Top 10 Questions on Cloud Migration with Darryl Prebble

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Darryl Prebble, Divisional Vice President, Data & AI Platform at a large retailer. I asked Darryl about his recent cloud migration to Snowflake, the lessons he learned and how our automation technology was used to accelerate their cloud migration.

Darryl Prebble Snowflake

Clara Angotti: Good morning Darryl, thank you for joining me today. As you know many companies are just embarking on their cloud migration. In fact, in a recent survey that we completed of over 1,000 IT professionals, the majority (87%) do not have workloads & applications running in the cloud. And a large percentage, 34%, are still in the early stages of defining their business case to move to the cloud and overall cloud strategy.

Your experience in migrating a large retailer is a great testament to your leadership and vision. I wanted to ask a few questions about your cloud journey, what advice you can share to others, and of course, I am intently interested in how our product SHIFT™ was used in your cloud migration.

So, let’s get started with my top 10 questions.

1. When the large retailer embarked on their cloud migration, what was the main driver for this move?

Darryl Prebble: The discussion began with end-of-life on-premises hardware. This quickly shone a light on the quite honestly startling cost savings that were attainable in moving to the cloud. Once we realized that these savings came along with simplicity and greatly improved performance, the decision was simple.

2. I am sure you have some great lessons that you learned - can you share any of them with us?

Darryl Prebble: Don’t fall into “analysis paralysis”. These environments are too large and too complex to map out every single detail. There is enormous value in just getting to the cloud and decommissioning old hardware. Using a phased approach, you can then optimize and re-engineer as you see fit once you're there. The phrase, “Lift & Shift” is very dangerous because it can lull people into thinking this is a simple task - avoid it. That said, try to minimize re-engineering efforts in the migration phase as much as possible to ensure a successful migration.

3. I know you used our automation tooling, SHIFT™ - can you tell us why you selected our products and how they performed for you?

Darryl Prebble: Moving to the cloud is extremely daunting because it's not just a migration but a code conversion as well. Given the end-of-life hardware date hanging over our heads, we knew we had to be very aggressive. The automation capabilities of SHIFT™  were a game changer. Without SHIFT™, we quite simply could not have met the given timeline.

4. Snowflake has a lot of market and mindshare in the industry. How was your experience with this cloud data warehouse?

Darryl Prebble: The team still talks about Snowflake like it was a Christmas present. They're in awe of its capabilities, and it's been nothing short of revolutionary on how we conduct our operations. From data sharing functionalities to never again having to worry about a limited resource pool of storage or compute, the experience has been enormously positive.

5. What was the biggest surprise from your migration project?

Darryl Prebble: It forced us to shine a light down every dark alley of our environment which exposed inefficiencies and bugs we didn't even know existed. It was like getting re-introduced to our own environment. Blockers and issues arose that we could never have foreseen, which is why I said earlier you really need to just get moving on a project like this. Anticipate that you will have issues and build-in time to deal with them. Don’t waste time at the beginning trying to predict the unpredictable.

6. What were the biggest hurdles that you had to overcome?

Darryl Prebble: I'd say 20% of our environment took 80% of our time. Most things converted very well but the things that didn't took a lot of re-engineering. It's a different environment and you have to be prepared for some challenges. Having the support of experienced partners in these types of projects is absolutely key to being able to react in a timely manner and keep the project on track.

7. What would you say to companies that are considering a move to the cloud, but have trepidation about making the jump?

Darryl Prebble: That trepidation is natural. I certainly felt it myself though I have zero regrets about it now that it's done. Within one year we were up and running in production in the new environment. Arm yourself with the right tools for the job, and that includes supporting partners who have done this before. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

8. Getting people at your company familiar with a new way of doing things can be challenging - how did you manage ‘change management’ in your organization? 

Darryl Prebble: Getting a very small MVP up and running was instrumental in helping people see what was possible. It's not enough to toss features at people - they need to see it. Then it becomes more of an exercise in encouraging people to be a part of the process so their interests are protected. You need to move the conversation past the "are we or aren't we" phase and into "be involved and be a partner in this".

9. When all is said and done, did you achieve your goals in moving to the cloud?

Darryl Prebble: Unequivocally. Thanks to an incredible dedication and desire to accomplish this task from our team and the support of knowledgeable, experienced partners like Next Pathway the project was an enormous success. We achieved major cost savings along with incredible performance gains while working with a very aggressive project timeline.

10. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

Darryl Prebble: We put too much faith in automated testing. Leaning harder on our partners for testing and sign-off would have spared the crunch time at the end of the project. There is no substitute for having experienced people around who have done this before.

Clara Angotti: Darryl, this is fantastic information to share. I wanted to extend my sincere thanks to you for your valuable insight.

For more information on how we accelerate enterprise migrations to Snowflake, download our Snowflake Migration Guide here.