A practical guide to cloud migration

According to FLEXERA 2020 State of Tech Spend Report, the top three IT investments that organizations of all sizes are considering in the current scenario are digital transformation, cybersecurity, and cloud migration. Another report from Research and Markets says the global cloud computing market is expected to grow from USD 371.4 billion in 2020 to USD 832.1 billion by 2025. There are multiple reasons why organizations are considering and prioritizing cloud adoption. While cost optimization is one of the key reasons, it’s not the ONLY reason.

Businesses know that they’ll have to accelerate their digital strategy to ensure growth in the coming years. Moving to the cloud will provide them the much-needed elasticity, agility, flexibility, and security to achieve and sustain that growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought to the forefront the need for a robust remote workforce -- and that’s another reason cloud readiness has gained additional importance.

The Roadblocks to Successful Cloud Migration


The biggest roadblock that organizations face on their cloud journey is not knowing when and where to start. Therefore, the first step is to learn that there's no "right way" to begin. Next is to define what they want to achieve through this shift. Simply because the cloud looks economical, and there is a pressure to embrace the cloud, many organizations spend a lot of money buying a bevy of features they never use. According to a study by ParkMyCloud, a Turbonomic company, the wasted cloud spends in 2020 will go up to USD 17.6 billion by the end of the year. 

Moving to the Cloud -- Not Just a Lift-and-Shift Process

Organizations struggle to decide where to start from or what to adopt because they have little or no understanding of the different cloud deployment strategies, models, and services and how to apply them in their enterprise ecosystem. A quick overview of these three aspects will help them make a well-informed decision.

  • Cloud deployment models: The standard cloud service models are public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. 
    • In a public cloud, organizations share server space. Most IT services rely on public cloud. It’s considered to be more secure than the internet and less expensive. A third party runs the cloud infrastructure, ensuring easy maintenance, quick scalability, and high uptime. 
    • A private environment is designed to be used exclusively by one organization. In this model, the data center is either available on-premise or off-site. Generally, it is used by organizations for hosting highly sensitive information and is expensive. 
    • A hybrid cloud is a combination of the cloud and on-premise models. Organizations use the on-premise facility for sensitive data, such as research and development data, and store other applications and data for the external audience on the cloud. It’s relatively less expensive than a private cloud instance. 
  • Cloud service models: The standard cloud service models are IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. 
    • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) means migrating the physical infrastructure to the cloud. The best example of this service model is Virtual Machines (VMs). Generally, companies with specific security concerns and high customization opt for this model. 
    • Platform as a service (PaaS) provides a platform to support the complete web application life cycle without building servers, networks, and managing databases. Organizations generally use PaaS to deliver their custom applications to their end-users. 
    • Software as a Service (SaaS) facilitates users to use the cloud-based applications hosted by the provider. This model ensures companies don’t need to maintain the software on-premise and can instead use the software managed by cloud vendors at an affordable cost. 
  • Cloud migration strategies: Once the organization has a clear understanding of the kind of workload they have in their ecosystem and why they want to migrate, the next step is to determine how to migrate. Asking these questions will help them determine the right strategy.
    • Is it sufficient to replace the existing applications with SaaS applications?
    • Is it ok to simply shift the workload from an on-premise setup to the cloud? 
    • Is it better to optimize the existing infrastructure and adopt PaaS? 
    • Do the existing applications need considerable changes for cloud compatibility?
    • Will the existing applications have to be re-coded or replaced with new applications before the migration process starts?

The Only Successful Approach to Migration is the 'Planned Approach'

While a clear understanding of the different cloud deployment strategies, models, and services help in making an informed choice, there are many other aspects that must be thought-through before moving ahead with the migration plan.

  • Decide the 'what' and the 'why': First, identify what workloads should migrate to the cloud and why. These questions will help you determine the right set of workloads.
    • Is everything cloud compatible? Does everything need to be on the cloud? 
    • What's the time frame to move to the cloud? Can you move all your workloads in the defined timeframe?
    • What's the maintenance strategy for the data and applications that don't move to the cloud?
    • What cloud features are must-to-have, good-to-have, and not important for the enterprise ecosystem?
    • What is the migration budget?
  • Determine the 'how': The next step is to determine the most efficient way of moving the identified workloads to the cloud. 
    • Is it better to choose two or more public cloud providers? If cost-effectiveness, flexibility, business continuity, and compliance with regulatory standards are the primary requirements – then probably yes! 
    • Is it ok to move the workload to a single cloud environment for hassle-free maintenance? Vendor lock-in is one limitation that must be considered in this case. 
    • How about moving the workload to a hybrid environment? This option is useful when you want to migrate the workloads as per their confidentiality-level? 
  • Think about the 'who': There are two critical stakeholders in this case: the vendor that helps you migrate and the stakeholders who will be impacted by this change.  Choose a cloud migration vendor who:
    • Understands the organization’s size and setup 
    • Understands the industry and related regulatory compliance requirements 
    • Has proven expertise with the chosen migration strategy and tool
    • Has clear SLAs and defined responsibility model 
    • Showcases excellent customers rating

Sensitize the internal stakeholders by conducting training sessions related to the usage of the cloud. For external stakeholders such as clients and partners – start a conversation about this transition and why it’s important. It will also help pave the way for conversations related to data access and security governance.

  • Consider 'what not': In a bid to embrace all that's trending, many organizations purchase more cloud computing capacity than they need, along with several add-on services from different vendors that they will probably never use. Think about what's not required!
  • Contemplate 'what if' there is a security breach: A healthy skepticism allows everyone involved in the migration process to remain vigilant about the security risks, which in turns results into: 
    • Compliance with industry regulations and defined governance policies
    • Proper setup for protection of user identities 
    • A well-defined process to log, monitor, and analyze a security incident 

Migration Doesn’t Happen Overnight

There is one thing that organizations must understand -- unplanned migrations invariably fail. According to a report by Bloor Research, only 16 percent of data migration projects are eventually successful. The biggest reason for failure, like in all other cases, is lack of planning. Not choosing the right approach, trying to go big too soon, underestimating the human element, and ignoring the security aspects are common but avoidable mistakes that organizations make during the migration process. Choosing the right migration partner, however, can help you prevent these mistakes. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/phloxii

Darren White is the director of cloud advancement at Synoptek.

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