A realistic approach to telco cloud transformation
As the recent stream of press releases from telcos announcing cloud provider partnerships shows, operators are rapidly accelerating their cloud transformation strategies. While the opportunities for innovation this brings are myriad, says Derrick Medina, senior cloud solutions architect at Amdocs, transition to the cloud is far from easy.
In particular, for most communications service providers (CSPs) it marks a fundamental change from their long-established comfortable norm, and not made any easier by the fact that most operators are dealing with massively complicated structures that have been increasingly patched over the years.
There is no doubting the value of cloud-based services. Cloud enables much more nimble agility, unlimited scalability, greater productivity, can provide better quality and reduced costs. Benefiting from any or all of these is a great outcome. But there is no magical transformation that will deliver instant benefits. Each telco organisation is a different beast one size transformation does not fit all.
To realise the benefits, there must be a robust, manageable, and realistic plan for the migration. Only with that plan in place, including factoring in all scenarios, will the business continuity plans be solid.
The six Rs of cloud migration
The best-known framework for planning application migration is the ‘6Rs’. Briefly, this comprises:
1. Retain: Leaving the application where it is for the moment, for a number of reasons including keeping it on-premise for security reasons or realising full ROI (return on investment) from a recent upgrade.
2. Retire: Self-explanatory – get rid of the dead wood IT so resources can be focused on the useful parts.
3. Rehost – or ‘lift-and-shift’: Moving the application from an on-premise server directly to the cloud with as little change as possible.
4. Replatform – or ‘lift-tinker-and-shift’: Making some cloud optimisations to achieve tangible benefit but not changing the core architecture of the application.
5. Refactor / Re-architect: Re-imagining the application using cloud-native features in order to add features, scale and/or enhance performance.
6. Repurchase: Again, self-explanatory. Casually referred to as “drop and shop,” it involves moving to a different product and replacing your current environment.
A migration plan needs to begin with selecting the right R. Charting the optimal route based on desired outcomes is essential. As and this is more commonly forgotten than might be thought is remembering that the business organisation in its current format needs to be maintained. Processes, applications, personnel, customers these are the business. Neglect will undermine any advantages gained from migrating to the cloud.
Selecting applications to move to the cloud
In selecting which applications are to be moved to the cloud, the interdependency of systems needs to be carefully considered. Transitioning one element in isolation may have unforeseen consequences further down the line. The legacy areas will begin to lag behind, updates will need to be more frequent, and technical debt will pile up. Similarly, any reluctance to let go of manual processes that could be automated will impact the effectiveness of moving any application.
The whole point of cloud-based systems is that they enable automation to be built in throughout the lifecycle of the software, speeding up and streamlining the development process. Anything residing in the cloud that still needs manual intervention is clearly not in the right place.
Security needs to be carefully addressed when moving to the cloud. Whatever their drawbacks in today’s software world, on-premise servers and walled garden systems are relatively straightforward to manage in terms of security breaches. In contrast, the cloud has multiple potential points of entry. Security must be thoroughly reviewed and implemented, and regularly updated to take account of the changing cyber security landscape.
Cultural shift for the business
Another important element to consider is the cultural shift required for a business going through cloud migration. The previously referenced Rs, just describe the options for application migration. The organisational and cultural sides of transformations are too often afterthoughts.
For a successful migration, there is a seventh R that must be implemented that is, reshaping your organisation. Failing to make sure your whole organisation understands the cloud vision and is equipped to embrace the changes in day-to-day work could lead to a stalled rollout or, in the worst case, a completely failed migration.
Research has repeatedly shown that the main challenge to cloud migration success is not technology, but culture; that is, gaining the acceptance of the employees to adopt changes to their roles, responsibilities and day-to-day routines and work processes. It is after all these employees who will be driving the transformation process and ultimately determining the value derived from cloud adoption.
A step-change in organisational approach
Whether telcos need to begin their cloud transformation is no longer up for debate. It is the way forward for an industry struggling to maintain and enhance their businesses in the face of rapidly evolving technology and rising customer expectations. It is a massive step-change in organisational approach, which is why careful, structured planning is essential.
Telcos that move forward with eyes wide open, with a full understanding of what needs to be done and when, and with realistic expectations about the speed of transformation, will be the successful telcos of the future.
The author is Derick Medina, a senior client solutions manager in solutions architecture and consulting at Kenzan, Amdocs’ cloud consulting arm.