Learn how the Orange Business Professional Services team helped two customers, an international company and an engineering firm, to shape their cloud-based IT security strategy. This article is part of our “The cloud, service included” series, which sets out guidelines for getting the best from the cloud.
Outsourcing your existing IT set-up and migrating your applications to the cloud might seem self-evident in 2019. However, upstream support is particularly recommended if you want to keep such a complex project on track. Here is an example of a public sector company making large volumes of benefit payments. Before issuing a call for tender, it ordered a preliminary strategic consulting mission to weigh the opportunities and reduce the risks involved in migrating their existing setup to the cloud.
Why and how should you migrate your IT to the cloud?
The adoption of cloud computing in support of digital transformation necessarily entails migrating all or part of an information system (IS) and the related applications. The promised benefits of such a migration are attractive because it changes IT consumption models (potentially cutting costs), accelerates deployment capabilities, expands usage scenarios and functionalities and the availability of solutions, and enhances security and resilience. Nonetheless, migration can still be complex. It introduces new models and adds a layer of technology, so it requires expert support.
What is the purpose of a consulting mission for migration to the cloud?
The company called on Orange Business to consult on the migration of its existing IT setup to the cloud. Orange was tasked with setting targets, establishing feasibility and laying down the conditions for the future migration. The mission optimized the time and budget allocated to the project and helped write the specifications.
The benefits of a consulting mission, demonstrated by a customer deployment
The example described here is that of an organization responsible for paying large volumes of benefits to a high number of beneficiaries, within short lead times and with large seasonal variations. The payment of benefits starts with an online declaration by the beneficiary, the conformity of which is verified by the organization. The approved benefits are then paid by transfer.
Developed and maintained by its external provider, the solution in place is hosted in on-premises mode on nearly 400 servers via virtual machines (VMs), Oracle databases and NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network) arrays, all split between two data centers. This solution is secured by an IT Disaster Recovery Plan (IT DRP) because of the sensitivity of the data and the money allocated.
The customer wanted to migrate to the cloud at the urging of the French State, which has stated its eagerness to move into the cloud. The consulting mission carried out by Orange Business was split into three steps.
Step 1 – Opportunity analysis
This was a new approach for a company whose IT was hosted on conventional infrastructure and solutions, in on-premises mode. The switch to the cloud was a strategic decision, so the first migration support step focused on acculturation: educating the company and its employees about the latest cloud solutions.
This involved writing a specific, detailed document distributed widely within the company by the business owner and providing information to help staff understand and learn the language and methods associated with cloud computing.
The project also involved raising their awareness of “Agile and DevOps” models, designed to combine developments and live release, which work well with migration projects. This first step was the fruit of a collective and collaborative effort by, on the one hand, the customer's IT and business teams, and on the other, the Orange Business teams.
Step 2 – Feasibility of migration to the cloud
Next came the feasibility step. This entailed numerous audits carried out by the customer prior to the mission, with our Cyberdefense experts providing help with security-related topics.
As the customer is a public sector organization, special attention had to be paid to the location of data, GDPR compliance, resilience, and data portability and reversibility. Open source technologies also merited special consideration.
This helped to substantially reduce the time needed to map the existing set-up, taking account of virtual machines (VMs), physical servers, hosted databases and the portfolio of applications. Applications were identified and ranked in order of criticality.
This work was done in two workshops:
- During the first workshop, for Business Ownership and Project Management, the application portfolio was screened according to business, technology, security and regulatory criteria. Special attention was paid to optimizing the licenses for Oracle databases (costing several million euros)
- The second workshop was for company leaders. They learned about the “shared” cloud, whereby your data can be stored in France and be covered by French law and DevOps tools can be integrated into a company's working methods. It is a disruptive and strategic choice for the organization and how its IT Department teams operate. Data storage in accordance with the rules laid down by the French and European authorities, even in a public cloud, changed their perception and allowed them to choose to migrate to the cloud, breaking with their preconceived ideas about their existing setup
Lastly, a DevOps briefing session made the customer aware of the advantages of the method. This feasibility phase had to be agnostic and include, without value judgements, all existing market solutions for private, public and shared cloud computing. This point was a crucial factor in the customer's assessment of the mission's value and in helping it make choices from a sometimes complex and hard-to-understand range of solutions.
Step 3 – Definition of the migration strategy
The last step involved the creation of the 2021 cloud migration strategy, 2021 being the deadline for the company's strategic transformation plan.
The option of migrating to an IT platform other than the one on which the solution currently runs had to be considered. Especially as, in theory, a migration delivers few technical and financial gains if it is not subsequently accompanied by redevelopment of applications.
Three scenarios were considered; in each case, a macro-assessment of the migration budgets and recurring costs was carried out.
In the long run, an overhaul of the application architecture will unlock the resilience of Cloud Native Applications and the flexibility of the public cloud, based on the use of microservices. This will be accomplished by rewriting the application's code on a development platform in PaaS (Platform as a Service) mode, hosted on the chosen public cloud. By concentrating services with the cloud provider, this approach limits risks while improving resilience.
The lessons to learn from this mission
This consulting mission was carried out by three Orange Business staff members:
- Mission director responsible for customer relations and the system of committees
- Senior architect, the lead author of the feasibility study
- Senior cloud transformation consultant to oversee the organization of workshops, the production of deliverables and management feedback
It led to the creation of the specifications document for the tender, specifying the expected target and the best migration strategy to adopt in order to generate significant time and money savings.
Ultimately, this mission ensured that the customer had a clear vision of the application and the technical and software architecture of its information system before executing its migration and digital transformation. This helped improve the service delivered by the IT Department and the customer experience for beneficiaries and internal business units. A better understanding of cloud computing, its practices and the benefits it can have enabled the company to refine its migration strategy, write its specifications and appraise the bids from market players.
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For the last 15 years, I have worked in space science IT, management consultancy in organizations’ digital transformation strategy and information system security and telecommunications. I am now a Senior Consultant in the Cloud Transformation of audit, strategy and security practices at Orange Cloud for Business.