Cloud Crunch Podcast: Data, AI & ML on Google Cloud

If you’re trying to run your business smarter, not harder, chances are you’re utilizing data to gain insights into the decision-making process and gain a competitive advantage. In the latest episode of our podcast, we talk with data and AI & ML expert, Rui Costa at Google Cloud, about why and when to use cloud data offerings and how to make the most of your data in 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.

Introducing Google Cloud VM Migration

Moving to Google Cloud from on premise or cloud virtual machines is the focus of many enterprise companies, while also optimizing your workloads for performance, scale, and security. Workloads and applications migrating to the cloud require careful consideration to determine when and how their architecture must be modernized to best leverage the value of cloud technologies. ​

We see cloud migration from 3 different lenses:

  1. Migrate > Modernize
  2. Modernize > Migrate
  3. Build Cloud-Native

Migrate > Modernize is the typical ‘lift-and-shift’ model of migration helping companies get quickly to the cloud. This approach is most helpful for time-sensitive projects like datacenter exits or quick scale for a new product launch. The Google Cloud Platform supports a quick and easy virtual machine migration to cloud while also automatically providing you right sizing and sustained use discounts to save right away.

Modernize > Migrate is a newer model that companies are taking on, especially when they are focused on upskilling staff and allowing experimentation while dealing with an existing infrastructure lock-in. In this approach, many departments upgrade their technology applications while on premise and then move those workloads to the cloud. Google Cloud offers a great way to move to containers and Kubernetes through their Anthos platform. We’ll have more insight on this in a future blog.

Building Cloud-Native is an approach that works for smaller, greenfield projects. Application development teams that have budget allocated and want to innovate fast can use this model to build their application in the cloud directly. Google Cloud was built with the developer in mind, making it the chosen platform for those looking to build their own cloud-native applications. App Engine is a great choice for those looking for a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to abstract away the complexity of infrastructure and focus on your application development.

2nd Watch applies our proven cloud migration methodology to each of these models ensuring we reduce any downtime in your move to Google Cloud, with a predictable schedule and reliable OpEx forecast. All of our cloud migrations include a thorough Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment, design and build of the foundational cloud architecture, and the planning, migration, and testing of workloads in the cloud.

Download our datasheet to learn more about our Google Cloud VM Migration service.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

The Playbook for Migrating to Google Cloud

Moving to the public cloud is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. A recent survey published by 2nd Watch found that nearly half of IT Directors felt that migrating to the cloud took more time and was more costly than they expected. Deciding how and when to transition your mission-critical applications to this new architecture is essential to optimizing cost and enhancing business agility.

When working with large enterprises on their cloud transformations, 2nd Watch has experienced first-hand how important assessment and planning are to achieving the benefits of cloud, including increased speed and business agility while reducing operational costs.

Companies moving to Google Cloud expect to realize these benefits quickly, but will suffer the same fate as many IT Directors if they don’t complete a full assessment covering the following phases:

  1. Application Assessment
  2. Application Categorization
  3. Technology Assessment
  4. Cost Assessment
  5. Organizational Assessment

Application Assessment

This area includes in-depth discovery surrounding your applications and is typically done in both interview format and using automated application discovery tools like StratoZone or CloudPhysics. During this assessment, teams take note of their dependencies between applications and components as well as any licensing and compliance requirements.

Application Categorization

Once you complete the assessment of each application, it’s time to determine the best method for migration. There are 7 methods that could be employed:

