Challenges on Cloud Migration
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Challenges on Cloud Migration

By Ashish Jain, Chief Technology Officer, CalSTRS

Ashish Jain, Chief Technology Officer, CalSTRS

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) was established by law in 1913 to provide retirement benefits to California’s public school educators. The market value of the CalSTRS Investment Portfolio was approximately $233.9 billion as of April 30, 2019.

"Beyond the ability to provide staff what they need to do their respective jobs, it is essential to engage the entire organization at all points during any change by employing best practices in transition management"

CalSTRS’ Technology Services branch, with over 200 staff, is responsible for operating a portfolio of approximately 135 IT systems/applications related to the pension administration for close to one million benefit recipients. We make over one billion benefit payments per month to these beneficiaries.

Business needs are changing at a rapid pace, and to be an effective partner, it is essential for IT to be ahead of these needs. To support growing business needs and to stay competitive, we are adapting to anytime anywhere IT system access, while offering services in a secure, flexible, scalable manner. And we want to enable additional collaboration opportunities.

Nearly two-thirds of the portfolio is hosted in third- party data centers; many in varying forms of cloud solutions. Over the past few years, CalSTRS proactively adopted a cloud first policy, which is especially significant when a new system is needed. CalSTRS’ business goal to enhance its business resiliency has spurred a large-scale migration of on-premise applications to a hybrid cloud. This provides the continuity, recoverability, scalability, elasticity, security and appreciably the flexibility to contain long-term operating cost and improve operating efficiency.

Technological shifts not only impact CalSTRS technology stack but require both business users and IT teams (as the service provider and partner)to continuously adopt and adapt to shifts. CalSTRS Technology branch’s top priority is to ensure staff is equipped with the right skills, knowledge and processes to support the technological shifts. Beyond the ability to provide staff what they need to do their respective jobs, it is essential to engage the entire organization at all points during any change by employing best practices in transition management.

CalSTRS continues to engage with the technology vendor community to ensure our long-term strategy remains viable and effective. Steps we are taking in that direction include:

Kick-off any change using change management best practices to prepare the organization, while promoting participation, collaboration and cohesion.

Re-evaluate and if needed, re-engineer existing processes or develop new processes. These actions are necessary to align and support the on-going operation with a hybrid cloud.

a. Notably, CalSTRS security processes must cover cloud security. Our governance processes must monitor and mitigate any unexpected cloud cost; many Pay-As-You-Go cloud services can incur extra fees.

Perform a thorough assessment and comprehensive inventory of all IT applications, processes, and interdependencies, as well as the capability and capacity of the network infrastructure. This results in a more accurate estimate of time, cost and resources necessary for the migration. It also prepares CalSTRS existing network infrastructure to handle the traffic volume associated with a hybrid cloud.

Select some small, but architecturally significant applications in the beginning, to migrate to the cloud. Prototyping can provide valuable insight to better planning and more accurate estimating of the entire migration effort. More importantly, it gives a better understanding of how processes are impacted and what may need to change accordingly.

Establish a timely systematic training and transition schedule to prepare IT staff to transition to the new paradigm of maintaining and supporting IT applications.

It is critical for CalSTRS to select a data center hosting model that can uphold CalSTRS’ security and privacy standards and ever-changing business needs,while meeting service level agreements. We remain confident in our strategy and the built-in flexibility in our approach to further enhance business resiliency.

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