A comprehensive guide to Cloud migration

Why, when, and how to do it right

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The current economic climate is forcing companies to reorganize their systems, infrastructures, and IT operations with minimal resources. Cloud migration proves to be an effective solution.

Today, businesses big and small are using Cloud services to transform their capability, improve agility, optimize expenses, and gain competitive advantage. The rewards of new efficiency are there to grasp, with Cloud offering measured services, on-demand self-services, redundancy, resource pooling, scalability and broad network access along with other technical benefits.

As businesses seek competitive advantage and look to scale, Cloud can increasingly make the difference.

Business-wise, there are several tangible benefits that Cloud migration offer, including:

  • better ROI,
  • scalability,
  • control over IT and application deployment
  • facilitating faster innovation, and many more.

 

In-house, bulky servers that run organization’s software are already passing into oblivion. They are slow, unscalable, vulnerable to cyberattack and, most of all, expensive to maintain and upgrade.

The solution at hand is migration, which allows businesses to part ways with their old servers and deploy innovative business software and applications from anywhere, while freeing up capital, space and time. It’s a shift that transforms IT from a perceived expenditure to a revenue driver by facilitating growth.

However, the failure rate for cloud migrations is still high due to a lack of strategy or an unclear or unachievable roadmap.

Fortunately, there are strategic partners in the market that make it their business to help you assess, plan, stage and manage every aspect of this technological shift.

Yet, before we jump on the subject matter, let’s take a look at modern Cloud stats and facts that look rather thought-provoking.

Cloud computing stats & facts

The public cloud service market is expected to reach $623.3 billion by 2023 worldwide, according to Hosting Tribunal.

Other stats include:

  • 94% of enterprises already use a cloud service.
  • 30% of all IT budgets are allocated to cloud computing.
  • 66% of enterprises already have an in-house or outsourced Cloud team or a Cloud Center of Excellence.
  • On average, today’s enterprises leverage almost 5 different cloud platforms.
  • 50% of enterprises spend more than $1.2 million on cloud services annually.
  • By the end of 2021, the public cloud infrastructure will have grown by 35%!
  • By 2025, the data stored in cloud data centers will exceed 100 Zettabytes.

 

Now that we know that Cloud adoption is being in full swing, let’s get back to the basics and outline the main Cloud services and what types of operations are usually hosted by Cloud services providers.

Available Cloud solutions 

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS is by far the most used one. The software is provided from the vendor to the user. You will not write the software, buy it or install it on your server. The program will be accessible, most of the times, through a web browser.

The user interacts with a program that runs on the vendor’s computer, and what you get is similar to a screen capture of what happens in the provider’s computer.

SaaS allows companies to use the software needed without heavily impacting the organization’s cashflow, as the payment is usually recurring.

One of the limits of this model, if compared to an on-premises management of the software you use, is the strong dependence on the vendor’s capabilities and business continuity: all your data are held by the provider, and the migration from a vendor to another one is often a tricky task to accomplish.

Businesses might benefit from SaaS by freeing up staff time that would otherwise be spent on purchasing, deploying, and maintaining software.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Standardized computing plug-ins such as databases, web servers and CRM systems are available in the cloud. These services may represent complete business offerings, or they can be used to extend cloud-based application. You will not need to worry about the technology stack of your software, its dependencies and compatibility with other programs.

The third-party vendor manages all these factors for you – all you have to do is to contact them and use their services without worrying about the system behind.

PaaS is regularly taken into account for software development and testing.

The main limit of this model is the lack of compatibility with the on-premises systems. This may lead to switching costs or data lock-in if proprietary APIs are used.

PaaS might be interesting for businesses which want an easier way to develop new products because they don’t have to worry about the infrastructure required. It also helps them improve time to market and scale up easily depending on the growth of the business.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Although IaaS shares some similarities with PaaS, it is focused more on managing virtual components like servers, storage, networks, load balancers and firewalls.

With IaaS, the cloud infrastructure is fully managed by the provider, who will take care of all the “bricks” your application consists of. All you have to do is to upload your software through an application programming interface (API) or a specific software development kit (SDK) and it will run on the vendor’s system.

