Getting your house in order: How to start planning for a move to the cloud and SAS Viya 4


Oftentimes, the very thought of moving house is worse than the reality of moving. Sometimes we know we need more space, a bigger garden or a faster commute to work but we delay deciding because it just seems too hard. I see parallels with this every time I’ve moved. I delay the decision as I don’t want the stress and hassle, but eventually circumstances force my hand and a move often must happen without the luxury of time. However, if I’ve done the necessary planning and preparation, the move tends to go smoothly and then I start reaping the benefits and wondering why I didn’t do it earlier.

There are lessons here for when we think about moving data and analytics platforms to the cloud. The technology world never stands still, and transformation and change are constant. With that in mind, spending some time thinking about the why, what, how and when of a move to the cloud and Viya 4 is a worthwhile activity. Even if the answer is not to move right now the exercise will provide useful assets that will help when the time is right.

This article will try and set out a series of high-level considerations to make sure you set out on the journey to Cloud and Viya 4 on the right foot.

Document your current challenges

A good place to start is to take stock of where you are today. What are the key challenges with your current platform and what are there emerging corporate strategies around cloud, data or the open-source ecosystem that will need addressing in the future?

A typical list might look something like this:

  • Concerns on costs of data storage
  • CAPEX cost on infrastructure
  • Cost and operational risks of obsolete hardware / operating system
  • IT Strategy requires the use of Cloud computing when modernising IT portfolios
  • Increased infrastructure costs due to poor visibility of existing workloads and inefficient job allocation
  • Organizational and Data silos that limit re-use of analytics assets
  • Productivity of their analytics teams to meet the demand from the business
  • Lack of governance and oversight on analytical models

Having these challenges documented provides a baseline for a future business case that can assess the benefits of moving to the cloud and Viya 4.

Understand your organisations motivation for change

Motivation for change can vary between different organisations. There will be key outcomes that you wish to meet when considering why you should move to the cloud and Viya 4. A better understanding of this gives your organisation the ability to align behind the key drivers and gives you the focus points for any business case. Motivations might fall into the following areas:

Business Agility

  • Migrating to the Cloud and Viya 4 helps increase your overall operational agility. This lets you react to market conditions more quickly through activities such as expanding into new markets, selling lines of your business, and acquiring available assets that offer a competitive advantage.
  • The traditional deployment timescales and effort for SAS environments are no longer a constraint allowing you to flex when moving the SAS estate to the cloud and Viya 4 and being able to take advantage of cloud-native storage scalability, deployment, and update patterns.

Operational Costs

  • Key considerations of operational costs are the unit price of infrastructure, the ability to match supply and demand, and having transparency over infrastructure spending.
  • Data and analytics platforms can be expensive to run and maintain with storage typically 80% of the overall cost of infrastructure – simple considerations including infrastructure rightsizing and introducing alternative storage options provide the ability to review storage technologies against business needs, matching SLA and performance requirements with operational costs.

Workforce Productivity

  • Typically, when moving to the cloud productivity is increased by two key factors: not having to wait for infrastructure and having access to the breadth and depth of cloud services that you would otherwise have to build and maintain. In fact, it is common to see workforce productivity improvements of 30-50% following a large migration.
  • Automation significantly reduces the effort against SAS deployment timescales and utilising the SAS Viya low code/no code interfaces boosts data engineers' and data scientists' productivity

Cost Avoidance

  • Eliminating the need for hardware refresh programs and constant maintenance programs are the key contributors to cost avoidance. Most organisations now have no interest in the cost and effort required to execute a big on-premises refresh cycle or a data centre renewal. Moving the SAS estate to the cloud and Viya 4 allows you to realise these benefits more quickly.

Operational Resilience

  • The ability to provide services and meet compliance and availability requirements gives more options to solve traditional issues such as lifecycle management, performance, availability, and ensures business continuity and disaster recovery.
  • On-premises SAS deployments can sometimes be maintained and operated poorly with organisations scared to make operational changes to their environments for fear of introducing business risk. A move to the cloud and the Viya 4 cloud-native architecture can help deliver a fresh opportunity to ensure resilience across infrastructure, software and data.

