DB Regio Bus has successfully arrived in the AWS Cloud
noventum consulting supports the complex migration with cloud expertise
// Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, IT-Technologie Beratung
DB Regio Bus has largely moved its IT to the cloud over the last four years. In doing so, it implemented a technological target set by the DB Group, which has been pursuing an active cloud policy since 2015. Supporting the IT managers from the regional bus organisations and convincing them to support the cloud project was a major challenge for the noventum consultants, who have been supporting the project since 2017.
"Cloud is a corporate goal"
The DB Bus organisation is part of DB Regio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG. With the cloud migration, DB Regio is following a requirement of DB Systel GmbH. Its Managing Director Operations, Gerald Hofer, had already issued the solution in 2017: "Cloud is a group goal". However, the multi-layered group structure of Deutsche Bahn AG means that many players are allowed to go their own way, especially in the bus segment, and in some cases they do. An essential part of a successful project was therefore to dispel reservations.
Since December 2017, cloud consultants from noventum consulting have been working centrally on the cloud migration of DB Regio Bus. In the nc360° interview, Rainer Pielnik and Stephan Hermann report on their experiences.
After a difficult initial project phase, persuasion was needed
nc360°: The DB Group is a very complex entity and DB Regio, which is responsible for local transport by rail and road, is also subdivided into several parts. Who is your client?
Rainer Pielnik: We work in the bus division for DB Regio. This bus division is subdivided into seven regional companies, each of which has its own IT history and IT policy. Our day-to-day partners are the administrators in the regional companies, but our client is DB Regio.
nc360°: What was the status of the cloud migration at the end of 2017? What was your mission?
Rainer Pielnik: After a difficult initial phase in 2016, the willingness to rely on cloud computing was reserved in the DB Regio bus organisations. Even though the idea of migrating to the AWS Cloud was generally undisputed, it was still necessary to convince the regional IT departments. Our mission as AWS experts was to revive the willingness to migrate to the cloud among the regional companies and to bring momentum back into the process through good examples and practical support. We were not the first external consultants, but we must have done something right. After all, we are still here and together with everyone involved at DB Regio Bus we have almost made it.
Cloud computing - new roles for IT
Corporate management and IT strategists expect great benefits from cloud computing. IT organisational units and individual employees, on the other hand, often fear losing their role or importance (see noventum nc360° article from 2011). This is often the reason for reluctance and scepticism when it comes to implementing cloud migration.
Changed roles in IT accompany the introduction of cloud computing from the very beginning. Cloud provider manager, cloud developer or cloud administrator are just some of the new profiles in which IT employees can find their future role.
Companies should take the concerns of their employees seriously and take action at an early stage.
- Identify necessary roles, skills and processes for the future IT organisation
- Identify skills gaps and
- Secure the future of your own IT organisation with qualification offers
- Strengthen job satisfaction and confidence in the future, not despite but because of the cloud future of corporate IT.
nc360°: What was the challenge?
Stephan Herrmann: Even if it sounds simple: to show through solid and reliable work that it can be done and how it can be done and thus to take away the aftertaste of going to the cloud. Initially, we offered support in the regional companies and were soon able to record a first major success: everyone took part in central planning workshops, something like a joint project developed again.
nc360°: What were the concerns?
Rainer Pielnik: The use of cloud technology always means a change of responsibilities. And if even small migrations don't work well, there are of course technical concerns.
Handing over responsibility for the technical infrastructure to a provider feels like a loss of importance, and that is naturally threatening. It is often not so obvious at the beginning that this loss of responsibility frees up capacities for new projects. According to AWS, the efficiency of administrators working in the IT infrastructure area, for example, increases by 47% when the entire infrastructure has been migrated to AWS. Especially in the case of bus organisations, it is important to note that the on-board background systems are not included in the migration applications. These are systems that run directly on the buses and report data to the head office: Working hours reporting, revenue, traffic, breakdowns, etc. So the existing IT does not go completely to the cloud.
Stephan Herrmann: So the task was to show that it can be done and how it can be done. My first task was migrations of Active Directory and Exchange and we were soon involved in other migrations with four noventum colleagues.