IaaS is mostly used by businesses that want to scale up their IT infrastructure fast or that need a backup solution for their on-premises data. The main limit of this model regards the lock-in risk, as all your services are hosted on the provider’s system and moving them to another one is not that simple.

All in all:

  • SaaS is mostly used by SMBs for sales and marketing automation;
  • PaaS finds its customers among developers thanks to the ability of programming online without taking care of the underlying architecture;
  • IaaS is mostly used by bigger companies to improve their infrastructures, speed up time to market and backup their data.

 

 

Do you need help moving your application or infrastructure to the Cloud?

Cloud migration delivery models

There are several ways for Cloud providers to sell their services. Let’s review some of them.

On-demand service

On-demand, also known as “pay per use”, allows you to start with a plan and scale it up or down depending on your needs. This model is mostly used by SaaS companies with variable costs, when the customer’s payment follows their usage.

Managed service

The provider takes care for everything for you: from the system infrastructure to the software updates and security patches. This model is mostly used by PaaS companies with fixed costs.

Both models above may also include the cost of customizing your software according to your needs, as well as consulting services if required.

Hybrid Cloud

Some businesses decide to use both on-premises and cloud infrastructures to better balance risk and flexibility. This may be done by using a multi-cloud approach, where companies deploy software on several cloud providers to increase availability and reduce costs.

 

Cloud migration tips and best practices

While there are many benefits to going to the cloud, it’s important to proceed with caution. But at the same time, there is a need to hurry up.

Whether your company wants to move a single workflow, multiple workflows, or an entire portfolio, moving from on-premises to cloud IT requires more than just understanding the technology. 

Successful cloud adoption requires cultural change, laser targeting, and an organization-wide detailed plan. One missed step or a forgotten application tucked away in your IT infrastructure can cause costly and long-term delays, disruptions and downtime.

As you read the following key best practices for migrating to the cloud, consider how they apply to your organization.

Assess the complexity of applications and data

The most important factor in determining the complexity of an application is its connections. You will need to map your application’s dependencies to understand what other applications and servers it is interacting with, how often they exchange data, and whether it is bidirectional or unidirectional. Look for tiered dependencies and dependencies between different parts of the organization.

Gather detailed migration requirements through a targeted discovery and assessment process. Understanding what you are dealing with is an essential first step in any migration.

Use rich visualization tools to see every known data point, application, server, and so on, and – and this is very important – how interdependent they are. It would be best if you had a clear understanding of all your applications’ inner workings and dependencies. During the successful discovery phase, information from multiple available sources is consolidated, emphasizing quality and speed. 

As with any data aggregation initiative, information must be normalized, validated, and transformed into an effective “storehouse of truth” to enable predictable change management.

Consider a dual approach

Typically, it would be good if you migrated the least complex applications first. Getting started with complex applications can be a major headache for an organization. 

The mobile workflow provides maximum flexibility (one server, no external storage) – and is easier and faster to move; complex applications require more planning and coordination.

Outline how Cloud operations will be carried out

Define and share a transparent cloud governance model; establish a clear set of roles and responsibilities. 

This will allow you to say, “So, here is our existing management process that allows us to implement a new application and allows business owners to actually do their job.”

Start small, but think big

Once the decision to implement a Cloud strategy has been made, there is often some excitement to quickly begin realizing some of the benefits that the business is seeking. This can lead to you trying to do too much at the same time – planning a business case, determining the scope of change, and formulating a cloud strategy all at the same time will most likely lead to chaos or paralysis of the analysis.

Starting a small project is a great way to lay the foundation for accelerating future cloud adoption and prepare for large-scale cloud migration in the future. 

Identify the core Cloud capabilities needed to support your first project and organize a core team of experts to deliver it. 

After completing the first project, various aspects of your cloud capabilities can be extended to support more complex applications.

Small quick wins are the best argument for future projects and can turn sceptics into supporters.

