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Overcoming Cloud Migration Challenges on Power Systems

Digital transformation expert Charles Araujo highlights key IBM Power Systems modernization and cloud migration challenges and how to solve them

Modernization and cloud migration are two terms that are everywhere these days. These terms are hardly new, but while we’ve been kicking them around for a while, modernization and cloud migration are only now becoming a meaningful reality for enterprise IT leaders.

The pressure on IT leaders to modernize their infrastructure and migrate workloads to the cloud is finally reaching a point where it cannot be ignored or satisfied by efforts focused on smaller, non-critical workloads. The demands of the market are forcing every organization to take a hard look at their options and make some tough decisions about their most critical workloads.

But these critical workloads often run on core systems such as IBM Power Systems, introducing a set of migration challenges that are difficult to manage. The resulting situation leaves enterprise IT organizations between the proverbial rock and a hard spot. Fortunately, there’s an emerging approach that may be the way forward.

Hard Truths About Cloud Migrations and Power Systems

Whether you like it or not, modernization efforts and cloud migrations are the new reality. The pressures on enterprise IT organizations are simply too great for it not to happen. This fact puts those responsible for Power Systems—increasingly, the systems most likely to be the targets of modernization and migration—feeling trapped.

The most critical workloads have run on Power Systems for decades because they demand the utmost in speed, security and RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability).

However, the combination of increased costs, staffing difficulties and a perception that Power Systems servers lack the flexibility needed to meet modern demands has led many organizations to begin actively looking at options to migrate Power-based workloads into the cloud.

The challenge, of course, is that it’s difficult and expensive to replicate the speed, security and reliability of a Power Systems workload in traditional cloud environments. Doing so almost always requires making a trade-off on one end of the spectrum or the other.

Moreover, there is a definitive cost associated with these migration efforts—not to mention a healthy dose of risk. The reason is mostly in the form of unforeseen dependencies and connections, elements that are often uncovered only as migration and modernization efforts are well underway.

As a result, many organizations do one of two things: do nothing or charge ahead into the unknown anyway.

Neither is a great option.

The Cloud Challenge: What IT Leaders Are Missing

To some degree, you can blame the situation on the relentless positioning of cloud providers over the past decade. They have managed to convince IT and non-IT executives that the cloud is both the future and the answer to every challenge they face as they look to compete in a rapidly and radically changing market.

The problem is that these same leaders often do not understand the challenges and trade-offs associated with migrating Power Systems into traditional cloud environments. And while you likely know these challenges well, being able to succinctly communicate them to these executives is essential.

The trick is communicating these challenges in terms that will resonate with executives: cost and risk. This perspective helps executives understand the reality of the situation rather than seeing you as merely stuck in the past and afraid of change.

You can organize the costs and risks associated with migrating Power Systems workloads to the cloud into three categories: architectural, cost/performance optimization, and security and compliance.


The first—and perhaps most important—thing that most executives fail to understand is the fundamental architectural differences between Power Systems and typical cloud environments. The entire premise of the cloud was built upon the idea of scaling horizontally and vertically by leveraging commodity x86-based systems. This architectural model fundamentally differs from the more controlled and focused architectural approach of Power Systems. As a result, organizations cannot do a simple migration of applications built for Power Systems to traditional cloud environments. Instead, these applications will often need to be significantly modified or entirely re-platformed, inevitably leading to significant costs and risks.

Cost/Performance Optimization

Even if you are willing to take on the costs and risks associated with an architectural migration, the next hurdle you’ll face is replicating the cost/performance optimization that is baked into the Power Systems architecture. While cloud environments have generally shed the idea that they are, in fact, less expensive to run than traditional on-premises environments, organizations often find that replicating the performance and reliability characteristics of Power workloads results in substantially increased costs that far outweigh any advantages—particularly when they lack clear line-of-sight into their Power System environments, which leads to overprovisioning.

Security and Compliance

Even if you can get past the first two hurdles, you’ll then run into the costs and risks associated with managing security and compliance factors. The inherently large attack surface of cloud environments—coupled with the fact that cloud providers explicitly developed them to be general-purpose computing environments that emphasized scale and dynamism over everything else—makes security and compliance tricky subjects. That’s not to say that cloud environments are not secure, but recreating the level of security and compliance inherent in the Power Systems architecture is costly and automatically introduces a higher degree of risk simply because you now need to engineer it into the environment.

The Cloud Challenge: How to Go From “No” to “Now”

While these issues are very real, the fact remains that it is getting extremely difficult to stop the forward motion of cloud migrations. The train has left the station.

To make matters even more challenging, the major cloud providers have little incentive to make your life easier. They have market momentum in their favor and have won the battle for the hearts and minds of the business executives who don’t fully understand the situation.

And as these executives have come to you with the expectation that your expensive Power-based workloads can be migrated to the cloud as simply as the cloud providers imply, you’re left saying “no” and stopping progress. Not a great place to be.

Until recently, the few options available have been risky and expensive. Fortunately, a new category of cloud offerings built specifically for Power Systems workloads is entering the market, offering you a pathway from “no” to “now.”

This new breed of solution offers all the advantages of traditional cloud environments without the risks or costs associated with Power migrations. These solutions offer executives the attributes they seek, such as dynamic scaling, consumption-based fees, the movement from CapEx to OpEx spend and the ability to eliminate expensive on-premises environments.

However, because these purpose-built cloud environments have Power Systems at their core, they do not involve the costs and risks associated with re-platforming. Likewise, they don’t require you to make any trade-offs around performance, reliability, security or compliance.

These new solutions, such as ATS’s new Power Cloud offering, make it possible for you to meet enterprise executives’ desires to migrate workloads to the cloud while enabling you to effectively manage the cost and risk implications of such a migration. The key is that they include an intelligence layer that exposes dependencies prior to migration, enables precision sizing and allows you to continually tune and optimize your Power workloads. It is this intelligence layer that enables you to get all the benefits of the cloud without the risks or costs.

Whether as a temporary waypoint during a broader modernization and re-platforming effort or as a permanent solution to get the benefits of the cloud without the risks, this new class of Power-specific cloud offerings will give you the options you need to transform yourself from blocker to enabler.

And that’s exactly where you need to be.