A summary of the 6R Cloud Strategies using the evolution of retail stores as an analogy (image credit: image is drawn by the author)

I always feel that migrating applications to the #Cloud is like playing a game of Snakes and Ladders.

The Snakes and Ladders is a classic board game that is played by two or more players. The game is played on a square board divided into a grid of squares with a series of “ladders” and “snakes” drawn on it.

Image Credit: WikiMedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Each player starts at the bottom square of the board and takes turns rolling a dice to move their game piece forward a certain number of squares. If a player lands on a square with a ladder, they can move their game piece up to the top of the ladder. If they land on a square with a snake, they must move their game piece down to the bottom of the snake. The first player to reach the top square of the board wins the game.

These constant back-and-forth movements are exactly what many organizations are facing when they embark on their go-to Cloud journeys. These organizations may enjoy some quick wins in the honeymoon period (like moving up to the top of the ladder with some luck) and then find themselves struggling to continue making real business impact going forward as if they landed on a square with the snake resulting in taking a few steps backward.

Cloud migration journey that many organizations have experience with, and both paths are not ideal.

The key to successful cloud migration is careful planning and selecting the most appropriate #CloudMigration strategies.

The 6R of Cloud migration strategies

There are 6 cloud strategies (6R) an organization can implement for its cloud journey.

  1. Retire – Discontinuing the use of the application
  2. Retain – Preserving the application unchanged
  3. Re-host – Migrating the application in its current form to the Cloud (also known as “Lift-and-shift”)
  4. Re-platform – Making changes to certain parts of the application to ensure optimal performance in the cloud while leaving the core architecture unchanged (also known as “’Lift-tinker-and-shift”)
  5. Re-purchase – Switching to a SaaS solution that offers similar capabilities.
  6. Re-architect – Redesigning the application in a cloud-native manner. Also known as “Refactoring”, this is the most advanced #CloudStrategy currently.

Looks pretty technical, huh? Let’s use the evolution of retail stores as an analogy to explain these cloud strategies.

Retail stores have undergone significant evolution in the past few decades, driven by the increasing use of technology in the shopping experience. Let’s briefly discuss the trends here.

Traditional supermarkets

Remember our shopping experiences at some traditional supermarkets? They can be frustrating due to long lines, slow service, limited lanes, and inconsistent service. We have to wait in long lines to check out, and the process can be very slow due to technical issues or difficulties with scanning items. Some supermarkets do have express lanes for customers with a certain number of items or for certain payment methods. But such lanes may not always be available, and service can be inconsistent, with some cashiers being faster or more efficient than others.

Always super long queues in traditional supermarkets (Image credit: Unsplash)

Supermarkets with simple self-service counters

Some supermarkets improved the situation by allowing shoppers to scan and pay for their own items using self-service counters. These counters typically include a scanner, a payment terminal, and a bagging area. Shoppers can scan their items, pay for them using a credit card or other payment method, and then bag their purchases.

Self-service counters are designed to be more efficient and convenient than traditional checkout lines, as shoppers do not have to wait in line to be served by a cashier. But the experiences are still less than ideal as some shoppers may still find it a hassle to do all the scanning items themselves. Imagine you have to scan each of the 20-30 groceries items by yourself. You would probably feel frustrated that the responsibilities for scanning these items are just simply being transferred from the staff to you.

The responsibilities for scanning items are just being transferred from the staff to customers (Image credit: photo is taken by the author).

Surely there is room for improvement, and Uniqlo has nailed it nicely with their self-checkout machines.

Uniqlo’s self-checkout machines

Unlike other retail stores whereby shoppers need to manually scan each item, Uniqlo’s shoppers can place the items they wish to purchase in a box at the self-checkout machine and item prices are automatically calculated and displayed on the screen. There is no need to scan individual items or remove security tags, making the process quick and efficient. Shoppers can simply drop in their items, pay, pick up their purchases, and leave the store.

Yes, it is that simple.

Shoppers simply drop in their items without scanning individual items (Image credit: photo is taken by the author)

The shopping experience at Uniqlo is way better than those at most retail stores, but let’s ask the same question again – “Are there any rooms for improvements?”

Yes, enter Amazon Go.

Amazon Go

Amazon Go is a chain of retail stores owned by #Amazon that offer a convenient and hassle-free shopping experience. Customers can simply enter the store by scanning a QR code on their smartphone, shop for a variety of products including grocery items, household essentials, and prepared meals, and then leave the store. The stores use advanced technology such as computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensors to track what items customers pick up and add to their virtual cart, and customers’ accounts are automatically charged for the items they take.

