Bits & Bytes

The BitTitan Blog for Service Providers

Howard M Cohen

You Can Get There From Here – If You Do So Gradually

This is the second installment in a new series on the BitTitan blog, “The Complete MSP,” built to help IT professionals stay ahead of the Azure curve and accelerate the evolution of your customers’ solutions.  Other posts in this series cover the growing professional and managed services opportunity around Azure (“Blue Gold: The Azure Gold Rush and How to Cash In”) as well as best security practices (“Azure Security: Five Planning Tips For New Environments“). See all posts in the series here.

In the tech industry, where everyone is in a rush to make things happen faster, it’s sometimes hard to imagine telling a client to slow down. But there is one place where this may be the best advice of all.

Very early on, the Internet became so large and complex that engineers depicted it on whiteboard network diagrams as a blob. Someone thought the blob was a cloud.

Think about your customer’s information management environment: large numbers of users, groups, assets, resources, workloads, applications, data, and other “stuff.”  Feeling tempted to draw a blob?

Now imagine moving all of that from one place to another.

That pang of fear you just felt happens about a hundred times more powerfully inside your customer’s mind, and their gut, when you suggest the wholesale movement of their information technologies (IT) from their premises to the cloud. That’s why cloud adoption has been so slow. It frightens most people, and for good reason.

Pilot: What’s Least Frightening?

The most successful Azure migrations start small. Why?

For one thing, small migrations of small workloads bring small cost. The customer is less exposed. Less threatened. The worst that can happen is that the small workload doesn’t transition well, and the project is reversed and canceled. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but little lost here.

Small workloads are usually also less critical to operations. Less critical also means less risk. You and your customer get to experience how the transition goes without threatening anything that might slow down the business. No disruption, no harm, no foul.

After the initial asset assessment that every migration project must begin with, the assets can be prioritized based on least criticality and smallest size. Working through each of these brings more and more familiarity, and greater learning along the way, that serves to increase confidence.

Seamless Joy

One of the great Azure advantages is that Active Directory for Azure and Active Directory for Windows Server on-prem can appear as one larger forest with no seams between the two. This facilitates migration in many ways, but perhaps most importantly, it does not add to the management burden and completely eliminates the need to consider migrating everything at once. This should immediately calm the nerves of the business executive who envisions disruption beyond imagination.

A Roadmap with Clear Milestones

The most powerful deliverable you can supply to your customer is a roadmap for their gradual, stepwise migration from on-premises to cloud, depicting each workload, each asset, each application that will be moved along with its criticality and the plan for potential roll-back should it become necessary.

Anticipate that this roadmap will extend for several years, depending upon the size of the customer’s organization and information assets. Continue to remind your customer that the migration will be gradual and that there are very good reasons why you’re doing it that way. You may find yourself having to quell their impatience to move faster after each successful transition. Remind them why you’ve been migrating slowly.

Everything is Hybrid

The focus on “hybrid” systems containing on-prem, public, and private cloud components may have given your customer the impression that “hybrid” is somehow vulnerable, weak, or less than desirable. Be sure to assure them that this is not the case, that hybrid systems have always been common, and that everything we see today is a hybrid. Very few, if any, environments have yet to fully transition to the cloud.

Rest Azzured

The Azure environment is engineered to make hybrid environments look like they’re not hybrid at all. Unified Active Directory, readily managed networks, storage, backup, security, and other IT assets make it possible for you (and your customers) to conduct business in Azure. Provide your customer with unparalleled management, and they’ll be even more comfortable about slowly, carefully transitioning in a manner that is completely transparent to them.

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