Stephan Herrmann and Rainer Pielnik
Advisors can work in a focused way, but must also convince through quality
nc360°: What is special about your situation as a consultant in this project?
Rainer Pielnik: A migration to the cloud is already a paradigm shift and as the person in charge you are responsible for ensuring that everything continues to run smoothly. For us as cloud consultants, this means: your client must know that you are taking care of things conscientiously and in a goal-oriented manner. Consultants are not all-rounders either, sometimes you may even have to warn or advise against. A bit like in the textbook: If we set deadlines, they can be met 90% of the time. Transparency is the be-all and end-all. We document cleanly and maintain the operating manuals. We don't put empty shells in the documentation. That creates security.
Stephan Herrmann: When it comes to migrations at DB Regio Bus today, we are asked for our assessment or support (planning, discussions with specialist departments, individual coordination tasks). We don't have to be experts in every subject. But we take every task very seriously and if we don't know something, we build up missing know-how or openly say: we have a gap here, maybe we need to call in another expert.
Rainer Pielnik: In our personal approach, we have gained good acceptance for the fact that we also question and check set guidelines, get a picture and only then say something about it. Consultant colleagues who tend to quickly say, "I'll just do it", often produce inadequate results later. In the end, we are faster and deliver better results. We have also generated greater satisfaction among the specialist departments. And that gives appropriate feedback about our work afterwards.
»Thanks to the good cooperation with noventum consulting over the past five years, we have been able to make great progress with the AWS application migration of the Central Region, which has enabled us to support other regions with our experience in a targeted manner. We are now also professionally well prepared for the consolidation of the application landscape in the AWS cloud as the next overarching corporate goal.«
Consolidation follows migration
nc360°: What is the situation in the cloud team today? What are you working on?
Rainer Pielnik: A very good climate has developed in our team with regard to transparency and documentation and the initial concerns have largely been dispelled.
Lift and Shift (rehosting)
Transferring applications and the associated data to a cloud environment via lift and shift, also known as rehosting, means that they are not changed beforehand. The application design remains unaffected.
This pure "shifting" as one of the common cloud migration methods (others are refactoring, replatform, rebuild and replace) offers the following advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of this approach are:
- Fast migration process from on-premises environment to the cloud.
- Compared to other approaches, low planning effort and low complexity, e.g. with regard to architecture images.
- Thus the most cost-efficient approach in the planning and migration phase.
Critical questions about Lift and Shift:
- Efficiency effects of the cloud (e.g. automatic scalability, increased availability and redundancy) may not be fully exploited
- Software licence conversions may be expensive, as existing data centre licences often cannot be used with cloud providers.
- Prior adaptation of architecture and/or code to the cloud environment (refactoring) may be unavoidable in individual cases, especially with legacy applications.
- An application that has been migrated to the cloud via lift and shift may be more expensive to operate than an application that has been adapted (refactored) as part of the migration.
- The migration process can fail if not all application requirements are known exactly and can be replicated (e.g. backup jobs).
Interesting fact - companies enjoy on average almost 2.3 times more features on AWS compared to on-premises environments (https://aws.amazon.com/de/economics/).
Stephan Herrmann: The first task was to migrate all applications from the various regions to the AWS Cloud. In the central region alone, that was about 250 applications. So, as a rule of thumb, we probably migrated 330 applications, some of which were or are available several times. We are 97% finished with this. The question now is: why don't all regions use the same core application, e.g. for personnel planning? With such a question we experience the transition from migration to consolidation.
Rainer Pielnik: The task now is to exploit synergies by shutting down the regional data centres, no longer renting premises and no longer having to maintain servers. This step is now becoming more tangible. I could imagine that at the end of the year perhaps only 1-2 regions will still operate their own data centre.
Stephan Herrmann: But that is not yet consolidation. Consolidation would be developing how to save costs in the AWS Cloud, reduce applications and servers. How do we make it more effective, leaner and easier to maintain? So that the technical operations management can devote itself to new tasks and no longer be buried in day-to-day business.
Rainer Pielnik: In the consolidation phase, we also expect more AWS topics again, where we can lead the way as experts. DB Regio's technical operations management is now building the AWS infrastructure components itself. Our task has been fulfilled. With consolidation, things may look different again, because this is indeed new territory for many.
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