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The cloud provides a great opportunity to modernize IT infrastructure and gain operational efficiency through cloud-native design practices, DevOps, containers and more. However, moving to the cloud isn't easy.
Cloud migrations can bring unexpected results and unforeseen consequences. In some instances, IT teams aren't initially aware something is amiss. To avoid these issues, cloud admins should familiarize themselves with common cloud migration problems and mistakes.
Not building a strategy
Too often enterprises jump into cloud migrations without a concrete plan.
"Cloud success begins with a defined cloud strategy … that communicates a clear vision and change management plan," said Samir Datt, a managing director at consulting firm Protiviti. Without this upfront effort, organizations risk being adrift without a clear goal or direction.
An enterprise should also know why it wants to migrate. It shouldn't move just for the sake of moving, and IT teams must understand if the shift will really benefit the business. "There should be a meaningful driver, maybe the need for greater availability, a desire to move cost from CapEx to OpEx or a need for greater scalability," said Mike Lombardo, principal at consulting firm Maven Wave.
However, some applications are often better off staying on premises. For example, some mission-critical, high-throughput, low-latency applications or applications that include data that has strict geographic stewardship requirements -- such as under GDPR -- are among those that could be problematic in a cloud environment.
Once you evaluate your applications, you need to prepare for the new technologies available on the cloud. Enterprises won't fully utilize these platforms unless they're in a modernization mindset -- such as scaling out, introducing containers or using infrastructure as code. Pick the right services to manage, monitor and optimize your processes and workloads.
Additionally, don't forget about the IT staff. The evolution from traditional server-based infrastructure to virtualization and then to cloud involves several mental leaps. "The cloud requires you to adjust your mindset and be open to ways of doing things differently," Lombardo said.
Rushing the migration
Many IT pros think these migrations are as simple as hosting workloads on a new server that just happens to be in the cloud, said Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, a PC support site. But there are many steps and activities involved.
Samir DattManaging director, Protiviti
Organizations often start their move with non-mission-critical applications, which are typically the easiest to migrate, Sriram Subramanian, research director at IDC, said. However, that should only be their starting point.
Enterprises may need to refactor some applications to function as cloud-native or distributed applications, and that transition can require even more time, Subramanian said.
In those cases, migrate data and applications in phases, Sherman said. That approach not only mitigates risk but also helps track down issues. "If you move it all at once, you're left debugging the entire application when an issue arises," she said.
Likewise, avoid siloed efforts within your organization to minimize cloud migration problems. "[Similar to] most transformative initiatives, a key to success is involving a cross-functional team to consider the strategy, organizational goals and financial models," Datt said.
Don't look at cloud migrations from just an application or workload perspective. That could lead to potential costs like data management and cloud egress charges being insufficiently examined or considered.
Not considering the cost
Understand all the factors that contribute to billing before making the move, since cost management changes can lead to problems post-cloud migration. Cloud platforms often appear cheaper than on-premises options, which require substantial upfront investments, said Stephanie Snaith, managing director at Gradient Consulting.
Cloud services are generally billed once a month, or follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model. However, users must factor in hidden fees, and additional support and training when they build their budget.
It's also important to anticipate how much time could go into a migration, said Subramanian. As a consequence, consider automating the migration as much as possible to keep things on track and minimize impact on staff and operations.
Failing to secure data
Security practices need to change once data is moved to the cloud. While assets are normally well-locked down, it is easy to inadvertently create vulnerabilities in the cloud since a lot of security controls are set by the customer.
"As soon as you start saying, 'I need some more access,' that can be too much access and leaks can happen," Lombardo said. Changes to improve access for a specific purpose are often made at scale, which can magnify risks for users.
"What makes it tougher, especially in the public cloud, is that all clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles," Lombardo said. Therefore, knowing those practices up front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later.