An increasing number of enterprises and organizations view migrating some of their IT workloads to the public cloud as not just an intelligent choice, but as pivotal to their IT strategies.
There is, however, a need to ensure a smooth cloud migration. Previously, we helped you prepare for the hybrid cloud, and this article describes the motives for moving to the public cloud. Important considerations before migrating include potential cloud migration challenges, and eight best practices to make sure you get your cloud migration right.
Why Migrate to the Public Cloud?Going by industry-projections alone, LogicMonitor’s Cloud Vision 2020: The Future of the Cloud Study predicts that 41 percent of enterprise workloads will be run on public cloud platforms by 2020.
The public cloud is a computing model in which third-party providers make computing resources and services, such as virtual machines, applications, databases, and storage, available and accessible to customers via the public Internet. While it’s unlikely that on-premise workloads will become completely obsolete due to the explosion in cloud adoption, the numbers are hard to ignore.
However, the main arguments for moving to the public cloud are slightly more nuanced than noting that everyone else seems to be doing it and simply following suit. More specifically, some of the more compelling benefits of the public-cloud model are:
- Reduced costs - Using IT resources such as public cloud services and paying per use leads to dramatic cost reductions with none of the upfront capital expense required by on-premise equipment.
- Business digitalization - the public cloud allows organizations to alter and optimize their business and organizational activities by leveraging a mix of digital technologies.
- Focus on value - the public cloud removes several of the more time-consuming activities involved in managing your IT infrastructure and platforms, outsourcing them to a service provider, which allows your business to focus on creating value, innovating, and driving revenue.
- Business agility - companies must be able to react quickly to challenges and opportunities, and the public cloud provides the means to achieve this agility. Business can rapidly provision, de-provision, and scale infrastructure/resources as needed for specific projects.
Challenges of Cloud MigrationDespite the obvious numerous benefits of migrating to the public cloud, there are several important challenges to bear in mind before you make the move. Some of the more pertinent challenges are:
Minimizing DisruptionGiven that organizations often cite a single hour of downtime as costing over $100,000, it’s crucial to conduct any public cloud migration in such a way that disruption of applications is minimized. If users or customers can’t properly access apps or data, your operations suffer and costs quickly mount.
Security and ComplianceWith new stories emerging all the time highlighting major data breaches, there is a real need for organizations to ensure not only that the data they move to the cloud is secure, but also that they remain compliant with relevant regulations in moving to the cloud.
Wasted Cloud BudgetGiven that one of the main draws of the public cloud is the service model’s cost reduction compared to provisioning on-premise infrastructure, it’s worth noting that in some studies, cloud users have given estimates that up to 30 percent of their organization’s cloud spend has been wasted. It’s clear that the public cloud is only as cost-effective as you make it.
Skills GapThere is a skills shortage in terms of personnel capable of securing cloud environments and ensuring that cloud migrations go as smoothly as possible. It’s not enough to have people who understand IT security because public cloud security requires knowledge of the major platforms and their nuances, such as AWS and its identity and access management.
Check NetApp’s article on cloud migration strategy for more on the challenges and steps involved in a public cloud migration.
Best Practices for Cloud Migration
1. Map Out a Migration StrategyA best practice you can’t ignore is to begin by mapping out a migration strategy that identifies clear business motives and use cases for moving to the cloud. Perhaps the most advisable strategy is to migrate in phases or conduct a pilot light migration in which you start with the least business-critical workloads that can give you the experience and confidence to move forward with a larger migration.
You could also borrow from Gartner’s five Rs that highlight your options for migrating applications to the cloud. These options are rehost on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), refactor for platform as a service (PaaS), revise for IaaS or PaaS, rebuild on PaaS, or replace with software as a service (SaaS).
2. Create a Cloud Governance FrameworkGiven that compliance and security are among the top concerns for organizations moving to the cloud, it is critical to create a cloud governance framework with clear, policy-based rules that help organizations to prepare for a secure cloud adoption.
