Once you’ve moved your data platform to the cloud, your work as an IT professional tends to get a lot easier. But to be honest, getting that platform there in the first place can be quite a daunting task. How to tackle that?
Now, when it comes to SAS migration in general, LACO has always been somewhat of a pioneer on the Belgian market. As a matter of fact, LACO was the very first SAS partner to successfully deliver a SAS cloudification project in Belgium. Here are three important lessons we’ve learned from our experience with SAS cloudification so far. You might use them to your advantage!
Lesson 1: Take on the legal and regulatory hurdles from the start
The days that IT professionals sincerely worried about cloud security are long past. Most of us came to trust the high level of security that is built into the major cloud platforms, protecting data by design and by default when used correctly. Unfortunately, however, that hasn’t stopped some of our business colleagues from still worrying about these issues. Their fears need to be acknowledged too, of course. But then it is up to us to address those concerns with clear and hard facts we have at our disposal today. Even more so, as those persistent fears could turn out to be a real showstopper. If your CFO is not comfortable with moving his data to the cloud, for instance, then your project risks never taking off in the first place.
And talking about showstoppers: in certain sectors, such as the insurance industry, there is a set of mandatory legal rules and government restrictions that you absolutely have to take into account, before you can even think of moving your data platform to the cloud. These compliance demands are not insurmountable, but they will require you to obtain several official approvals, sometimes even undergoing a risk assessment. And that usually takes time, as there are no shortcuts or detours for it. Which is why, in these specific sectors, we always start a cloudification project by tackling the legal and regulatory hurdles. If these cannot be overcome, the project simply cannot move ahead.
Lesson 2: Be clear on the business case
A popular misconception that we often come across, even though people should really know better by now, is the idea that running your IT infrastructure in the cloud is by definition cheaper than running it in your own data centre – or having a hosting partner run it for you. In our experience, however, simply migrating your servers to the cloud rarely brings any real value to your business, not even from a purely financial perspective. On the contrary: it often turns out to be more expensive.
No misunderstanding however, this only applies if you use the cloud the way you would use your former on-premise data centre by leaving all your servers running 24/7 all year round. The great thing about the cloud is that it allows you to run only those servers you require, switching systems on and off at any given notice. It basically lets you add or remove hardware resources in function of your actual computing needs. So if, say you have a reporting environment that is only used intensively by your business colleagues during working hours, you can decrease the server capacity for that environment before and after those hours. Another typical example for cost savings is a testing environment. Instead of keeping it running all the time, even during weekends, you could limit yourself to using that part of your infrastructure only when you actually need to do some testing.
So by using that flexibility, which is typical for the cloud, you can effectively optimise and strengthen your financial business case. Nevertheless, if you ask us, the real key to cloud success is in going beyond the financials approaching SAS cloudification not as a migration project but as an optimisation project. Instead of regarding the cloud merely as an alternative for your own data centre or that of your hosting provider and in a way continuing what you’ve always been doing, you should treat it as a springboard to a new world with possibilities you could only dream of before.
If you look at the cloud for new capabilities and extra functionality, you might just discover that there are applications and functionality within your reach, such as advanced disaster recovery features, that you would never have been able to deploy with just your own data centre.
Lesson 3: Match your licensing models
Moving your SAS data platform to the cloud also requires matching the different licensing models. This is especially challenging when you’re dealing with an older licensing model for your data platforms, since these older models – and not just those used by SAS – are still very much bound to physical hardware such as CPU cores. That is not necessarily the case, of course, with virtualised and cloud environments, where usage- and client-based licensing models continue to grow in popularity.
Matching licensing models is somewhat less challenging, as you can probably imagine, for those customers who have already moved on to SAS’ latest data platform: SAS Viya. Running on a scalable, cloud-native architecture, SAS Viya is an open and cloud-ready platform. Consequently, SAS Viya customers can entirely benefit from an easier cloud migration concerning licence fees.
The exercise of matching your software vendor’s licensing agreement with your needs in terms of scalability and elasticity, has to be done right from the start, as it might be another show-stopper. Therefore, we invariably advise our customers to reach out and establish a satisfying agreement with their vendor and in some cases even their cloud provider. Not only they usually have a number of licensing programmes to choose from, sometimes with discounts that customers can profit from. They can also help to establish a smooth transition period. After all, you don’t move to the cloud overnight, do you?
So far for the business lessons learned from our SAS cloudification projects. Feel like diving a little deeper into the actual technology? Head quickly to our blog post with technical lessons learned . But first: check out our SAS cloudification page!
Samuel De Klerck
CDO at LACO