Cloud skills and training: keys to successful cloud adoption

Dwayne Monroe 7th June 2018
cloud training

In my role as a Cloud Architect for Cloudreach, I spend a lot of time getting ‘into the weeds’ of a project’s technical details. Large, multinational customers, eager to begin their cloud journeys possess very large IT estates, typically composed of thousands of virtual machines, bare metal hosts and correspondingly sprawling networks.

It takes a great deal of skill and experience to manage such systems and the teams who ‘keep the lights on’ are justifiably proud of the critical work they do.

So it isn’t a surprise that when the CIO says, “we need to move to the cloud!” experienced IT professionals, accustomed to handling challenging projects, view the new cloud migration effort as ‘yet another IT project’. It’s often assumed this is well within the scope of their current skill sets (after all, what’s the difference between a VM on-premises in VMWare and an EC2 instance or Azure virtual machine?).

This sense of comfort can lead to trouble however. Although cloud platforms include many familiar concepts – particularly in the areas of IaaS and virtual networking – the way these technologies are used, and the question of when and if to use a particular service – are questions best answered after you’ve been trained in the offerings and design philosophy of a cloud provider.

 

Consider this example…

After years of an official ‘no cloud’ policy (leading to a lot of shadow IT), multinational soft drink company Mjolnir Cola saw the light and decided to go ‘all in’ with the cloud.  To minimize lock-in, and to gain a bit of bargaining leverage with cloud solution providers, a multi-cloud strategy will be adopted.

The first IT team to make the transition is the database group. Mjolnir has a sprawling database estate consisting of a mixture of on-premises MS SQL, Oracle and MySQL providing backend database services for marketing, manufacturing, logistics, audit, security and related lines of business. There’s also a growing data analytics practice.

The database team is deeply experienced and knows how to deploy and tune databases on Windows and Linux hosts. After all, they’ve been doing it for years using VMWare hypervisors as the platform.

Unfortunately, the team’s experience isn’t as deep when it comes to cloud platforms. Training is spotty at best, consisting of a few quick reviews of FAQs and articles and a bit of poking around. Focusing on IaaS options (from relative familiarity) and convinced that a ‘lift and shift’ strategy is sufficient, Mjolnir’s database group decides to simply rehost hundreds of servers in Azure, without considering other, more ‘cloud-native’ options (such as Azure SQL and Cosmos DB).

Mjolnir’s team wasn’t familiar with this (now classic and widely quoted) chart:cloud skills and training

Because of this, their reference architecture for the database solution looked like this:

Mjolnir reference architecture for the database solution

Instead of something more like this, which takes advantage of PaaS databases (even though the application logic layer is still hosted on VMs for migration expediency):

reference architecture for the database solution

In addition to the technical issues, there was the matter of a very large bill, tens of thousands of US dollars per month, generated by the (unnecessary) use of VMs which matched their on-premises models.

 

How could this have been avoided?

Training, in the cloud era, is key to success. It’s tempting to assume the on-premises knowledge, and indeed, training and certifications you and your team have gained over the years in development, infrastructure and networking provides all the preparation you need. However, the fact is, cloud platforms offer different and new scenarios and create correspondingly different and new challenges. It’s important to start your cloud journey with an acceptance of that fact.

Next, you need to decide on your path and choose high-quality training to help you achieve your individual and organizational skilling goals.

Looking to become an AWS Certified Solutions Architect? A Cloud Guru offers excellent courses. Do you need to become an Azure expert who has mastered the material covered in Microsoft’s 70-535 exam? Udemy and Cloud Academy are excellent choices.

Because of the depth and breadth of cloud platforms (as of this writing, there are over a hundred AWS and Azure service offerings with more being added at a brisk pace) proper training gives you the knowledge to manage and take advantage of key aspects of the cloud such as:

  • Operational governance
  • Cost control
  • Application modernization using cloud-native methods

With training you’ll have the tools you need to make the right decisions at the right time using the right technology.

Finally, you should choose a cloud partner whose internal commitment to training offers you a skilled talent pool that can help you modernize your legacy systems and fully benefit from the cloud era. For that, I (of course) wholeheartedly recommend Cloudreach, a firm born in the cloud and committed to helping customers move forward.

Good luck with your cloud journey!