Tips for successfully migrating to the cloud

Tips for successfully migrating to the cloud
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While reducing cost, risk, and elapsed time

Organizations migrate their custom applications to cloud-based information technology services in pursuit of the following benefits:

  1. Near-instant scalability to meet underestimated workloads.
  2. Added application functionality.
  3. Reduced time to market for a new product or service that is often dependent on achieving the production status of a supporting application.
  4. Outsourced management of the computing infrastructure.
  5. Improved security.
  6. Superior business continuity.
  7. Outsourced software maintenance.

The cloud now hosts a significant share of IT workloads. As organizations expand their use of cloud-based services, they want to improve their migration process to reduce cost, risk, and elapsed time. Here are some tips to improve projects that migrate applications to the cloud.

Migration plan

This tip might be obvious, but unfortunately, some organizations wade into their cloud migration with little or no planning, thinking that the migration amounts to little more than a simple data copy from the on-premise data center to the cloud.

Major topics that the project team should consider in the migration plan include:

  1. Timing and approach to the cutover from on-premises to cloud.
  2. A data migration or data conversion strategy.
  3. An assessment of the suitability of the application to operate in the cloud.
  4. An internal computing environment acceptance test to confirm that workstations, LAN, and WAN are handling the new cloud-based application well.
  5. An application acceptance test to confirm that the software, data, and environment of the cloud service provider are functioning well together.
  6. Operation roles and responsibilities.
  7. Backup and recovery.
  8. Disaster recovery plan (DRP).

Integration complexity

Inevitably, the application you are migrating to the cloud will interface with applications that stay in your on-premise computing environment.

This tip concerns revising the existing application integration to cope with some databases not residing in the on-premise computing environment. This revision will require some:

  1. Architecture and design work.
  2. Software development, testing, and deployment.

Migration-triggered application outage

This tip recognizes that migration to the cloud will trigger an application outage because it is the most straightforward, cheapest, and most reliable approach to performing the migration.

The shorter the outage your organization can tolerate, the more expensive and complicated the migration will become.

In the most extreme case, when no outage is tolerable, some new software will have to be written to replicate all database changes in real-time to both on-premise and cloud-based applications. Often database replication features of the DBMS can reduce the scope and cost of this situation.

Hybrid IT environment

This tip says that you should not expect to migrate your entire application portfolio to the cloud.

Many organizations will migrate only parts of their application portfolio to the cloud for various reasons. They will then operate using a hybrid IT environment that consists of multiple cloud services and some on-premise applications.

One of the consequences of partial cloud migration is that you will create some data silos that you have worked so hard to reduce or eliminate since the 1980s.

People change management

This tip suggests that the migration to the cloud may need to include people change management work. Here are the typical scenarios:

  1. Move custom applications to the cloud. The people change management effort should be trivial.
  2. Move from an on-premise software package to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud offered by the same vendor. The people change management effort will be proportional to the user interface and functionality differences between the two offerings from the same vendor.
  3. Move from on-premise custom application to a SaaS cloud. The people change management effort will be significant because this project isn’t just a migration project: it’s a new software package implementation project.

Regulatory considerations

Some organizations and the personal data they collect are affected by regulations about where data can be stored geographically.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become the global standard in many ways.

This tip says to ask the cloud service provider about the following:

  1. The geographic location where your data will be stored to confirm that you are onside with regulatory constraints.
  2. The extent to which the SaaS cloud is compliant with GDPR.

Security

The cloud service provider secures and manages the computing infrastructure and application service in a cloud environment. You are still responsible for securing access to your data by managing end-user profiles. Both parties have roles in securing the networks that connect the two organizations.

This tip describes this division of responsibility with the cloud service provider in considerable detail to ensure no gaps are left.

Application performance

It’s common to discover that the end-user perceptible online application performance is worse in the cloud environment than in the on-premise environment. The biggest reason for this performance degradation is that the on-premise application relies only on the on-premise LAN. In contrast, the cloud application depends on the on-premise LAN, the WAN, and the cloud service provider LAN.

This tip suggests that conducting significant application performance testing and tuning should be included in the plan for the cloud migration.

Application acceptance test

This tip suggests that no matter how simple you believe your migration to the cloud is, some form of application acceptance test should be conducted.

It’s amazing how much havoc tiny, obscure differences in browser versions, operating system versions, DBMS versions, language and compiler versions can cause. You want to sort out these issues well before you reach production status.

Loss of control

When you migrate to the cloud, you will lose control over many decisions, including hardware upgrades, software upgrade timing, and security policies. Many of us are happy to turn this work over to the cloud service provider.

This tip encourages you to ensure there’s a consensus within your management that the loss of control issue is minor compared to the cloud benefits.

Internal computing environment

Adding a new SaaS cloud service will likely increase LAN and WAN traffic.

This tip says to plan for a network upgrade.

Migration assessment tools

All the significant vendors of cloud services offer a migration assessment tool. If you’re not satisfied with the results, consider acquiring a migration assessment tool from a software package vendor specializing in this functionality.

This tip says to use the assessment tool to its fullest as part of your migration planning process.

Licensing management

Typically, the SaaS cloud is licensed quite differently from on-premise software packages.

This tip says that licensing should be confirmed with the SaaS cloud service provider even when there’s no vendor change after the cloud migration.

By Yogi Schulz

Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, the need to leverage technology opportunities, and mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.

Troy Media

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