“Cloud Migration Trends: What You Should Know”: Whitney Stewart, Senior Cloud Solution Specialist at Microsoft (Video + Transcript)

September 21, 2023

Whitney Stewart (Senior Cloud Solution Specialist at Microsoft) discusses the typical cloud migration journey (from on-prem to cloud), multi-cloud security and compliance, AI and automation (common trends issues with migration: explain multi / hybrid cloud, legacy system and app migrations, security and compliance consideration, and AI / automation trends common with cloud). She talks about skills services to know, large language models, automation / production services to make life easier, and AI ethics and considerations.


Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Whitney Stewart IG quote Elevate Girl Geek X

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Next up we have Whitney Stewart. Whitney is a senior Azure Solutions specialist. Welcome Whitney.

Whitney Stewart: Thank you so much, Sukrutha. Happy to be here. Good morning everyone. I hope you’re really enjoying the conference today. I’m Whitney Stewart. And the session is cloud migration and trends you should know.

Whitney Stewart: Just a little bit about me and what we’ll cover today. Again, Whitney Stewart, I work at Microsoft as a senior specialist, a senior cloud specialist with a focus on cloud infrastructure. Think anything related to compute, networking or storage, which are essentially the building blocks of the cloud.

Whitney Stewart: I work with digital native customers and ISV customers, software vendors on migrations, migrating them from on-prem to the cloud, or extending their current environment to the cloud, which is multi-cloud. Prior, I worked at Intel as a field sales engineer where I worked on our 5G product, edge compute, IOT designs with customers from build to deployment. Before that in our Technology Manufacturing Group, working with global partners on semiconductor manufacturing and distribution.

Whitney Stewart: Outside of work, I love national parks. I’ve been to 18 of 62 so far. My husband and I love domestic and international travel. Love science fiction, love reading it, love watching it. Super. I’m excited about Dune this coming November and I love all things music. I love festivals and I’m a person who makes a playlist for literally everything.

Whitney Stewart: Originally, from Chicago, but located here in the Bay Area and why I’m so excited to be here. I’ve attended Girl Geek X events and conferences for years. When I first moved to the Bay Area about six or so years ago, Girl Geek X was key for me integrating into the community, learning about the industry and meeting just amazing people who I still call friends today. Really honored to be here and excited to contribute to an organization that’s provided me so much.

Whitney Stewart: Moving on to what we’ll cover today. We’ll cover a typical cloud migration journey for customers. We’ll talk through a traditional migration and then also hybrid and multi-cloud migrations. Then we’ll talk through some common migration trends and then we’ll end on some things you should know with a particular focus on generative AI. Our last Build Conference for developers, we had over a hundred AI product announcements. There’s tons of articles and tons of buzz. As a infrastructure specialist, I really believe in getting rooted in the fundamentals. I’ll share a few things with you from my perspective that I believe would be great to know in this area.

Whitney Stewart: Let’s dive into a cloud migration journey, and this will focus on, again, the traditional from on-premise into the cloud. One key point here I’d like to highlight is a cloud migration is a continuous process that takes a significant organizational change initiatives across people, processes and technologies. There’s a concept called lift and shift, which essentially means rehosting assets in the cloud. And while that’s true, it does imply that it’s a one and done motion when this is a process that takes considerable collaboration and often spans at least 12 to 24 plus months. I just think that’s important to highlight as far as what that migration looks like overall.

Whitney Stewart: I’ll use the principles from Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework CAF to divide the migration process essentially into three sections, the pre-migration, during migration, and then post-migration. So the pre-migration phase, this is really where customers spend or should spend the most amount of time really defining and aligning on what are the key reasons to move to the cloud. Is it cost? Do they have new business models that just require more data? Do they have SaaS offerings that they want to offer? More flexible and more flexible and efficient ways? There are a myriad of reasons, but having those key reasons defined and pulling in all of the right stakeholders across the business. So your application owners, your finance folks, and of course getting buy-in from top end leadership is key. And then once that’s defined and written down, you have your North star. So as things deviate-

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Whitney, we can’t see your slides, are you intending to share your slides?

Whitney Stewart: Oh, I do here. Let’s see.

Screenshot at .. PM

Whitney Stewart: Thanks so much, Sukrutha. Just going back to the session, let me make sure. Going back to the actual migration journey. Talked through a little bit of the pre-migration stage. So essentially aligning getting your North Star to find. The second part of that stage is really taking an inventory of your environment. What are all of the databases? What are the applications? What are the interdependencies? How is information moving through those applications? What is the security posture there? And then defining what are the things that you want to move over, what do you want to leave behind? What are dormant? And of course bringing in all of those stakeholders to ensure you’re moving the things that you’re supposed to and have a really great idea of timeline and cost.

