A comprehensive look at the path to cloud migrations
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While on-premises data center technology isn't necessarily on the brink of extinction, cloud computing is a relatively new option with many benefits, including scalability, agility and cost efficiency. As a result, many enterprises migrate their applications and data to the cloud. But before taking that leap, there are many 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.
To craft a successful cloud migration strategy, here are six tasks that should be on your checklist.
1. Consider the application or data
While the promise of improved flexibility and scalability make 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 for their data center migration strategy.
It's also important to consider the amount of resources each application uses. The public cloud is a multi-tenant environment, 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 an app's 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 demand levels that randomly increase or decrease, 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 be more expensive to run in the cloud.
Meanwhile, hidden expenses can be an additional burden for enterprises migrating to the cloud, so organizations need to plan for network and bandwidth costs. And although there are pricing calculators to track cloud costs, such as Amazon Web Services CloudWatch and Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator, accuracy is often an issue.
3. Choose your cloud flavor
Application and cost considerations weigh heavily on organizations contemplating a data center migration to the cloud. But choosing the right cloud environment is just as important. And while public, private and hybrid clouds all have benefits, determining which model best meets their needs is an important step on the cloud migration path.
Public clouds, such as those from Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google, provide a highly scalable environment with a pay-per-usage model -- but there's a flip side. Due to lack of control and multi-tenancy, highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, are poor fits for the public cloud.
Private clouds offer more control in an on-premises environment, but management falls upon the organization's shoulders. Unlike public cloud users, private cloud users are responsible for security, performance monitoring and more. And although a hybrid cloud offers the best of both cloud worlds -- a mixture of private and public cloud services with orchestration between them -- performance issues like latency and dependency can still arise.
4. 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 the cloud. And, as organizations move data to the public cloud, enterprise control decreases and more responsibility falls on the shoulders of the cloud providers. Therefore, organizations must shape their governance strategies to rely less on internal security and control, and more on their cloud provider's offerings. Enterprises also should ensure the provider's certifications are up-to-date.
Security concerns are a common deterrent for organizations considering cloud migrations, 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.
5. 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. However, the migration process from private clouds to public clouds can be difficult. While third-party tools -- such as those from Accenture or Racemi -- are available to help, there is no comprehensive tool to handle the entire migration process. Therefore, some enterprises choose to architect their own services.
Additionally, cloud-to-cloud migrations 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.
6. 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. One 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 simply collect dust.
Organizations also 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. The cloud is a rapidly evolving technology and many organizations are reaping its benefits, but it's still not for everyone.
Nicholas Rando is assistant site editor for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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