Once you’ve decided that cloud migration is right for your organization, it’s time to figure out what steps will make it happen. As with most things in IT, this is easier said than done. 95% of IT pros have migrated critical applications or infrastructures to the cloud before, but that represents less than 10% of their organizations’ portfolios.
In other words, many companies are trying to move to the cloud, but they are unable to successfully move the majority of their applications. Cloud providers do provide guidance, but cannot be relied upon completely. Your own cloud migration roadmap is necessary to ensure success and enjoy the efficiencies and competitive advantages the cloud can bring.
In late 2010, Gartner detailed 5 R’s of cloud migration that have since been turned into six common strategies used in the industry. Your cloud migration process will almost certainly draw from one or more of these items, as each could be applied to different elements of your infrastructure or various applications. Use this quick breakdown to get in the right frame of mind during the early stages of planning your migration:
Rehost – Dubbed the “lift and shift” approach, this is popular when looking to migrate a large legacy system quickly. It redeploys applications in the new environment which will likely produce some instant benefits, but it will also require optimization work after the move.
Replatform – Somewhat similar to the above, replatforming entails making some optimizations during the move while leaving the core architecture of an application unchanged. It takes more time up front, but better primes the new environment for success.
Repurchase – If you have certain HR, CRM, CMS, or other product that you’re looking to upgrade, especially to SaaS platforms, then purchasing a new one already optimized for the cloud can be the right move on a case-by-case basis.
Refactor/Re-Architect – While it’s the most expensive and labor-intensive option, redesigning your application for complete cloud optimization is where the biggest cloud benefits are found. If your business seeks to add features and performance that didn’t exist before, this is an exciting way forward.
Retire – Some applications simply aren’t necessary anymore, and yet they’re sitting around company servers. When parts of your IT portfolio are no longer needed, retire them before needlessly moving them to the cloud with everything else.
Retain – Cloud migration isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor. Some of your applications just won’t make sense to migrate and are operating at peak performance as-is, so consider leaving those alone.
Reviewing common cloud migration strategies provides a strong foundation for conducting a complete audit of the technology in your organization. It’s imperative to be clear on the scope of your migration, and that takes understanding every piece of hardware or software that will be affected. The issue is that various departments within an organization will implement certain software programs or platforms that don’t affect other departments at first glance but make a difference to an overall cloud plan.
A holistic view of everything going on in technology stacks is essential so they can be accounted for, no matter how minor or isolated a program might seem. It’s the only way to determine which strategy to apply to achieve full productivity. Communicate with all departments, look at your network connections, and determine whether your current infrastructure and hardware can handle the cloud. Leave no stone unturned in order to maintain an accurate grasp of what the migration will entail and ultimately cost.
Integration cannot be undervalued during a cloud migration. As you assess your setup and determine which strategies to employ, understand that you’ll need an overall architecture that takes all integrations into account. Moving to the cloud isn’t just adding a new aspect into your business; it creates a new environment, and it’s necessary to know which legacy systems or applications will work together smoothly. Google provides a number of excellent integration questions to ask:
What are the interdependent applications? SAP, Citrix, custom/in-house apps?
What are the interdependent workflows? Messaging, monitoring, maintenance, management, analytics?
Where is the database and storage located? Separate servers, co-located servers? Is storage block or file-level?
Any other services to analyze? Web services, RPC used either inbound or outbound, backup services/locations in effect?
Other questions to ask: Unique dependencies, manual processes required, synchronized downtime/uptime with other apps?
A cloud migration is a major project that can be compared to remodeling a house. Before starting construction on a bedroom, you’d secure your valuables to ensure they don’t get damaged. In a cloud migration, the same thing happens by backing up all vital documents. While cloud migrations are very safe, what happens if your entire block loses power in the middle of transferring your data?
Not only is backing up data prior to a migration a best practice, but it can also help you understand the full scope of the project and might uncover hidden sources of data missed in an initial cloud assessment. This may take more time and resources, but it makes everything that comes after it easier and more secure. As you consider security further, keep these three tips from Cisco in mind:
1. Store the most sensitive data on-premises, using either a hybrid cloud or a private cloud
2. Manage your own security keys so your service provider cannot decrypt your data
3. Select a cloud service with configurable data residency to ensure data is stored in a certain geographic area
The cloud migration process isn’t just flipping a switch; it takes time. Not everything you want to move to the cloud can or should be moved at the same time. Prioritization is key to allow certain applications to run while others are migrated, providing some consistency and continued operation in your business during a time of great change.
Some companies may even operate in a hybrid model for months before completing their migration to cause as little disruption as possible to their business. That’s not to say you can’t move to the cloud faster; you can, it will just take more resources and talent. When thinking about your migration timeline, consider Google’s suggested order for migrating applications:
Tier 1: Opportunistic – The first applications to migrate should be the ones that can provide the most immediate ROI and are often more expensive to continue running on-premise than they will be in the cloud.
Tier 2: Minimal Risk – Evaluating applications by thinking about interdependencies, the number of employees relying on them, and their importance to the business can determine which low-risk apps to migrate earlier.
Tier 3: Ease of Migration – Determining which applications are standardized and most straightforward for migration is a standard practice, and depending on your Tier 1 and Tier 2, your Tier 3 applications could even be migrated sooner.
Tier 4: Customizations – Applications that were built in-house or by third parties specifically for your organization’s pre-cloud environment will need extra consideration and modification, and should be moved last (if moved at all).
As your operations move to the cloud, testing becomes a top priority. It sounds simple, but cloud migration testing entails much more than just one simple action; it necessitates testing during the migration, at the end of the migration, and on an ongoing basis as part of your cloud maintenance and monitoring strategy. Neglecting any aspects of testing is how vulnerabilities appear and go undetected until a breach occurs.
Assess the integrity of your cloud architecture through functional testing, performance testing, integration testing, front-end and back-end process validation, stress and load tests, end-user engagement, and more. As you continue testing into the future, bear in mind that cloud-based test automation tools are often cheaper, faster, and more collaborative than the tools you may have used in the past.
The act of migrating your business to the cloud represents a significant undertaking. There’s so much to consider just to get onto the cloud that business leaders often forget about ongoing efforts for streamlining, maintaining, and accelerating over time. Ultimately, your success or failure in a cloud migration comes down to support. Who has the knowledge and skill set to get this done right? Whether that means internal employees or a third-party consulting firm, this question may be the most important of all.