Map out the high-level benefits of moving

By spending some time analysing the current challenges and the key motivations for a change, it is possible to produce a prioritised list of benefits and recommendations that are the most relevant to your organisation. An example might look like the following:

Rank Business priority Benefit How the benefit can be realised with Cloud & Viya
1 High Secure; governed and compliant analytics Migration decisions can be triggered by security vulnerabilities that can’t be effectively patched; hardware that has become obsolete & reached the end of its useful life. These concerns can be removed by moving to SAS Viya and phasing out its on-premises support.
2 High Transparent and trusted analytics Responsible AI and the overall management of analytics is becoming more important to organisations with the increased adoption of analytics. This is in part due to the negative impact on a company’s reputation that can happen from the poor management of their analytics. SAS Viya allows you to utilise frameworks such as ModelOps to achieve the appropriate oversight of models and decisions.
3 High Reduce data storage costs and increase processing speed by using Cloud native storage There is a much wider set of data storage options that can be exploited within cloud-native architectures, and these can provide a better balance between cost, availability, and performance, for example, the use of object storage (S3, ADSL Gen2, etc.) or cloud-native databases (e.g., Synapse, Snowflake, RedShift etc.)
4 Medium Increase analytics productivity and ROI By allowing users the choice of language and access to low code/no code interfaces with which they can develop analytics, their productivity will rise. Additionally, highly skilled data scientists can spend more time on the tasks that require their attention because manual, repeated tasks can be automated as part of the open platform.
5 Medium Future-proof IT infrastructure and processes SAS Viya supports modern ModelOps deployment processes with cloud-native software deployment techniques. For example, Modern software development and deployment paradigms: A microservice architecture that facilitates fail-over support reduces system downtime. Modern, open APIs are readily available to interact with other software to help achieve wider ecosystem integration. A container-based architecture results in a scalable environment that is easily transferable across public, private and on-premises deployments in a cost-effective manner.
6 Medium Address skills and resources shortage The right talent is defined by the technology available for people to use, as well as being able to leverage the skills already available to the customer internally. By providing an open platform that democratizes analytics, customers have the choice across all talent in the marketplace, whether it be Python, R or SAS Data Scientists or low-code/no-code business users.
7 Medium Leverage cloud and hosted services to reduce CAPEX Organisations have a choice on how they want to deploy SAS to reduce CAPEX. SAS software can be provided through the SAS Cloud, public cloud or on the infrastructure of choice with remote managed services being available to look after the platform.
8 Low Increase operational efficiency By reducing the dependency on data scientists through democratizing analytics to support low-code/no-code users, organisations can spread the analytical requirements across a wider user base - reducing the need to pay for high-cost, specific skill sets.
9 Low Reduce technical debt and obsolescence SAS Viya is a cloud-native technology that leverages CI-CD software updates. This means no need to migrate to new versions or have software outages for updates.
10 Low Oversight of analytics targeted to business outcomes SAS Viya unifies model governance with a centrally managed repository that allows simple and efficient model deployment to a range of destinations including containers and APIs. Organisations can centrally manage all their analytical models and related assets, over time and compared to other models, while ensuring traceability and governance.

Next steps; getting into the detail

By following these considerations, you can create a baseline for any move to the cloud and Viya 4. The next step is to gather more detailed, granular information that allows you to establish the relative feasibility and complexity of the move as well as the outline approach and its associated costs.

Just like moving house, the process of moving to Viya can be broken down into a sequence of logical steps and considerations.

To help with gathering the necessary detail, SAS provides a rich content assessment framework that analyses your current environment. It creates a detailed inventory of SAS content (jobs, reports, models, OLAP cubes stored processes etc.) and even analyses SAS code to establish what can be moved to Viya as-is and what elements might need to change. The code analysis goes right down to the exact line numbers in individual programs that will need to be changed (e.g., identifying where it finds hard-coded paths) and can even automate the changes. By gathering this detailed information, it allows for a comprehensive assessment to be created that can even be used to create fixed-price proposals that provide certainty and reduce the risk of any future move. SAS can also help with establishing the business case for change. We can bring to bear TCO calculators and a variety of business value templates that can help accelerate the process of getting organizational buy-in for a move to the cloud and Viya 4.

Please contact your SAS account teams if you want more information and a further article on this topic will be released shortly.

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About Author

Doug Green

Technology Lead, SAS UK

Doug works as a technology adviser within its Public-Sector organisation at SAS with a focus on Enterprise Analytics platforms and cloud deployments. He works with customers on how best to deploy SAS products and solutions across public, private and hybrid cloud deployment models to help maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of our public services.

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