June 29, 2020

Testing Your Success on the Cloud: POC vs. RAT

Peter Berry

There are a variety of reasons why moving to the cloud is a sound business strategy, but we typically see two in particular that are driving organizations to move off-premises:

  • They want to get rid of legacy infrastructure and modernize IT environments
  • They want to reduce costs by getting out of the data center game

In both cases, there are many technical and business benefits associated with moving to the cloud. But, it’s easy for even the most experienced IT professionals to let these benefits become overshadowed by a cloud (no pun intended) of uncertainties: Will migrations be successful? Will workloads and databases run as anticipated? Will the process cost more in the long run?

The last thing IT teams want is to spend time and money to execute a migration project and run into costly delays or failures. They are protective about moving systems and databases that power essential operations because, if the migration doesn’t go as planned, there could be a detrimental impact on the bottom line.

None of this, however, should prevent a business from moving to the cloud. But instead of rushing ahead, or worse, not moving forward at all—there are steps you can take to minimize risk and ensure your workloads, databases and systems will work properly in the cloud.

Pre-Migration Testing Options

There are several ways a business can migrate, so choosing the right platform approach is key part of avoiding disruption to the business or performance issues. At Navisite, we offer a pre-migration assessment that helps customers assess their options, understand the cost implications and choose the right migration path for their business. Testing is a key part of the process—and one that most organizations we work with choose to do in some capacity.

As with most aspects of moving to the cloud, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But in general, there are two types that are designed to show how your workloads, systems and databases will run in a real-world cloud setting prior to production cutover:

  • Standard Proof of Concept (POC) – A standard POC is helpful for organizations that want to know, on a broad basis, if their workloads and databases will work in the public cloud—Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, for example. In this case, a non-production environment is migrated to AWS or Azure, so IT professionals can test workloads and databases first to make sure they will run as expected.
  • Real Application Testing (RAT) – RAT is a more granular level of testing and is best for companies that require deeper analysis and validation of a specific aspect of technology (e.g., disc performance, CPU speed) or a critical business process (e.g., a payroll or billing run that needs to be completed within a specific timeframe). With RAT, specific workloads are “stress-tested” for performance, capacity, speed or other criteria. A specified process is recorded in an on-premises environment and then run in AWS or Azure against real-word demands to ensure it meets specific technical and user experience requirements. If it doesn’t meet the specified criteria, the results are helpful in identifying how the process can be modified to ensure success.

To summarize POC and RAT in non-technical terms, let’s pretend you want to buy a new car. POC would be akin to test driving the car to make sure it’s comfortable and acceptable on a broad level, and RAT would be like making sure it could complete a fast lap around a professional race track within the timeframe you established as the benchmark for success.

RAT Case Study: Xtime

To give you an example of how RAT works, let’s take a look at a real-world case study. Xtime, a subsidiary of Cox Automotive Inc., produces the leading retention solution for the retail automotive industry. The company’s service experience platform, Xtime Spectrum, helps OEMs and car dealerships increase retention by delivering a premium customer experience.

Xtime’s IT team was tasked with migrating the company’s online transactional processing (OLTP) system—the main database running its Spectrum platform—from an on-premises Oracle database to AWS. Because the system manages the majority of the company’s business operations, the IT team had to be certain, prior to migration, that disk and query response times would be the same on AWS as they were on-premises.

To do this, Xtime started with an Automatic Workload Repository (AWR) report as a performance baseline to estimate the system’s query response time on the cloud. It immediately revealed a key discrepancy—a 1.5 millisecond query return time in the cloud vs. the on-premises speed of 1 millisecond. Through RAT testing conducted with the help of Navisite, Xtime was able to confirm this discrepancy under real-world conditions. The test proved the actual query response time rather than relying on the AWR report as a proxy measure for performance.

With these results, Navisite worked with Xtime to make the necessary adjustments until the RAT testing proved that users would benefit from the same, fast user experience in AWS as they did when the OLTP system was managed on-premises. Given that OLTP is the core revenue-generating system supporting the business, this was a critical finding that had to be demonstrated before moving forward with the migration.

Obtaining Migration Assurance

Pre-migration POC or RAT testing can provide valuable upfront assurance to IT and business stakeholders, and support a successful outcome. However, determining which option is right for your migration really depends on a number of factors, which can be evaluated during the pre-migration assessment process. Some of the key questions to ask include:

  • What type of applications and systems are you migrating to the cloud?
  • How mission-critical are they to running your business?
  • Do you have specific performance criteria that need to be met?
  • Is it a customer-facing application or internal back-end process?

To learn more about how Navisite can support your move to the cloud with pre-migration assessments and tests, download these resources:

About Peter Berry

Peter is the CTO of cloud technologies at Navisite, leading the technical vision and development of our managed cloud services portfolio to support the migration and optimization of customer environments in the cloud. His expertise spans infrastructure and cloud technologies, and he brings over 20 years of project and technical leadership experience across industries and in the public sector. Prior to joining Navisite as the director of AWS solutions, he was the co-founder and CTO of clckwrk, a London-based AWS migration specialist and consulting partner that was acquired by Navisite in 2019. As part of the founding team at clckwrk, Peter was instrumental in building a successful business helping global enterprises throughout Europe and North America migrate Oracle and other enterprise applications into the public cloud.