Why MSP’s Shouldn’t Build a Cloud Migration Practice
Digital transformation in the enterprise is creating massive business opportunities for the technology industry.
Corporations face a number of hurdles as they embrace this new digital paradigm, especially when it comes to moving on-premises datacenters to public cloud environments.
They need help choosing the right cloud, identifying infrastructure, applications and system dependencies, and creating a roadmap for their cloud journey.
In response, many MSPs have already developed a cloud business and lined up their initial service offerings.
After customers are sold on the promise of cloud computing, the next step to tackle is the actual execution of a cloud migration.
At this juncture, companies are likely moving some on-premises applications to SaaS offerings and shifting other applications off of their own hardware to cloud infrastructure vendors such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
These changes provide an opportunity for MSPs to offer consulting and support services, particularly to clients who are new to the cloud and do not understand the degree of complexity that often accompany IT transformation projects.
Often clients have little to no institutional knowledge of how to prepare and execute a successful cloud migration.
While this knowledge gap in their customer base provides opportunities for MSPs, they should proceed with caution before investing time and resources building internal migration capabilities.
Instead, MSPs should consider other options such as working with software vendors who offer tools designed to ease migration, and cloud enablement companies who offer cloud migration services and support that can be white labeled and resold.
Here are a few reasons why MSPs may want to explore partnership opportunities instead:
1. Better to Invest and Focus on Core Competencies
In building those cloud service offerings, most MSPs have invested in developing skills and hiring staff to advise on digital transformation and manage infrastructure once it’s in the cloud.
Moving an application isn’t a matter of moving servers from one rack to another.
Offering cloud migration services to customers will require new staff, technology and tools to support automation, and the knowledge, certifications and competencies to gain customer confidence and win deals.
A recent Forrester report determined that labor costs account for 50 percent of cloud migration project costs.
It also found that labor costs steadily decline with project experience.
For MSPs, it will take time to gain a level of experience and expertise that can justify these costs.
At the same time, MSPs are challenged to find qualified talent, particularly for technical positions, which mirrors the skills gap that affects the IT community in general.
When thinking about the time already invested in training and certifying teams to manage infrastructure in the cloud, do MSPs have the runway to do the same for a migration practice?
More importantly, will your customers wait for you to gain the knowledge or will they look to another provider?
Partners offer MSPs the ability to grow their business without the need for additional personnel.
2. Time is Running Out
With the increasing popularity of moving applications and workloads to the cloud, MSP customers need to make that migration sooner than later.
In fact, nearly half of enterprise applications will move to the cloud over the next 24 months.
Varying sources claim that 50 to 70 percent of those apps will be candidates for re-hosting, commonly referred to as “lift-and-shift” (Racemi prefers “lift-and-optimize”), which is significantly less expensive, resource-intensive and risky.
It’s the fastest way to move an application to the cloud, and re-hosting still provides customers with the cost savings and agility they expect when they move architecture to the cloud.
MSPs can get those quick wins under their belt and build customer confidence that they can deliver on the promise.
A successful cloud migration has its challenges and MSPs may wonder if it’s worth the effort.
But the migration isn’t the end game.
Cloud migration services can serve as a launch pad for offering other cloud services.
One way to build more value is for MSPs to look for opportunities to optimize the cloud deployment.
Often there are opportunities to revamp applications for the cloud environment.
A cloud consultant can also advise customers on cloud governance, the lack of which can imperil cloud adoption.
Inadequate oversight of cloud usage, for example, can lead to spiraling costs.
With careful planning, a cloud migration can lead to an ongoing customer relationship that extends well beyond the initial cloud move.
3. It’s a Project – Not a Recurring Activity
It will take years for most companies to complete a digital transformation project and move everything to the cloud.
But once the move is over, it is unlikely that companies will want to move it back to a physical data center.
In the future, workloads may move from one cloud to another, but that effort is focused on portability, not initial migration.
Applications require the most change during the initial migration from on-premise to the cloud.
To ensure compatibility and performance, several additional steps need to be taken.
Drivers, kernels, anti-virus and other monitoring tools will need to be changed or deployed on the workload and in the target environment.
File structure, security groups and policies will all need to be evaluated and configured.
As a cost control measure, server utilization needs to be reviewed to ensure workloads are moving into right-sized environments.
Once the initial move is complete, application portability becomes a copy-and-paste exercise versus a transformative activity.
Considering the resource investment of an in-house migration practice, how will an MSP allocate those resources, particularly once initial migration projects slow down?
Migration services must offer a balance of speed, effectiveness and affordability.
It is important for MSPs to not get distracted by the cloud frenzy and instead leverage partnerships to supplement cloud migrations as part of larger digital and IT transformation offerings.
While migration is an important moment in time, it’s still just a moment in time.
Patrick O’Donnell is senior vice president of channel partnerships at Racemi, a cloud migration technology and services firm, in business since 2001.