Amazon Go stores do not have traditional checkout lines, and customers do not need to wait in line to pay for their purchases. They also use AI/ML technology to track customer purchases and suggest products based on their past purchases and preferences.

In short, it is simply a “Just walk out shopping” experience.

Just walk out shopping experiences with Amazon Go (image credit: WikiMedia Commons under the Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license).

How does this relate to the Cloud migration strategies

Imagine your application to be migrated to Cloud is a traditional retail store – what options do you have?

Well, it depends on your direction and roadmap for the future. For instance, you could have decided to keep the status quo as transforming your retail store does not make much economic or business sense. In some situations, you may have decided to wind up the business. For these 2 scenarios, they are equivalent to the Retire (winding up the business) and Retain (keeping status quo) cloud strategies, whereby you do not have to do anything to move to the Cloud.

The next option for you is to revamp your business to be more cost-effective, achieve better performance and fulfill new business goals. You may want to take baby steps to improve some aspects of your retail store, such as introducing self-service counters, while keeping the overall business operations unchanged. This is similar to Re-host where you simply lift and shift your workloads from on-premises to Cloud or Re-platform, by changing certain aspects of the architecture to achieve optimal performance in the Cloud. A typical example of the Re-platform strategy is to migrate your self-hosting database to a managed service in the Cloud while keeping the core architecture unchanged.

The next two cloud strategies – Re-purchase & Re-architect are the most advanced strategies that allow you to implement Cloud-native features for your application. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you may switch to a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solution that has similar capabilities. Or you could redesign your application to take full advantage of the cloud-native capabilities. Back to the retail store analogy, this is like you re-examining the scanning process at the self-service counter and introduce something similar to Uniqlo’s self-checkout counters to achieve a more efficient and better shopping experience.

How about the analogy of Amazon Go?

If we examine the examples mentioned above, we can find that other than Amazon Go, the other retail stores are still bounded by the concept of cashiers and checkout lanes. Each model improves on the efficiency of the checkout lanes, without knowing that such lanes can actually be totally eliminated.

A summary of the 6R Cloud Strategies using the evolution of retail stores as an analogy (image credit: image is drawn by the author)

This is where organizations need to look beyond the 6R cloud strategies to #reinvent their business so that they can create their own #BlueOceanStrategy. Organisations can tap on frameworks such as the Blue Ocean Strategy, Innovation Business Model, or even #HumanCenteredDesign, etc., to name a few, to redesign their applications with untapped potential.

A simple Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas to illustrate different types of retail stores (image credit: image is drawn by the author).

Key takeaways

Every company’s journey to the cloud is unique, as there is no universal migration plan that works perfectly for all organizations. Each IT application to be migrated has its own distinct characteristics in terms of performance, cost, and complexity, so it is not possible to use a single approach to migrate all workloads to the cloud similarly.

In addition, each cloud strategy should not be viewed in isolation as an either-or option. You could have a roadmap of migrating the applications using the Re-host option first, and then proceed to take further steps beyond Re-host to implement Re-purchase or Re-architect once you have witnessed the tangible benefits of moving to Cloud and your teams are more skilled and familiar with Cloud technologies and operations.

Cloud migration journeys that organizations should have when they exited from the game of Snakes and Ladders.

Developing an end-to-end roadmap for cloud migration can help organizations determine which workloads to move, how to move them, and in what order to ensure a smooth and successful transition. This is not easy but would largely increase the chances of organizations exiting from the game of Snakes and Ladders for their go-to-Cloud journey.

Happy Cloud Migration!

CHAN Chee Siong is a Cloud Solutions Architect based in sunny Singapore with many years of IT experience. He has a reputation for successfully integrating complex solutions for clients and building and maintaining strong relationships with them. Certified in multiple Cloud platforms, including AWS and Google Cloud, he also enjoys mentoring colleagues in their own cloud journey. In his free time, he is passionate about constructing Nanoblocks and volunteering for various organizations.

The opinions expressed here are solely the author’s and written in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the views of his current employer or any other organization or individual.

This article was originally published in December 2022 on LinkedIn and submitted as an editorial contribution. TechNode Global INSIDER publishes contributions relevant to entrepreneurship and innovation. You may submit your own original or published contributions subject to editorial discretion.

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