5 Cloud Optimization Benefits

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

Cloud Optimization

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  • Family Refresh: Replace outdated systems with updated ones to maximize performance.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.

Benefits of cloud optimization

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:

What are cloud optimization services

  • 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.

 

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

Datacenter migration is ideal for businesses who are looking to exit or reduce on-premises datacenters, 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 datacenters. Often technology leaders want to migrate more of their workloads and infrastructure to a 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.

Data Center Migration

 

Though datacenter migration can be a daunting business initiative, the benefits of moving to the cloud are 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. Datacenter 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 Datacenter Migration Challenges?

To ensure a seamless and successful migration to the cloud, businesses should be aware of the potential complexities and risks associated with a datacenter 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 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 datacenter is a major IT event and usually goes hand-in-hand with another significant business event, such as an acquisition, or outgrowing the existing datacenter. In the case of moving to a new on-premises datacenter, the 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 Datacenters

It seems obvious that cloud environments should be treated differently from traditional datacenters, but this is actually a common pitfall for organizations to fall in. For example, preparing to migrate to the cloud should not include traditional datacenter services, like air conditioning, power supply, physical security, and other datacenter 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 Datacenter Migration

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

Now that we’ve gone over the potential challenges of datacenter migration, how do businesses enable a successful datacenter 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 datacenter 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 datacenter footprint.

The key milestones in the Discovery phase are:

  • Creating a shared datacenter inventory footprint: Every team and individual who is a part of the datacenter 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 datacenter to the cloud, they should consider whether their datacenter 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.
  • The 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.
  • The 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 datacenter migration project is Optimization. After a business has migrated its workloads to the cloud, it should conduct periodic reviews and planning to optimize the workloads. Optimization includes the following activities:

  • Resizing machine types and disks
  • Leveraging 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 spending, 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 datacenter environment to a cloud environment, teams will be able to optimize their workloads due to the powerful tools that cloud platforms provide.

How do I take the first step in datacenter migration?

While undertaking a full datacenter 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 migration to the cloud.

 

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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.

cloud migration challenges

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

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2nd Watch Uses Redshift to Improve Client Optimization

Improving our use of Redshift: Then and now

Historically, and common among enterprise IT processes, the 2nd Watch optimization team was pulling in cost usage reports from Amazon and storing them in S3 buckets. The data was then loaded into Redshift, Amazon’s cloud data warehouse, where it could be manipulated and analyzed for client optimization. Unfortunately, the Redshift cluster filled up quickly and regularly, forcing us to spend unnecessary time and resources on maintenance and clean up. Additionally, Redshift requires a large cluster to work with, so the process for accessing and using data became slow and inefficient.

Of course, to solve for this we could have doubled the size, and therefore the cost, of our Redshift usage, but that went against our commitment to provide cost-effective options for our clients. We also could have considered moving to a different type of node that is storage optimized, instead of compute optimized.

Lakehouse Architecture for speed improvements and cost savings

The better solution we uncovered, however, was to follow the Lakehouse Architecture pattern to improve our use of Redshift to move faster and with more visibility, without additional storage fees. The Lakehouse Architecture is a way to strike a balance between cost and agility by selectively moving data in and out of Redshift depending on the processing speed needed for the data. Now, after a data dump to S3, we use AWS Glue crawlers and tables to create external tables in the Glue Data Catalogues. The external tables or schemas are linked to the Redshift cluster, allowing our optimization team to read from S3 to Redshift using Redshift Spectrum.

Our cloud data warehouse remains tidy without dedicated clean-up resources, and we can query the data in S3 via Redshift without having to move anything. Even though we’re using the same warehouse, we’ve optimized its use for the benefit of both our clients and 2nd Watch best practices. In fact, our estimated savings are $15,000 per month, or 100% of our previous Redshift cost.

How we’re using Redshift today

With our new model and the benefits afforded to clients, 2nd Watch is applying Redshift for a variety of optimization opportunities.

Discover new opportunities for optimization. By storing and organizing data related to our clients’ AWS, Azure, and/or Google Cloud usage versus spend data, the 2nd Watch optimization team can see where further optimization is possible. Improved data access and visibility enables a deeper examination of cost history, resource usage, and any known RIs or savings plans.

Increase automation and reduce human error. The new model allows us to use DBT (data build tool) to complete SQL transforms on all data models used to feed reporting. These reports go into our dashboards and are then presented to clients for optimization. DBT empowers analysts to transform warehouse data more efficiently, and with less risk, by relying on automation instead of spreadsheets.

Improve efficiency from raw data to client reporting. Raw data that lives in a data lake in s3 is transformed and organized into a structured data lake that is prepared to be defined in AWS Glue Catalog tables. This gives the analysts access to query the data from Redshift and use DBT to format the data into useful tables. From there, the optimization team can make data-based recommendations and generate complete reports for clients.

In the future, we plan on feeding a power business intelligence dashboard directly from Redshift, further increasing efficiency for both our optimization team and our clients.

Client benefits with Redshift optimization

  • Cost savings: Only pay for the S3 storage you use, without any storage fees from Redshift.
  • Unlimited data access: Large amounts of old data are available in the data lake, which can be joined across tables and brought into Redshift as needed.
  • Increased data visibility: Greater insight into data enables us to provide more optimization opportunities and supports decision making.
  • Improved flexibility and productivity: Analysts can get historical data within one hour, rather than waiting 1-2 weeks for requests to be fulfilled.
  • Reduced compute cost: By shifting the compute cost of loading data into to Amazon EKS.

-Spencer Dorway, Data Engineer

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2nd Watch Enhances Managed Optimization service in partnership with Spot by NetApp

Today, we’re excited to announce a new enhancement to our Managed Optimization service – Spot Instance and Container Optimization – for enterprise IT departments looking to more thoughtfully allocate cloud resources and carefully manage cloud spend.

Enterprises using cloud infrastructure and services today are seeing higher cloud costs than anticipated due to factors such as cloud sprawl, shadow IT, improper allocation of cloud resources, and a failure to use the most efficient resource based on workload. To address these concerns, we take a holistic approach to Optimization and have partnered with Spot by NetApp to enhance our Managed Optimization service.

The service works by recommending workloads that can take advantage of the cost savings associated with running instances, VMs and containers on “spot” resources. A spot resource is an unused cloud resource that is available for sale in a marketplace for less than the on-demand price. Because spot resources enable users to request unused EC2 instances or VMs to run their workloads at steep discounts, users can significantly lower their cloud compute costs, up to 90% by some measures. To deliver its service, we’re partnering with Spot, whose cloud automation and optimization solutions help companies maximize return on their cloud investments.

“Early on, spot resources were difficult to manage, but the tasks associated with managing them can now be automated, making the use of spot a smart approach to curbing cloud costs,” says Chris Garvey, EVP of Product at 2nd Watch. “Typically, non-mission critical workloads such as development and staging have been able to take advantage of the cost savings of spot instances.

By combining 2nd Watch’s expert professional services, managed cloud experience and solutions from Spot by NetApp, 2nd Watch has been able to help companies use spot resources to run production environments.”

“Spot by NetApp is thrilled to be working with partners like  2nd Watch to help customers maximize the value of their cloud investment,” says Amiram Shachar, Vice President and General Manager of Spot by NetApp.  “Working together, we’re helping organizations go beyond one-off optimization projects to instead ensure continuous optimization of their cloud environment using Spot’s unique technology. With this new offering, 2nd Watch demonstrates a keen understanding of this critical customer need and is leveraging the best technology in the market to address it.”

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