  • Rehost:  Applications that will be migrated as-is without infrastructure or application refactoring are known as Rehost migrations. Changes are limited to configuration only.  This method is typically considered a lift-and-shift migration.​
  • Re-platform:This method refers to applications that undergo minor modernization to leverage core cloud-native capabilities. This may include minor code changes, upgrading platforms, or adopting managed services to better take advantage of a cloud feature.  This may also include actions such as upgrading the operating system or database or reinstalling the application on the target cloud environment.  In this case, storage migration will be needed but without any conversion. ​
  • Refactor:Also known as rearchitect, this method focuses on modernizing portions of the application to leverage cloud-native technologies such as autoscaling, immutable infrastructure, serverless functions, or containerization.  This may include rewriting the application code. ​
  • Rewrite:This method is for applications that are being re-written from scratch or are greenfield projects.  This often means the application is not moving to cloud and it is rewritten as microservices and deployed to cloud when complete.  Sometimes this method is more cost effective over time, although the upfront work effort can be substantial.​
  • Retire:Retire refers to applications that have been retired or will be retired soon, meaning they will be turned off and removed.  They may either be re-written or retired completely.  This may include servers running an unsupported operating system, servers running that are no-longer needed, and/or servers that are turned off for disaster recovery and are unused.​
  • Retain:The Retain option is for workloads that will remain in the co-location facility or on-premises datacenter. These applications may run on legacy infrastructure until the end-of-life or move to another co-location facility. ​
  • Repurchase:  Conversion to a SaaS-based offering to replace existing in-house or 3rd party applications.  Instead of migrating the application to the cloud, in this situation you’ll instead convert your existing business process and data to a new, 3rd party application operated as software as a service (SaaS) application. (For example, moving from on premise CRM to SalesForce.com).

Some applications may need different tiers to be addressed with different migration paths. For example, the Web tier may be rehosted, the application tier may be refactored, and the database tier may be re-platformed.  In this case, multiple migration methods may be applied to a given application to best support its migration to the cloud.​

Technology Assessment

Understanding your applications is only one part of the puzzle. The technology you use now will need to evolve to include Infrastructure as Code (IaC), Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), and Configuration Management. In addition, understanding how your existing security and compliance tooling will work in the new environment is key to ensuring your success. Areas like network design, storage and database needs, and authentication should be assessed to ensure proper cloud architecture. Last but not least, ensure you are looking into your current business continuity plans and how those may have to change to support the cloud.

Cost Assessment

Many companies center their move to the cloud around cost, but if you only work on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), you’ll miss the opportunity to save. Optimizing resources and creating a cost spending plan up front will help your finance team better understand the upfront and ongoing cloud investment. With Google Cloud, you can leverage Automated Rightsizing and Sustained Use Discounts to save, on average, 60% relative to what you’d pay on other clouds.

Organizational Assessment

Last but not least, understanding how your team will need to upskill or reskill to support cloud is essential to your success. Take the time to assess your teams’ skills and put together an education plan that will support their development. Upskilling and reskilling are both a smaller investment and quicker return on investment than hiring and training new employees.

Your team understands how your business works, and by providing them with the opportunity to learn how to marry their existing skills with cloud technologies will shortcut the skills and knowledge gap when moving to the cloud.

Yes, this process of assessment is not only comprehensive, but it can be complex, taking valuable time away from your migration efforts. The 2nd Watch Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment (CMRA) covers all of these areas, helping you evaluate your company’s IT estate to determine application fitness and optimal migration methodology for your workloads and team.

If you’re interested in working with our certified cloud engineers and architects to analyze and assess your workloads, tools, and team, schedule some time with us today.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

5 Best Practices for Managing the Complexities of a Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Hybrid cloud strategies require a fair amount of effort and knowledge to construct, including for infrastructure, orchestration, application, data migration, IT management, and potential issues related to silos. There are a number of complexities to consider to enable seamless integration of a well-constructed hybrid cloud strategy. We recommend employing these 5 best practices as you move toward a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud architecture to ensure a successful transition.

Utilize cloud management tools.

Cloud management providers have responded to the complexities of a hybrid strategy with an explosion of cloud management tools. These tools can look at your automation and governance, lifecycle management, usability, access and more, and perform many tasks with more visibility.

Unique tooling for each cloud provider is especially important. Some partners may recommend a single pane of glass for simplicity, but that can be too simple for service catalogues and when launching new resources. The risk with going too simplistic is missing the opportunity to take advantage of the best aspects of each cloud.

