Most organizations are in the middle of a Cloud Modernization effort whether it has been formally planned or not. Often times it may not even be a formal objective, but there is no question the rise of the multi-tenant cloud-based solution to just about every area of the technology stack has launched companies into the Cloud.   The traditional world of on-premise applications, storage, integration, and compute is being disrupted daily with any number of new and improved offerings.   For years the majority of new entries in the application space have been born in the cloud offerings promising quicker implementation, less maintenance, and overhead combined with a pay-as-you-go model, allowing you to start small and grow as your organization grows.   

The first mover – Applications

For most organizations, the first mover in their Cloud Modernization journey has been the applications themselves, for good reason. In any technology stack, applications are the pillars of the organization – the highly visible front-end solutions that provide the most direct business value and are the most tangible enhancements to the application’s consumers.   Migrating on-premise systems to ‘born in the cloud’ offerings like Salesforce, Workday, Service Now, Zendesk, and many others has been taking place over the past 10-15 years. Managing an on-premise application with its own data storage, servers, backups, and on-going maintenance is replaced by a monthly fee coupled with some light administration effort, often dramatically reducing in-house investments in skills, hardware, and support. Projects have been funded and executed one by one, slowly migrating on-premise custom and packaged applications to SaaS multi-tenant versions for years. Even the smallest of organizations may find themselves with 5, 10, 15 or more SaaS offerings running their business even without a formal cloud-first strategy to do so. 

Application Modernization and the Impact on Analytics

Most organizations have managed the Application modernization part of the journey in terms of analytics infrastructure by simply replacing the Data Warehouse source feed with one from the newly deployed SaaS service.   Most SaaS vendors provide one or more ways to access user data by direct connections or extracts to integrate the operational data back into your analytics environment.   This has allowed for the methodical process of application-by-application cloud modernization without the need for a thought out or planned strategy and minimal impact outside of launching a new application. Organizations simply include the data integration refactoring for the new cloud source in their application rollout cost.

Over time, however, IT organizations are realizing their now hybrid infrastructure is reaching a tipping point where more applications are now living in the cloud than on-premise.   The Data Warehouse and analytics infrastructure is often still all or in part on-premise with cloud integrations for retrieving data. Some organizations may have looked at moving some or part of the infrastructure to the cloud for the same reasons as the applications have been moving. On the analytics side the cloud can bring virtually unlimited storage and compute capacity for even the most intense analytic processing and data analytics. Meanwhile the worry of backups, upgrades, and security is managed for them by a plethora of different cloud data and compute platforms. Reporting and analytic tools have evolved as well with cloud-based versions comfortable with accessing and displaying cloud-based analytics. 

Tying it all together – Data Integration

The data plumbing making analytics possible by bringing all these disparate data sources together is often overlooked as part of the modernization journey.   For many organizations, whether they know it or not, it is often the largest area of past effort and a critical key to success in analytics. It is the iceberg under the water, not easily seen but often regarded as one of the hardest to modernize due to the volume and complexity of behind-the-scenes integrations making all the analytics possible.    While the effort to connect, profile, load, cleanse, harmonize, and connect systems together has been done over time from application to application – when you take a step back and count it all up, it can be hundreds and often thousands of integration points and logic to source and harmonize all your valuable organization data from numerous applications.   This critical work is often invisible to a business user, but behind the scenes executing weekly, daily, and even real-time to provide the most comprehensive and accurate data to drive business decisions.   Disruption to this layer can bring your analytics to a grinding halt. The work has been done often over 5, 10, 15, or more years by dozens and maybe even hundreds of different individuals over time often in a customized fashion.   The complexity and number of workflows run daily can number in the thousands depending on the organization moving millions of rows into thousands of fields and tables. The effort and expense here can often keep organizations running integrations locally even while the applications and even the storage and compute may have already migrated to a cloud-based solution. 