Cloud governance is an extension of IT governance that takes into account the inherent risks of trusting data and apps to third-party services. It defines ways of doing things - tools, procedures, skills, and competencies - so that the company migrating to the cloud can do so with minimal risk and maximum value.
Good cloud governance incorporates a wealth of things such as structures, roles, responsibilities, policies, plans, objectives, principles, measures, and a decision framework.
3. Optimize the NetworkThe default network used by public cloud providers is the public Internet. Some organizations, such as large enterprises, might worry that the Internet is too slow and not secure enough to meet their business goals.
Some third-party public cloud providers recognize that an Internet connection might not be the optimal choice. AWS, for example, offers a dedicated network connection to its infrastructure from company offices. Azure has its ExpressRoute service that establishes a connection directly between your network and Azure, bypassing the Internet.
If a dedicated network connection is not necessary, it is still worthwhile to pursue a better, faster service from your Internet Service Provider given that moving to the cloud encompasses users transitioning from accessing data or apps locally via gigabit-speed local network connections to much slower Internet connections.
4. Train Staff EarlyBecause companies often cite a lack of cloud expertise or a cloud skills gap as barriers to migration, it makes sense to train staff in your chosen cloud platforms as early as possible. Due to the level of abstraction the cloud introduces and the inherently different design of public cloud systems, it might be wise to establish a series of training sessions designed to get employees across different teams up to speed in cloud concepts.
By training staff early, you can give them a better chance of adapting to the new ways of doing things in a timely manner.
5. Properly Manage Software LicensingIt is vital to properly manage software licensing in the cloud. A real concern for enterprises is whether their existing licenses for on-premise software extend to the cloud. Some software vendors operate a Bring Your Own Software and License (BYOSL) program that gives enterprises express permission to migrate their applications to the cloud. Other vendors specify usage rights per number of concurrent users.
A solid approach is to document all enterprise applications and closely study their licensing rules in relation to cloud computing. In circumstances where it is unclear, talk to the vendor to see if existing licenses you have purchased can be updated for the application to be used in the cloud. Software Asset Management (SAM) tools can prove useful in reducing risks, costs and complexities associated with extending license management to the cloud.
6. Automate Where PossibleDowntime or service disruptions are not desirable outcomes for any cloud migration strategy. To minimize disruption and improve the overall efficiency of the migration, it is an important best practice to automate repeated patterns where possible. Automation not only speeds up the process of migration, it also lowers both cost and risk.
There are even tools that aim to help you automate the migration of virtual machines and data. Scripts can also prove useful, such as when you need to change a database from an on-premise one to a cloud version. Automation and the phased cloud migration approach can work in tandem, as you identify repeated patterns over time that you can automate in subsequent migration phases.
7. Monitor Cloud UsageYou should monitor cloud usage from the outset if you want to avoid adding your company’s funds to the statistic of 35 percent of cloud budgets that are wasted. A centralized dashboard that identifies running instances across different cloud services can really help you out here.
Monitoring for compliance and security is also crucial, and you’ll ideally want to collect logs from apps, systems, databases, and network touchpoints to ensure information security requirements are being met.
8. Leverage Service Provider SupportIf you’ve done your due diligence on researching cloud service providers, you’ll have factored into your decision - or at least you should have factored it in - the level of support you'll have. A good support team can provide a critical ally during any cloud migration project. Cloud support staff are experts in the particular service they work for, and they should be able to promptly answer technical questions or help you with any issues you have.
Wrap-upIt’s becoming increasingly clear that if businesses of all sizes want to remain competitive, they should be looking to migrate some of their workflows to the public cloud. Actually conducting the migration in a smooth and efficient way is no small feat, though. By following the best practices outlined here, your company increases the probability of doing it right.
Limor is a technical writer and editor at Agile SEO, a boutique digital marketing agency focused on technology and SaaS markets. She has over 10 years' experience writing technical articles and documentation for various audiences, including technical on-site content, software documentation, and dev guides. She specializes in big data analytics, computer/network security, middleware, software development and APIs.
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