What wildebeest can teach us about cloud migration

Deaths aside, going to the Public Cloud is as easy and painless as a wildebeest migration across the Serengeti.


For any enterprise, a painful migration to the public cloud is inevitable.

This calls for a massive and lengthy migration of a vast herd of users to an ‘environment’ that promises lush new pastures rich in CPU, memory beds and storage silos - the essential lifeforce of enterprise thinking.

It’s tempting for any IT boss to stay in a safe environment that’s never given them problems, even if the water hole is showing signs of dehydration. There’s still some juice in that server rack, they’ll tell themselves.

However, some herds are particularly lacking in the enterprise mentality. The Government sector and Security are both notoriously sluggish. The slowest herd of all is a breed known as the Telco, says Mark Newman, chief analyst at the TM Forum.

This is an unadventurous breed because the venture capital stream has dried, says Michael Speranza, CEO of Zephyrtel, a telco-aid agency which tries to lure these magnificent beasts away from the barren silos to which they cling to desperately.

Eventually, survival instinct tells them that if they stay in the scorched earth too long, these once agile creatures will become trapped in the cloying mud of legacy.

So begins a long painful migration from their ‘private cloud’, across the sweeping plains of the Cyberneti to the lush pastures of the public cloud, where the AWS is abundant, the sky is Azure and there are Google plants wherever you look.

But it’s not going to be an easy cloud crossing for archetypal enterprise Wildebeest Telecom.

There are all kinds of lethal hazards, ranging from the unforgiving harshness of the terrain to natural predators that lie in wait to ambush the herd. The headcount will fall dramatically.

For some of the older members of the herd this will be their last trip. Many in Team Wildebeest will become ‘redundant’ because their muscle, which was great for technical and manual jobs, such as trampling down the dense forest of back up tapes (so that others can get at the data), will not be needed in the public cloud. Unless they are agile enough to find new jobs, they will disappear. One telco herd, Three UK, saw 67 per cent of IT employees fall in the new conditions created by a public cloud called Microsoft Azure.

The young are threatened by a different type of predator. As they make the perilous crossing of the revenue streams, many excited calves will be taken in. Sometimes, they will be pulled down into the depths of despair by the crocodiles of compliance, who grab the developing calf by the throat and choke them with their rows of litigation teeth. The lucky developer dies by watching its budgeting lifeblood ooze away thanks to licensing. A slower more agonising capitulation comes from suffocation as the young developer chokes on litigation conditions such as GDPR and HIPAA, which stick in the throat and make any sentient being lose the will to live.

In the cloud, there’s easy access to data on a gargantuan scale. But in cyberspace, nobody can hear you scream as the lawyers devour you. Many of the herd will wander off track and will lose control of who is seeing stuff that they really shouldn’t.

Other young bucks will be Phished by predators disguised as friends. These identity thieves are only interested in getting close enough to the subject in order to ‘pick their brains’. Having taken their data, they feast on its contents elsewhere while the victim has become a dead wildebeest walking. The Phishers are remarkably adept at both assuming identities – such as Microsoft support or recruitment agents - and gaining the confidence of their target victims by telling them what they want to hear. Beware Fake Gnus.  

Many of the herd will have already been picked off. Before they can reach the crossing, there will be many points at which the Wildebeest Telecom herd can be ambushed.

As the moving herd changes shape, the ‘transformation’ leaves it vulnerable to attack. Pack hunters, such as the hyenas of hacking, may set about some of the herd that have been left to their own devices at ‘The Edge’. These hyenas work as an incredibly well co-ordinated team and are seasoned organisers of the Distributed Denial of Service. They then seek out their ‘ransom’ and inevitably some herd member will be chucked to the wolves while the rest of the herd make a run for it. Deputy heads must roll, as they say in the corporate jungle.

Meanwhile, many of the herd, tired to distraction by the intensity of the disruption caused by migration, have become more vulnerable to viruses.

Still the herd must take strength from their faith and commitment says Texas-based ‘cloud evangelist’ Danielle Royston, founder of TelcoDR, another aid agency that helps telcos migrate to the public cloud.

The herd becomes fitter as the older and infirm members of the herd are recycled by sustainable groups of agile consumers such as Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards and African Wild dogs. Without its slower members the herd moves quicker and the total cost of survival is lower, as there are fewer license (to kill) fees to be paid to the above.

As Wildebeest Telecoms staggers across the line and enters the fertile pasture of the public cloud, it still has some adjustment to make.

You can’t just park your apps down and put your hooves up just yet, warns Royston. Complacency is a killer. This is a time when the enterprise must rethink its entire rationale. It needs to evolve, both by strengthening its backbone and making it more supple. She calls this ‘redesigning your entire IT and network model’ from head to hooves. You can refactor it, get leaner code and use new technologies.

So, there we leave the enterprise. For now it will build up its strength, until it is forced by 'disruption' to begin the cycle of IT replenishment all over again.

Man has replicated Mother Nature’s circle of life, but made some changes to the Model. Corporations like Google, Microsoft and Amazon are incredibly driven by their insatiable appetite for earth’s most precious resources. By taking from the earth and giving nothing very useful back to society, they have sped up the process of death.

The key is the built-in cycle of obsolescence of technology which forces people to change their phone and put perfectly good computers into landfill, where the rain will wash their more dangerous components and poison both the soil and the water table. Meanwhile, more resources will be mined from the soil – by child slaves in the Congo - to make the components for new smartphones and Servers. Enterprises will pay through the nose for cables that are rendered redundant, for no apparently good reason, every three months. All to please the ever more greedy stakeholders of the Big Tech companies.

Give me a Wildebeest any day!