These days, nearly every organization has some workloads in the cloud. According to Forbes, 83% of enterprise workloads will live in the cloud in 2020. However, for many, their cloud experience is limited to SaaS applications and environments managed by the application vendor. A move to the cloud might be a daunting, yet necessary, next move for many businesses. In this post, I’ll share some insights from my experience with clients moving to the cloud.
What to Expect When You Move to the Cloud
If this is your first move to the cloud from on-premises workloads, here are a few thoughts on what you should expect.
1. Lots and lots of planning time
The execution and the migration of the data is the easy part. But all successful cloud migrations are the result of hours upon hours of planning. Almost without fail, I find that organizations moving workloads to the cloud for the first time are most surprised by the amount of planning that goes into it.
If this is your first time moving workloads to the cloud, I highly recommend reaching out to a qualified provider of migration services who can assess your cloud readiness and help you do the proper planning. Even if you take an active role in the migration, a knowledgeable guide can save you a mountain of headaches down the road.
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2. Accountability at every level
Few things are worse than the finger-pointing that can happen when a cloud migration goes awry. Especially when the issues are caused by misunderstandings that could have been avoided by assigning ownership to specific tasks and deliverables during the planning process.
During the planning phase with our customers, we’ll break the migration down into hourly, task-by-task responsibilities. This document must be approved by members of the project team before we even begin. Then, once the migration is underway, everyone knows who is doing what and when.
But most importantly, accountability starts with your executive sponsor(s). If they aren’t providing the proper support to ensure the project goes as planned, it’s difficult to enforce accountability for day-to-day tasks.
3. A frank discussion about legacy applications
When we talk about moving an application from an on-premises environment to the cloud, we’re often talking about applications that weren’t initially architected for the cloud. That doesn’t mean you can’t migrate them, but it does mean you need to plan carefully before you take the first step.
This is another common mistake made when migrating legacy applications to the cloud. You can’t assume you can just pull the application up by its roots and replant it in the cloud. (This is often referred to as the “forklift method” or “lift and shift.”) For older applications, this can cause some pretty significant performance and security issues.
After discussing the challenges with customers, we’ve had some decide to pause their migration project while they took the time to refactor their application for the cloud or replace it with a newer, cloud-ready solution. While replacing an application adds to the upfront migration time (e.g., it takes time to select a new solution and migrate data), it saves time on the back end because the new application is cloud-native.
Because these applications are designed for the cloud, they perform better in that environment and have built-in safeguards against many of the most common security threats. Plus, patches for newly discovered cloud-related security vulnerabilities aren’t something you’re likely to get from your legacy application vendors.
Refactored applications aren’t necessarily cloud-native, but they are at least likely to be more cloud-friendly.
4. A phased migration
There is almost no such thing as a standalone application anymore. For example, your ERP system may be feeding information into any number of point solutions. In turn, they may be feeding information back into the ERP system. Moving a workload to the cloud without considering these dependencies is a recipe for disaster.
During the planning phase, we talk with business leaders and IT about dependencies between applications, but we also use a tool that checks for dependencies. It’s amazing how often we find dependencies that were undocumented or that everyone had overlooked.
Then, we group these applications into migration phases so that nothing is broken as we move application groups to the cloud. Often, we’ll start with the least mission-critical workloads, e.g., dev test environments, so that we’re uncovering most of the unexpected hurdles with a workload for which downtime is less of an issue.
5. Some downtime
One of the most frequent questions we get when organizations move to the cloud is “How much downtime should I expect?” There is always some, but the answer depends on the complexity of the workload and the migration method chosen.
When we migrate workloads, we often use the same technologies we use in our disaster recovery solutions. Our choice for which method to use is based on elements such as size and complexity of the workload. But as importantly, we factor in the organization’s recovery time objectives (RTOs) for each workload.
Thinking about it this way has another added benefit. Almost invariably, disaster recovery becomes part of the migration discussion, and often, part of the final migration plan.
6. A dry run
Before we migrate workloads, we run through the migration using a replica of the data in an isolated network. This allows us to discover any unforeseen problems and validate our assumptions.
One of the more memorable instances of where this really helped was with a customer in Europe that wanted to move workloads to one of our New York data centers. During the planning and testing, it turned out their bandwidth and connectivity wasn’t quite what we’d been led to believe. Had we started that migration, it would have taken months, so we quickly went back to the drawing board and came up with a revised plan.
Are you considering a move to the cloud?
These are some of the most common things to expect, but keep in mind that not all cloud migrations are the same. They largely depend on your workloads and business. If you are considering a move to the cloud, a good place to start is a cloud readiness assessment.
Want to learn more about cloud migration? Contact us today.
Ryan Collins is TierPoint's Senior Manager of Cloud Migration within the Professional Services team. He works directly with businesses every day on their cloud assessment and migration planning.