Complete a full assessment of applications and dependencies first.

Before you jump into a hybrid cloud strategy, you need to start with a full assessment of your applications and dependencies. A common misstep is moving applications to the public cloud, while keeping your database in your private cloud or on-prem datacenter. The result is net latency drag, leading to problems like slow page loads and videos that won’t play.

Mapping applications and dependencies to the right cloud resource prior to migration gives you the insight necessary for a complete migration with uninterrupted performance. Based on the mapping, you know what to migrate when, with full visibility into what will be impacted by each. This initial step will also help with cloud implementation and hybrid connect down the line.

Put things in the right place.

This might sound obvious, but it can be challenging to rationalize where to put all your data in a hybrid environment. Start by using the analysis of your applications and dependencies discussed above. The mapping provides insight into traffic flows, networking information, and the different types of data you’re dealing with.

A multi-cloud environment is even more complex with cost implications and networking components. On-prem skills related to wide area network (WAN) connectivity are still necessary as you consider how to monitor the traffic – ingress, egress, east, and west.

Overcome silos.

Silos can be found in all shapes and sizes in an organization, but one major area for silos is in your data. Data is one of the biggest obstacles to moving to the cloud because of the cost of moving it in and out and accessing it. The amount of data you have impacts your migration strategy significantly, so it’s critical to have a clear understanding of where data may be siloed.

Every department has their own data, and all of it must be accounted for prior to migrating. Some data silo issues can be resolved with data lakes and data platforms, but once you realize silos exist, there’s an opportunity to break them down throughout the organization.

An effective method to breaking down silos is by getting buy-in from organizational leaders to break the cultural patterns creating silos in the first place. Create a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) during your cloud transformation to understand and address challenges within the context of the hybrid strategy across the organization.

Partner with proven experts.

Many companies have been successful in their hybrid cloud implementation by leveraging a partner for some of the migration, while their own experts manage their internal resources. With a partner by your side, you don’t have to invest in the initial training of your staff all at once. Instead, your teams can integrate those new capabilities and skills as they start to work with the cloud services, which typically increases retention, reduces training time, and increases productivity.

Partners will also have the knowledge necessary to make sure you not only plan but implement and manage the hybrid architecture for overall efficiency. When choosing a partner, make sure they’ve proven the value they can bring. For instance, 2nd Watch is one of only five VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency holders in the United States. That means we have the verified experience to understand the complexities of running a hybrid VMware Cloud implementation.

If you’re interested in learning more about the hybrid cloud consulting and management solutions provided by 2nd Watch, Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.

-Dusty Simoni, Sr Product Manager, Hybrid Cloud

3 Reasons to Consider a Hybrid Cloud Strategy

If there’s one thing IT professionals can agree on, it’s that hybrid cloud computing isn’t going away. Developed in response to our growing dependence on data, the hybrid cloud is being embraced by enterprises and providers alike.

What is Hybrid Cloud Computing?

Hybrid cloud computing can be a combination of private cloud, like VMware, and public cloud; or it can be a combination of cloud providers, like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Hybrid cloud architecture might include a managed datacenter or a company’s own datacenter. It could also include both on-prem equipment and cloud applications.

Hybrid cloud computing gained popularity alongside the digital transformation we’ve witnessed taking place for years. As applications evolve and become more dev-centric, they can be stored in the cloud. At the same time, there are still legacy apps that can’t be lifted and shifted into the cloud and, therefore, have to remain in a datacenter.

Ten years ago, hybrid and private clouds were used to combat growth, but now we’re seeing widespread adoption from service providers to meet client needs. The strategy has range from on-prem up to the cloud (VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS), to cloud-down (AWS Outposts), to robust deployment and management frameworks for any endpoint (GCP Anthos).

With that said, for many organizations data may never entirely move to the cloud. A company’s data is their ‘secret sauce,’ and despite the safety of the cloud, not everything lends itself to cloud storage. Depending on what exactly the data is –mainframes, proprietary information, formulas – some businesses don’t feel comfortable with service providers even having access to such business-critical information.

