While on-premises data center technology isn’t going away any time soon, cloud computing is an alternative with many appealing benefits, including scalability and agility. As a result, many enterprises migrate their applications and data to the cloud. But before your organization takes that leap, there are a few points to consider.
Moving enterprise data and applications outside the firewall and into the cloud is no small feat. To ensure everyone within an organization is on the same page, cloud migrations typically require an in-depth sales pitch that covers costs, tools, security, governance and talent, among other considerations.
Here are seven tasks that should be on your cloud migration checklist.
1. Consider the application or data
While the promise of improved flexibility and scalability makes cloud migrations seem like a can’t-miss venture, not every application is right for the cloud. Legacy applications, mission-critical workloads and sensitive data — such as credit card information — may not be suited for the public cloud. However, to take advantage of cloud computing without jeopardizing mission-critical information, enterprises can use either a private or hybrid cloud as part of their data center migration plan.
It’s also important to consider the amount of resources each application uses. Public cloud platforms offer multi-tenant environments by default, which means applications share resources. And while autoscaling in the public cloud scales resources up or down based on demand, noisy neighbors can be an issue. High spikes in demand can also run up bandwidth costs and hinder performance.
2. Evaluate costs
Many organizations move to the cloud because it’s cost efficient. Cloud migrations reduce hardware and IT staffing expenses. However, the financial benefits differ for each application. Any application with unpredictable demands — such as mobile applications — yield a greater return on investment when moved to the cloud. But applications that use legacy enterprise hardware — such as earlier versions of an Oracle database — might actually become more expensive to run as cloud-based apps.
Meanwhile, hidden expenses can be an additional burden for enterprises migrating to the cloud, so organizations need to plan for network and bandwidth costs. Although there are pricing calculators to track cloud costs, such as AWS CloudWatch, Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator and Google Cloud Platform Pricing Calculator, accuracy is often an issue.
3. Choose your cloud environment
Application and cost considerations weigh heavily on organizations as they contemplate a data center migration to the cloud. But choosing the right deployment model is just as important on the cloud migration checklist. The four options you can choose from are:
- Public cloud: a multi-tenant environment that enables access to compute resources over the internet or through dedicated connections.
- Private cloud: a dedicated environment in which an enterprise runs cloud services within its own data center and uses proprietary architecture.
- Hybrid cloud: a mix of private and public environments in which workloads can move between clouds via orchestration.
- Multi-cloud: generally, it refers to a mix of two or more public cloud IaaS environments.
An enterprise’s choice largely depends on its goals. Public cloud provides a scalable environment with a pay-per-usage model, which can control costs. However, it may not be the best place for sensitive workloads, which are better suited in private data centers where there is additional control and security.
For those that have a mix of mission-critical workloads and apps that require the scalability of cloud, hybrid cloud offers the best of both worlds. Enterprises can have control over the sensitive workloads on premises and take advantage of public cloud scalability for workloads with occasional spikes in demand. However, there can be performance and connectivity issues.
Lastly, multi-cloud is beneficial for enterprises that want to avoid vendor lock-in and maintain the ability to pick and choose from multiple provider services. Multi-cloud models give users more redundancy options in which a one cloud environment can fail over to another provider’s platform. However, this model requires more management and a wide range of skill sets from staff.
4. Choose a cloud service provider
The next item on your cloud migration checklist should be to find the right provider. The top three choices for public cloud are AWS, Microsoft and Google. Enterprise goals and workload types should dictate which one to select. And while they all offer comparable services, they’re not all the same. When you compare public providers, some key areas to look at are:
For private cloud, some of the most popular vendors include VMware, Nutanix, OpenStack, Dell EMC and HPE. Some important factors to consider when choosing this type of provider are:
- Integration and interoperability
- Technology familiarity
However, the most popular service providers aren’t necessarily the best fit since they generally aim to meet a broad set of needs. For example, if an enterprise has a specific vertical market — such as healthcare — it may opt to go for a more niche provider that better understands and supports compliance for HIPAA.
5. Rethink governance and security
A cloud migration can often disrupt an organization’s governance strategy. For example, governance methods that worked for traditional on-premises systems probably won’t work for cloud-based applications. And, as organizations move data to the public cloud, more responsibility falls on the shoulders of the cloud service providers. Therefore, organizations must shape their governance strategies to rely less on internal security and control, and more on their provider’s offerings. Enterprises should also ensure their providers’ certifications are up to date.
Security concerns are a common deterrent for organizations considering a cloud migration, so it’s important to plan ahead for potential breaches, failover and disaster recovery. However, any additional security tools or services can increase overall cloud costs.
6. Prepare for cloud-to-cloud migration challenges
Cloud migrations aren’t just a transition from on-premises technology to the cloud; they can also migrate data from one cloud to another. These cloud-to-cloud migrations include moves from one provider to another, as well as migrations between private and public clouds.
Cloud-to-cloud migrations can involve considerable manual labor. To prepare for migration from one provider to another, enterprises need to test their applications and make all necessary configurations for virtual machines, networks, operating systems and more.
7. Define your cloud migration strategy
Once you’ve considered your data, costs, security and the challenges of cloud-to-cloud migrations, it’s time to come up with a migration game plan. An important aspect of this plan is deciding what to do with leftover on-premises technology. In some cases, an enterprise can repurpose hardware to avoid letting it collect dust.
Organizations need to determine migration timeframes for their data and applications. While some choose to migrate everything to the cloud all at once, this can be a challenging — and risky — proposition. It’s often more effective to break the migration down by workload, starting with less critical applications.
After taking all of these factors into consideration, determine whether a cloud migration is your best option. Overall hardware and infrastructure investment, as well as application performance and other issues, should be evaluated in any decision. Cloud computing encompasses a rapidly evolving set of technologies and many organizations are reaping its benefits, but it’s still not for everyone.