Whitney Stewart: Once that pre-migration stage is done, you really move into during migration, that’s where the pedal hits the street and you really execute on what you planned on. And a lot of what this stage will consist of is the actual migration of data. And that could be through automated tooling, it could be through an actual physical data box where you download information and then move it and rehost it on the cloud. Just depends what labor force a customer has available or what skill sets and how they prefer to move that information.

Whitney Stewart: Even though you have a plan, sometimes things change. So maybe that application that you thought you’d replatformed which is essentially optimized during migration, you might have to refactor, leave it behind, and then maybe replan again. And that’s really critical why having that North Star in the pre-migration phase is really important. So you have that and understand where and why you need to shift.

Whitney Stewart: The last stage is post-migration. This is really when you’ve moved all of those assets over and you start to establish a cadence in your cloud environment and really understand what works, what are your spikes, and then how do you optimize once you get a sense of trend and cadence and also how do you manage and govern the environment wants us there.

Whitney Stewart: I talked a little bit about security, but I did want to uplift it as it’s really, really important. And like I mentioned, I love sci-fi and I think castles are a great way to talk through the concept of defense in depth as a security principle for cloud migration. Defense in depth really is a strategy that is putting security protocols at every layer of a cloud environment. I like to overlay it with the OSI model, which is the standard of how systems communicate because it outlines your all the layers: application, compute, database, networking and thinking of those of the different layers of a system and the different layers of a castle. When you think about a guard and a castle that’s really trying to prevent and think about unauthorized entries. So that would be your access management and your firewalls.

Whitney Stewart: Your watch towers would really be your network security. Watching and detecting for threats and then having actions once that is identified. And within your inner walls of the castle, that’s really kind of where you have your critical data and assets, making sure if anything does get there, those things are encrypted and have those security calls and protocols in place.

Whitney Stewart: The concept sometimes can seem a little bit redundant of having security at every layer, but really when you think about all of the botnets that exist and the pretty successful attempts they’ve had at infiltrating systems and taking unauthorized information, it’s pretty critical to think about this through the planning phase and of course during migration and how you want to optimize your environment for security.

Screenshot at .. PM

Whitney Stewart: Going back to the migration journey, the two other options are hybrid and multi-cloud. Hybrid is essentially when you’re moving some of your assets from on-prem to the cloud, and there are various reasons to do this. Security, there might be business critical workloads that you might want to wait or have a wave migration and really the same principles apply from a traditional on-prem here and that you’re planning, creating that North Star, assessing the environment.

Whitney Stewart: The key difference here is deciding what you’d like to leave behind and then how do you ensure the networking and the dedicated pipes or networking has proximity to your physical data center so that you can move information seamlessly through that on-prem environment and the cloud environment.

Whitney Stewart: For multi-cloud, that’s essentially when you’re extending a current cloud environment and bursting into an additional cloud environment. Again, same principles. The key additional consideration here is what workloads and applications do you want hosted on various clouds? There’s many different ways customers decide to do this.

Whitney Stewart: A few examples of that are maybe hosting your production workloads on one cloud vendor and then hosting your internal workloads or internal applications on another. Sometimes customers partition their various clouds through a region, so they might have a regional vendor in a certain area to get to their customers and then a different vendor supporting a different region. Those are just a few different ways that customers host and kind of design multi-cloud. Those are the few benefits really are having the flexibility to pick different capabilities for the best suit of your needs.

Whitney Stewart: Avoid vendor lock-in, high availability, which is just mitigating against outages, nobody wants that. And then also workload optimization. What are the best solutions across vendors for your particular workload? For example, if you have streaming and you’re really a feature that’s really important to you as storage, but a new feature that’s AI might be really important, multi-cloud just gives you ability to choose across vendors what is the best service for that.

Whitney Stewart: Now that we’ve talked through a few migration pathways, let’s get into some of the trends.

Whitney Stewart: The key trend that we’ve noticed is during the last 10 years of digital transformation, most of that transformation and focus was applied to the application layer. Think of the application as the top of the house. That’s really where a human interface and sometimes machine to machine interface first engages. However, the infrastructure layer was not modernized during that period. And what we see as a result of that is a Gartner study sharing that over 70% of businesses who participated in a digital migration don’t see the full ROI of those investments. And when we really pull back the covers, we see because the infrastructure layer was not modernized during the application optimizations.

Whitney Stewart: Now, don’t get me wrong, the focus on application was amazing. It uplifted the criticality of DevOps, uplifted the concept of microservices and containerization, which is essentially decoupling functionality within an application. Those developments were critical. However, a key part that we missed there is the making sure that the infrastructure layer where data resides was also modernized.

Whitney Stewart: The second migration trend that we’ve noticed is related to multi-cloud. We talked earlier about what that journey looks like for customers and different ways that they design those multi-cloud environments. What we’ve learned from those who have adopted multi-cloud is even though they’ve adopted and integrated additional clouds, they don’t necessarily operate in parity.