1. Storage

One major reason companies move to the cloud is the large amount of data they are now storing. Some companies might not be able to, or might not want to, build and expand their datacenter as quickly as the business and data requires.

With the option for unlimited storage the cloud provides, it is an easy solution. Rather than having to forecast data growth, prioritize storage, and risk additional costs, a hybrid strategy allows for expansion.

2. Security

The cloud is, in most cases, far more secure than on-prem. However, especially when the cloud first became available, a lot of companies were concerned about who could see their data, potential for leaks, and how to guarantee lockdown. Today, security tools have vastly improved, visibility is much better, and the compliance requirements for cloud providers include a growing number of local and federal authorities. Additionally, third party auditors are used to verify cloud provider practices as well as internal oversight to avoid a potentially fatal data breach. Today, organizations large and small, across industries, and even secret government agencies trust the cloud for secure data storage.

It’s also important to note that the public cloud can be more secure than your own datacenter. For example, if you try to isolate data in your own datacenter or on your own infrastructure, you might find a rogue operator creating shadow IT where you don’t have visibility. With hybrid cloud, you can take advantage of tools like AWS Control Tower, Azure Sentinel, AWS Landing Zone blueprints, and other CSP security tools to ensure control of the system. Similarly, with tooling from VMware and GCP Anthos you can look to create single policy and configuration for environment standardization and security across multiple clouds and on-prem in a single management plane.

3. Cost

Hybrid cloud computing is a great option when it comes to cost. On an application level, the cloud lets you scale up or down, and that versatility and flexibility can save costs. But if you’re running always-on, stagnant applications in a large environment, keeping them in a datacenter can be more cost effective. One can make a strong case for a mixture of applications being placed in the public cloud while internal IP apps remain in the datacenter.

You also need to consider the cost of your on-prem environment. There are some cases, depending on the type and format of storage necessary, where the raw cost of a cloud doesn’t deliver a return on investment (ROI). If your datacenter equipment is running near 80% or above utilization, the cost savings might be in your favor to continue running the workload there. Alternately, you should also consider burst capacity as well as your non-consistent workloads. If you don’t need something running 24/7, the cloud lets you turn it off at night to deliver savings.

Consistency of Management Tooling and Staff Skills

The smartest way to move forward with your cloud architecture – hybrid or otherwise – is to consult with cloud computing experts. 2nd Watch helps you choose the most efficient strategy for your business, aids in planning and completing migration in an optimized fashion, and secures your data with comprehensive cloud management. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.

-Dusty Simoni, Sr Product Manager, Hybrid Cloud

2nd Watch Joins the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program

We are excited to officially share that we have joined the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program, giving Google Cloud customers access to our 2nd Watch services and cloud experts!

We are building our Google Cloud practice in response to growing demand for the platform in the marketplace. Our team already has multiple Google Cloud certifications, including for hybrid cloud infrastructure with Anthos and hybrid cloud service mesh with Anthos, and we are actively hiring to support a strong Google Cloud sales pipeline. As part of the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program, we will guide clients’ Google Cloud migration efforts as well as their optimization, DevOps, analytics, and innovative architecture projects.

“By joining the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program, we enable our clients’ multi-cloud strategies, offering cloud infrastructure for specific workloads and providing the exemplary experience our clients have come to expect,” said Rich Lyons, Director of Field Alliances at 2nd Watch. “We’re seeing increased demand for Google Cloud in the marketplace, particularly among food services, financial services and manufacturing companies. We look forward to working closely with Google Cloud to serve the needs of our customers.”

By participating in Partner Advantage, companies can harness the power of the Google brand, the innovation of Google products, and the energy of the Google Cloud ecosystem to capitalize on the growing cloud computing opportunity across all segments: Small and Medium Business (SMB), Corporate, or Enterprise. With access to information, training and tools, the program will enable 2nd Watch to meet the unique needs of its customers.