Private cloud to public cloud migration gets easier, but obstacles remain

Cloud migration tools are on the market that can address private cloud to public cloud migration issues, but users often choose to go it alone.

Migrating applications from a private data center to a public cloud can be a rocky road, but many cloud customers choose to make their move without the assistance of cloud migration tools.

Cloud migration tools can help users move workloads from private to public clouds, as well as between disparate public clouds, but there are limitations. In some cases, these tools are required for management at the beginning of a cloud migration process; and in others, users doubt a mass-marketed tool can address all of the idiosyncrasies of their particular environments, such as custom applications.

"The tools will only address a very small number of the needs that we have, and for the amount of work that goes into learning how to use them, being an engineering-centric organization, it's easier for us to build our own tools," said Brian Hansen, senior director of operations for Tango.me, a free mobile voice and video call company. It bases some of its infrastructure on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and some on a private data center virtualized with VMware Inc.'s vSphere.

A third-party tool "would have to be amazingly better" than his in-house tools to win his business, Hansen said.

It probably takes us half an hour of actual work to move a system from one side of the country to the other, and we turn it on and then we're done.
Bryan Bondssenior systems administrator, eMeter

Though Amazon offers an import tool for VMs, manual redeployments of applications are often performed during migrations from private data centers to AWS.

Software provider Bluebird Auto Rental Systems, for example, recently moved 200 databases for its car rental customers between Equinix-hosted private data centers to the AWS public cloud, according to Vice President Phil Jones.

Thrifty UK was the biggest database moved, with some 320 users total. It was a process that went on for about a month and consisted of manual checks to make sure the environment was right and all the software loaded, Jones said.

"We did a couple of dry runs with a backup of their database; they did load testing to make sure there wasn't going to be any performance problem on Amazon, and then we set a date to switch them over, so we moved the database a second time," he said.

While this was a straightforward process for the IT pros at Bluebird, it isn't for everyone. More than half of the respondents to a recent TechTarget CloudPulse survey said that manual migration processes are a major hurdle to adopting cloud.

Of 1,297 respondents, 52% said that the biggest challenge to public cloud adoption is application suitability, which forces businesses to rewrite or convert workloads. A lack of interoperability or integration with the cloud provider was also cited as a challenge by 32% of respondents.

Indeed, there are real-world challenges to migrations between private data centers and public clouds, according to Scott Sanchez, director of strategy for Rackspace, which is working on software to ensure workload portability between private and public OpenStack-based clouds this year.

"Enterprises need to have some flexibility around how their networks are configured; they need to have some flexibility about what hardware they purchase, because they all have preferences," Sanchez said.

An enterprise data center may use different storage than a cloud provider, for example. The IP and network infrastructure might be configured differently. These differences present migration challenges unless specific software modules are written into OpenStack to abstract the storage and networking layers of the infrastructure, regardless of type or vendor, Sanchez said.

"We've got portability now between our Cloud Zones and public cloud because we're able to configure them the same, but as we get into a private cloud, part of the balance we have to strike is, where do we draw the line in terms of what customers can change and what they can't change?" he said.

Cloud migration tools lift some burdens, but not all

VMware-based tools like vCloud Director and vCloud Connector can be used to move workloads between VMware-based private and public clouds, but they aren't currently compatible with other hypervisors.

Bryan Bonds, senior systems administrator for eMeter, an energy information division of Siemens located in Foster City, Calif., said his company has recently engaged with vCloud service provider Bluelock, and uses vCloud Director and vCloud Connector to move workloads from a private data center and Bluelock's public cloud service.

From vCloud Director, the system to be moved is shut down, and from within the operating control panel, an administrator will tell it to move the system, and select one of the company's virtual data centers from a list as a destination. With vCloud Connector in place, one of the things that appears on that list is the Bluelock environment.

"It probably takes us half an hour of actual work to move a system from one side of the country to the other, and we turn it on and then we're done," Bonds said.

That is, if the system isn't too large to conveniently be moved across a WAN link. Systems of 100 GB or more are usually copied to an external hard disk drive and shipped to Bluelock, where staffers then import the virtual machine manually, Bonds said.

Tools like CloudSwitch also promise automated migration from private to public clouds, as well as between disparate public clouds. Verizon-Terremark, owners of CloudSwitch, said that the tool has helped customers in the financial services and health care industries move workloads from cloud to cloud, whether private or public.

RightScale and Racemi are two more vendors that offer cloud migration tools. RightScale can be used to deploy virtual machines quickly in the cloud, and can also apply a multi-cloud image beneath virtual machines to be moved from cloud to cloud. Racemi dubs itself "the moving company of the cloud."

Racemi, which is primarily marketed to cloud service providers, starts at a subscription price of $299 for the first four migrations, and charges $249 for the next five; VMware's vCloud Suite, including vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCloud Director and vCloud Connector, starts at $4995 per CPU license; and CloudSwitch starts at $25,000 for an annual license.

Cloud-to-cloud migration can be an even thornier issue than private-to-public cloud migration; see Part two of this story.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing.com and SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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