Whitney Stewart: Meaning, a customer who’s born or starts with one cloud, they have a workload and basically optimize that workload around that one cloud that they may have started with. Once you introduce another cloud, it may not actually have the same functionality for many reasons. Because it’s new, there’s not as much usage, it has just different features and you have to learn them differently.

Whitney Stewart: A key learning here is even though you might have multiple environments, it might not necessarily mean they’re operating at the same. For product managers, application developers, those who have end user customers, this is particularly relevant for you when you have services you’re developing. You really want them to operate the same across any infrastructure. So this is a way that’s not crises or outage that you can connect with your infrastructure team to ensure, hey, we’re building this service. We want to make sure that it’s optimized across all platforms so that customers who have all different types of cloud can enjoy them at the same level.

Whitney Stewart: Then the last trend is really more targeted towards what workloads were migrated. And what we’ve noticed is within the analytic workloads, most of those workloads that were migrated are more descriptive analytics, basically using current or historical information to identify trends.

Whitney Stewart: Think anything related to dashboards or synthesizing information. As opposed to real time analytics, which is basically taking in information real time and processing it within the context of additional data structures. Think server logs, autonomous driving, fraud detection. When you get a notification if you’re somewhere and they’re asking, Hey, is this charge actually you? Those are all examples of real-time analytics.

Whitney Stewart: Summarizing some of the migration trends and also looking ahead in what is to be expected essentially in the next wave of digital transformation is looking at infrastructure and application getting modernized together so you can optimize the use of these information applications and functionalities. Security across the layers. Again, sometimes it seems redundant, but as far as the increase of infiltrations and attacks, it’s really important to consider how you want to secure your information, whether you have it on-prem, on the cloud or hybrid. It’s a key aspect to ensure that you’re doing what you need to do, but also safely.

Whitney Stewart: From a sustainability perspective, really the concept here is doing more with less and using only what you need. And this is helpful not just from a cost perspective, but from a happy planet perspective. When you look at your workloads and assess how much compute they’re utilizing, things to ask are, do you really need this much horsepower? If you’re using compute, like what type of VMs? Are there different processor architectures that you consider to make sure that you’re getting the performance that you need, but not using any additional power that won’t actually impact performance.

Whitney Stewart: The last point to consider here is inclusive infrastructure. Yes, inclusivity also applies to infrastructure. Essentially what that means is as solution and app developers are developing digital products that are primarily internet based, are you considering giving and providing access to more than one third of the world who does not have consistent connectivity? And partnering, again, with your infrastructure team on, Hey, I want this really awesome service or solution to be available, and how do we make sure that we’re creating accessibility for those who don’t have the consistent infrastructure of the internet and connectivity.

Screenshot at .. PM

Whitney Stewart: Last but not least, sharing additional tools on generative AI. Again, we had tons of information this year and tools and information. I wanted to share a few things that I thought were really important and definitely encourage you to go out, try these tools, learn them, use them, ChatGPT, that’s really using prompt to generate and understand text is based on OpenAI’s large language model technology.

Whitney Stewart: It’s really amazing. Codex is generating code and text from prompt, and then DALL-E is really generating images from prompt and that’s essentially what they look like. And there’s also AI productivity as a traveler. It’s super helpful to see how you can synthesize information and work through it quickly. And these, again, are platform tools. You’re the builders, go out and use them and bring your thoughts to them.

Whitney Stewart: Ethical considerations, really, these are all cool and amazing things, but it’s not just technology. It’s the people that they impact and the people that use them. There’s a really great transparency note that I absolutely would encourage folks to visit on just the OpenAI services, use cases that they’re great for and use cases that you might want to think about, is that actually the best place to use this technology?

Whitney Stewart: With that, we’ll end with always keep learning, please go out, use these tools, learn how to do them, and build wonderful things. Thank you so much and opening it up for Q&A. Do you have any tips on starting a career in cloud and, Sukrutha, you can keep me honest here if I have time to address this question.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, go ahead and answer that one quickly and then we can wrap.

Whitney Stewart: Absolutely. And feel free to reach out for any additional questions. But for this one, I really, again, this is a pretty new space. It’s only really been the last 10, 15 years. I would say go out, talk to folks, have one-on-ones, look at different certifications if there are specific areas within the cloud that you like to get started in. And again, use the tools. In any interview or engagement, they’ll ask, what have you designed, what have you built? And if you’re using them even outside of having a job, that’s just great to be able to add to your resume.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Whitney. This was absolutely wonderful. As you could tell people commenting on your visuals and the content that you shared. So we thank you for your time. Thank you everyone.

Whitney Stewart: Absolutely. Thank you. Bye.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Share this