In Part One of the series we gave a brief introduction of cloud infrastructures and the three cloud computing options. We will continue this discussion the strategies, processes and solutions needed for a successful cloud migration.
Cloud Migration Strategy
Planning at the migration stage is crucial. You need to consider the following elements as you build your migration strategy:
What resources do you have within your organization that can assist in the design, development, deployment, and ongoing management of a cloud computing solution? Having a competent IT staff to assist with planning is crucial for several reasons. They probably have the greatest understanding of what the current environment contains. They will also be the ones that will investigate and troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the migration.
Hopefully you have your current environment documented. This consists of your network, application architectures, interdependencies, communications, security, disaster recovery (DR), and business planning continuity (BCP). If you have any industry specific requirements for data, this would be important to maintain within your strategy, especially if you are planning on using a public cloud provider.
This may sound counterintuitive since the cloud is supposed to save money, but additional costs can accumulate during the evaluation and migration process. Some of the cost will come from hours spent on the evaluation and documentation of your strategy. Adding the cost of the cloud environment will initially increase your budget until you decommission your in-house environment, because you will be maintaining two environments. If you are utilizing a hybrid cloud, your costs will be dependent on what you migrate to the public cloud. In the long run, you will save time and money utilizing any of the three types of cloud environments.
Over half of companies are still identifying IT operations that could move to the cloud, however more than one-third have already identified their operations.
- IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Study 2014
Depending on the scope of your migration and various other factors, the timeline you set for each phase of the project will be critical to the success of the overall migration. For example, you cannot rush the initial assessment or planning phase and then expect the deployment phase to run smoothly. Each phase is critical. You need to consider other factors, such as availability of resources, other major projects within your and your client’s environments, and any other special events which may delay or put undue stress on your timeline.
Recommended Process for Success
Let’s assume you have all of the needed resources, documentation, and funding for your migration. What is the ideal methodology for implementing your strategy? Well, that depends on what your organization is comfortable with.
The Scrum process for cloud migration is recommended due to its iterative approach. This process has been shown to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, any issues that may arise during the process, while providing an effective, collaborative solution.
Cloud Migration Solutions
The areas that are covered in this document only explain very high level concepts and strategies for a cloud migration. A typical engagement regarding cloud computing can consist of the following:
- Current Infrastructure Review / Documentation
- Cloud Computing Strategy Development
- Migration Planning
- Project Management / Oversight
- Design Development
- Cloud Computing Training
- Resource Planning
- Deployment / Integration Services
At each phase of the process, utilize industry standard management and documentation practices. Templates, tools, and knowledge will enable a successful migration.
Mapping of your existing environment to what is available in a cloud-based environment is important during the initial phases of the project. You must understand how each virtual device, geographic location of your servers and those that will be accessing them, as well as the configuration of your databases and application load balancing servers. Couple this with encryption (if needed) caching and logging, and you have a complex system that can only be accessed remotely, which means you need to have an in-depth understanding of your environments.
Migrating your environment includes defining how your environment can be adapted to a deployment-based infrastructure. This allows you to create environments that are stored as templates. These templates allow you to quickly spawn new deployments (multi-server environments) as needed. You can update these templates easily, greatly improving the process of staying current.
A Brief Example
Let’s say you have several datacenters located in multi-geographical locations and each of these environments is running an application that relies on a replicated database deployment. By breaking this down into its parts, you can start to build out how this would look in a cloud environment.
For example, you would look at how your front-ends, middleware, and back-ends could be consolidated. Depending on your applications, you could use load balancers and caching servers to serve information faster. Your databases could be consolidated into a replication farm which utilizes high speed connections to your cloud based farms throughout the world. For graphically heavy applications, you can create your own private CDN (Content Delivery Network) to create edge-based delivery of requested content.
The options are limitless but in order to realize the benefits of moving to a cloud-based environment, you must know how to optimize your designs and infrastructures so that your overall costs are minimized. This can translate to the way your server deployments communicate across network segments and geographies, to how often you transfer data.
Improved Performance & Cost Savings
Maximizing the return will depend on your organization’s commitment to cloud-based infrastructure. Simply moving your environment to the cloud will not ensure gains in performance. You will need to put the proper SLAs and SOPs in place, as well as change the way you currently manage your infrastructure for the largest gains.
Consistent performance and availability must be a key attribute for vendor solutions.
- IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Study 2014
As with anything, continuous improvement is an important element in maintaining an efficient environment. Quarterly, if not monthly, reviews of your cloud-based usage and configuration will prevent orphan deployments from consuming costs. Orphan deployments are running deployments that do not need to be. Without management oversight, you can quickly acquire runaway growth which will eat away at your overall savings. Governance and compliance have to be managed carefully to ensure success. Build a cost and performance improvement plan with projected targets based on information you provide. With this, you can plan your costs as well as efficiency gains for projecting future needs.
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