Integration helps alleviate cloud migration challenges

By By Tracy Burrows for CommerceQuest & IBM
Johannesburg, 04 Jul 2023
Sheldon Hand, ecosystem leader at IBM Southern Africa.
Sheldon Hand, ecosystem leader at IBM Southern Africa.

Integration tools can help organisations overcome some of the headaches in cloud migration and modernisation, delegates heard at a webinar on cloud migration presented by IBM Gold Partner CommerceQuest recently.

The speakers outlined top challenges and opportunities for organisations in modernising and moving to the cloud, noting that costs and resources were a common challenge, and that event-led integration could help address them.

They revealed that a Cloud Migration survey carried out by CommerceQuest and ITWeb into the challenges, pitfalls and success factors in South African cloud migration projects had found that most organisations are moving steadily into the cloud, but that cloud migration and management challenges remain.

The survey found that 41% of the respondents were ‘comfortable’ and 32% were ‘reasonably comfortable’ moving to the cloud, while 19% were frontrunners/bleeding edge in terms of moving to cloud. The top three reasons for moving to the cloud were disaster recovery (59%), to support remote working and collaboration (56%) and improving business continuity (53%).

On their cloud migration hindsight, most would change little or nothing, but 16% said they would change a lot of their migration plan.

Top migration and modernisation challenges

The top challenges cited involved costs – the full cost of migration and the cost of maintaining operations were cited as challenges by 47% of respondents, while 43% said educating themselves about the cloud was a challenge. IT talent and skills, security access and compliance, optimising spending on cloud, selecting the right cloud for workloads, and app performance and availability were the top future cloud challenges respondents faced.

Sheldon Hand, ecosystem leader at IBM Southern Africa, said the survey results aligned with international trends. “In most instances, we see many of the same challenges,” he said.

He highlighted an IBM Institute for Business Value Research Insights paper ‘Modernizing applications on hybrid cloud’, which noted that financial, technical, expertise and cultural barriers were standing in the way of modernisation for many enterprises. The paper said cloud transformation demanded a modern tech architecture, and that application modernisation was a business imperative. Its research found that 83% of executives saw modernising applications and data as central to their business strategy. However, only 27% said their organisation had modernised many of the necessary workflows, including the related applications, data, and systems. Three in four executives said they still had disparate systems using traditional technologies and tools in their organisations.

Hand said: “In South Africa, many customers are grappling with digital transformation and modernisation, while also having to maintain the existing IT estate that supports the business. There are also issues around currency fluctuations impacting IT costs. One of the biggest challenges is things always take longer than they think, so they allocate a budget for a modernisation project, but challenges or a lack of skills delay projects, and they run into cost constraints later.”

Another key hurdle is the technical challenge, he said. “We are trying to modernise applications, but we have complexity in the legacy environment that isn’t fully understood and delays projects. There’s a realisation that a hybrid cloud strategy is needed, maintaining and modernising on-premise legacy infrastructure, modernising and shifting it to cloud over time.”

Hand said available resources is another challenge: “We are in a global talent war. Many South African IT engineers are picking up work globally, which reduces the talent available in South Africa to do application modernisation for the cloud.”

A fourth challenge is a massive IT cultural shift taking place, he said. “In the past everything was very well managed and controlled. This has been flipped on its head and we live in a DevOps type of world. Organisations must think about how they manage that, and transition from current state to future state,” Hand said.

Overcoming hurdles with integration

Francois van der Merwe, senior integration specialist at IBM Technology South Africa, said: “In the integration environment, we see a lot of the same challenges. The great digital shift has brought with it growing complexities, attrition and skills gaps. It could prove impossible to pick up the whole computer room – with its many legacy applications – and dump it into the cloud. Integration is enabling us to address these challenges.”

Van der Merwe said: “Integration is absolutely critical for modernisation. At its heart it’s about moving data from point A where it has no value, to point B where it can be used. With integration, you can use the data to be more efficient and productive, innovate faster, and reduce the expertise barrier.”

He highlighted IBM integration, with a comprehensive set of automated, secure and scalable integration capabilities to enable organisations to digitally transform. IBM Cloud Pak for integration offers API management, application integration, end-to-end security, enterprise messaging, event streaming and high-speed data transfer.

Van der Merwe explained that organisations might follow three patterns for integration – API-led integration, messaging & connectivity led integration, and the newer event-led integration.

“If you knew what was going to happen in your business in the next 30 minutes, what could you do? Event-led integration fuels the real-time enterprise, with continuous awareness of what is happening in the organisation so business can act in the moment. It also drives automation in response to events, and enables adaptability,” he said.

He explained that today’s enterprise waits until the end of the day or week to replenish inventories, builds the next quarter’s marketing campaigns using the previous month’s sales data, and uses quarterly reports to evaluate financials and devise action plans. However, event-driven enterprises optimise inventory processes based on opportunity when hot items are running out, are able to identify and take advantage of new revenue opportunities in a timely manner, and have a real-time view of product performance and customer dissatisfaction.

Challenges in the way of becoming event-driven include the fact that events exist across many disparate data sources, applications and systems; and continuous large amounts of new events can make it difficult to narrow down the insights and detect patterns. There is also a shortage of deep technical skills, which hampers organisations’ ability to put events to use.

Van der Merwe noted that IBM event automation overcomes these barriers and puts events to work with low-code event processing, enabling users to detect situations, act in real time, automate decisions and maximise their revenue potential, using ‘citizen skills’ and drag and drop tooling.