Data Integration Modernization with Informatica

Within the past couple years, the leading data integration provider, Informatica, has launched automation tools to make the migration from Informatica PowerCenter to Informatica Data Management Cloud (IDMC) a quicker and less costly process. The ‘born in the cloud’ Informatica Data Management Cloud provides modern tools and connectivity better suited for cloud application sources and cloud data storage targets running in cloud ecosystems and the obvious choice to support cloud applications and a cloud-based analytics platform.   The Informatica automated modernization tools even provide allowances to swap out the target warehouse in the integration mappings at the same time so you can modernize your data integration at the same time you modernize your data storage, then test the result once, matching it back to your on-premise data warehouse.   The conversion tooling now can approach well above 80% and sometimes 90% automation allowing thousands of assets to flow through to Informatica Data Management Cloud without the need to rebuild by hand. These tools are available for use now from Informatica through authorized select partners like CTI Data, making a conversion to Informatica IDMC not only a possible but also cost-effective solution as well.

Is now the time to modernize my analytics?

While all the tools and processes are now in place to make this a reality – from cloud-based Storage, Compute, Analytics and Informatica Data Management Cloud conversion tools – the effort is not without its challenges. Data Warehouses are often counted on to make key decisions as often as daily. Disruptions here in the analytics environment can disrupt business if not planned and executed properly.  

In addition, if you are simply porting the existing warehouse with existing integrations intact to the cloud – your best-case scenario for a business user is no change at all.   That’s hardly a business case and cost that your business team can get behind, no matter how much simpler the infrastructure support becomes for the IT team. 

The time is right to START your modernization journey, but unlike the application modernization that can happen a bit opportunistically over time, the cloud analytics modernization portion should be thought out and planned to provide a seamless experience for your business community while taking advantage of all the porting and testing needed to potentially strengthen your analytics for a more cloud-based approach.   Providing new and more frequent updates of data with new cloud integration capabilities coupled with things like cloud-based self-service analytics and cloud data marketplaces is something business users can be excited for as well, as part of the journey. 

Planning and Incremental Wins Are Keys to a Successful Transition

The key to making true Cloud Modernization a reality for your organization is starting with a framework and a roadmap for success. Tools and offerings will evolve, priorities and requirements will change, but ultimately you should ensure you have a documented strategy as it relates to the cloud, as well as proper exceptions for the use of on-premise solutions so your organization can make the right long-term decision for short term tactical solutions. In our experience, the best path to success is built over time by taking an incremental approach using automated tools and processes wherever possible to reduce time and cost while keeping in mind the big picture solution. The big bang modernization approach is rarely successful and can be disruptive to day-to-day operations. Careful planning and roadmap adjustments can target incremental steps timed to align with available tools, vendor promotional offerings, and reducing testing costs integrating with other projects. By targeting and providing incremental wins to your business and IT team along the way, you can ensure engagement and commitment to the process. From migrating the warehouse and ETL, to providing better reporting and analytics tools, to a modernized cloud data catalog helping business users to better understand their data, to a data marketplace allowing power users to shop for key data sets at a moment’s notice – the path to success is built with the proper framework in place and delivered in stages minimizing disruption and program risk.   

When building a plan – create one that looks towards ultimate success but defines a journey that:

  • Is achievable with your resource pool by identifying the capacity needed and avoids resource and skill contentions with other critical projects.
  • Targets incremental success at regular intervals demonstrating business value throughout the process – not just at a point off in the distant future.
  • Focuses not only on business and technical success but talent success as well – employing methods to close the knowledge gap for your team to ensure their ability to support, maintain and grow a cloud-based infrastructure from a skill and experience perspective. This will take time and effort!
  • Takes advantage of automated tooling and modernized processes to reduce costs and speed deployment wherever possible using both commercially developed tools as well as frameworks and processes from experienced partners.

Contact us for more information on how CTI can help you modernize your analytics environment and convert your on-premise Informatica Data Integration to the cloud.

Steve Dulzer is the Cloud Modernization Solution Director at CTI Data.

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