Create a Cloud migration strategy that addresses both business goals and tech requirements

Just because you can quickly move something to the cloud doesn’t mean you should, at least not until you understand the business requirements, technical requirements, and application dependencies. This includes availability, performance, manageability, security, and recoverability.

  • What are the performance requirements for the application, and what are its dependencies?
  • What other applications and servers does it connect to, and where are they?
  • Will there be any latency issues?
  • Does your HR application integrate with the legacy application?
  • What are the accessibility and security requirements?
  • Can you easily identify which apps have compliance data (GDPR, HIPAA, etc)?

 

Your migration strategy must be based on an integrated approach to understanding all aspects of your applications, which means that the tools and processes you use should help you easily identify and understand those aspects.

Create a robust migration plan with teams, tools, and processes centered around your migration activities

It is important to make informed decisions about which assets should be migrated together. Once you have discovered your assets and dependencies, you can create a roadmap for creating these “move packages” and order your move events.

Make sure you have a platform that effectively assigns, manages, and tracks tasks. Team members should be able to mark their tasks in real time, and tasks should automatically line up as each predecessor completes.

These outdated approaches result in unnecessary interruptions and delays that drastically slow down progress and can lead to errors.

Updating status can also be disruptive, as stakeholders continually review status, consuming valuable resources in an effort to lessen their own fears that all stages are going smoothly. Instead, consider using a shared real-time dashboard with information visible to all relevant levels of management and IT.

Test your Cloud migration project

Testing should be conducted throughout the migration process to identify and fix problems. Our clients have the opportunity to test alternative scenarios and see their impact on application dependencies and overall migration.

At rinf.tech, we have seen many clients turn to us for help after projects have stalled at this stage, when they are experiencing “analytical paralysis” – they do not have all the information to make decisions. Everything slows down to a crawl or stops altogether.

Automate and deploy automation platforms and prepare for massive migration

Think about how you will adapt to new information and even new requirements. Imagine that there are two weeks before your migration, and suddenly there is a new business or technical information that is likely to affect your plan; how do you answer?

It is very common to receive a notification about an addition or deletion one week before a moving event. Can you easily accommodate the change and continue your plan without wasting a second?

At times like this, automated runbooks can enable the team to respond quickly without creating risk and working overnight to review any changed plan elements. These runbooks play an important role in ensuring that all shutdown, migration, and startup procedures are correctly sequenced and replicated in seconds.

Other considerations to keep in mind when planning Cloud migration

As you can see from above, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when contemplating a cloud migration strategy.

It’s important to consider Cloud adoption from a variety of angles and perspectives and dismiss some common misconceptions before moving forward.

Beside the aforementioned aspects, the CIOs also have three other points to consider:

A cloud-first mentality doesn’t mean pushing all company data into the cloud

When companies become too aggressive with their Cloud migration strategy, there is a considerable risk to overspend and underplan. If an application doesn’t need to be immediately refactored for the cloud environment, don’t force it at the onset of data migration because it will lead to increased costs, both direct and indirect.

The “don’t do today what you can do tomorrow” principle

Yes, you usually hear it the other way around, but the highest ROI options should be the primary targets for migration to the Cloud service.

So if you want the biggest bang for your buck, look at things this way: if a current application is likely to have little initial ROI, leave its cloud migration process for another day. 

Security is the corner-stone in the quest for application optimization

Countless events have made the news lately with one major common feature: cybersecurity and data breaches. So bear in mind that it only takes one incident of insecure data to lose the trust of your customers.

Conclusion

As you can see, Cloud migration is not a simple endeavor. There are many moving parts necessary to consider before migrating to the Cloud service. Understanding all of these differences can help IT teams arrive at an optimal strategy for their own unique organization’s needs and resources.

Although this process might seem overwhelming at times, it’s important to keep in mind that migrating to the cloud, when approached strategically and with realistic expectations, is a good thing for your business.

rinf.tech has been helping SMBs and enterprises plan, design, and implement successfully their Cloud migration projects, which has resulted in significant reduction of IT infrastructure maintenance costs, tech debt elimination, higher quality of products, better customer loyalty, and increased revenue.

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