and a loosely coupled distribution system. But, the McDonald’s team needed to focus on data insights rather than data infrastructure, so they partnered with 2nd Watch to move from a traditional data warehouse to a data lake, allowing them to reduce the effort required to analyze or process data sets for different properties and applications.

During the process, McDonald’s emphasized the importance of ongoing data collection from anywhere and everywhere across their many data sources. From revenue numbers and operational statistics to social media streams, kitchen management systems, commercial, regional, and structural data – they wanted everything stored for potential future use. Historical data will help to establish benchmarks, forecast sales projections, and understand customer behavior over time.

The Data Challenges We Expect…And More

With so much data available, and the goal of improving customer experience as motivation, McDonald’s France wanted to prioritize three types of data – sales, speed of service, and customer experience. Targeting specific sets of data helps to reduce the data inconsistencies every organization faces in a data project. While collecting, aggregating, and cleaning data is a huge feat on its own, McDonald’s France also had to navigate a high level of complexity.

As an omnichannel restaurant, McDonald’s juggles information from point of sales systems with sales happening online, offline, and across dozens of different locations. Data sources include multiple data vendors, mobile apps, loyalty programs, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and other digital interfaces. Combined in one digital ecosystem, this data is the force that drives the entire customer journey. Once it’s all there, the challenge is to find the link for any given customer that transforms the puzzle into a holistic picture.

Endless Opportunities for the Future

McDonald’s France now has visibility into speed of service with a dedicated dashboard and can analyze and provide syntheses of that data. National teams can make data-based, accurate decisions using the dashboard and implement logistical changes in operations. They’re able to impact operational efficiency using knowledge around prep time to influence fulfilment.

The data lake was successful in showing the organization where it was losing opportunities by not taking advantage of the data it had. McDonald’s also proved it was possible, affordable, and advantageous to invest in data. While their data journey has only begun, these initial steps opened the door to new data usage possibilities. The models established by McDonald’s France will be used as an example to expand data investments throughout the McDonald’s corporation.

If your organization is facing a similar of issue of too much data and not enough insight, 2nd Watch can help. Our data and analytics solutions help businesses make better decisions, faster, with a modern data stack in the cloud. Contact Us to start talking about the tools and strategies necessary to reach your goals.

-Ian Willoughby, Chief Architect and Vice President

Listen to the McDonald’s team talk about this project on the 2nd Watch Cloud Crunch podcast.