According to IDG, a large percentage of businesses expect to have workloads deployed in a cloud by the end of this year. Like many others, you may be deciding to deploy in the cloud. But where do you start and how do you migrate to the cloud while removing unnecessary headaches?

Whether you’re migrating ten applications or a hundred, it’s a complex and time-consuming project that requires deep technical knowledge as well as project management experience. Different applications have unique requirements, often sharing dependencies with other applications. Some haven’t yet been cloud enabled and a few legacy systems can’t be moved at all. Moreover, everything must be migrated without disturbing daily business operations.

A cloud migration can be a massive headache for a busy IT department. But with enough time, expertise and preparation, it can be more manageable.

Types of Cloud Migration

Matt Brickey, TierPoint’s vice president of professional services, discussed the various stages and types of cloud migrations in his recent webcast Avoid Migration Migraines, as well as the best approach to planning a migration.

No two migrations are alike, noted Brickey. One difference is what the organization is changing in the migration. There are three basic options: the re-host (or “lift and shift”) of applications to a cloud provider’s hardware infrastructure, usually to save money on in-house hardware; the re-platform in which an application is moved to a cloud platform such as Microsoft Azure or Google’s Cloud Platform to take advantage of new cloud capabilities that are part of the platform; and the re-factor which involves re-architecting applications and infrastructure. Re-factoring is a highly strategic type of migration to prepare for the future, said Brickey.

“Re-factoring is when you want to take the time to be sure you’re comfortable with the environment you’ll be for the next few years,” he explained.

Planning and Executing a Cloud Migration

Whether you’re planning to re-host, re-platform or re-factor, there are three steps that must be followed in a migration. These are:

The cloud assessment

The first important step is to take a complete inventory of IT assets and the technical specifications of the current IT environment. In addition, the assessment must include an evaluation of the goals of the organization and the needs of its end-users. An automated discovery tool such as CloudScape from RISC Networks can quickly scan an IT environment and collect the technical information, or “hard data,” such as software licenses, software platforms in use, hardware assets and specifications, application dependencies, bandwidth and latency metrics, cloud sizing requirements and IP address connections to your environment and their locations, to name just a few. To plan a migration, you also need to have “soft data” that includes information such as the business goals of the project, the needs of individual departments, regulatory compliance requirements, etc. That information can’t be obtained with an automated discovery tool but only through interviews and surveys with stakeholders.

Also Read - The Cloud Assessment: A Cloud Migration Must-Have to Reduce Risk

The cloud migration roadmap

After the assessment, a migration team will design a roadmap for when and how applications will be moved, along with the detailed requirements for doing so. The roadmap is a collaborative process between IT staff, solution engineers, architects, managers and non-IT stakeholders. It will identify groups of applications that share dependencies and must be moved together. It should also include a timetable for migration events so that everyone is aware of impending changes. 

The build and actual migration

Both cloud migration projects and disaster recovery solutions can be built to a similar model. Applications and data are replicated to a test environment where they are extensively tested before going live. When ready, the test environment becomes the production environment, just as in a disaster recovery failover. The only difference is that the newly migrated applications don’t get failed back.

Cloud Migration Use Cases

Companies vary in their enthusiasm for cloud computing and their current level of cloud adoption, so their options for migration will also differ.

Business executives with a conservative view of new technologies are more likely to be wary of major cloud migration projects. They may have on-premises IT systems but are aware that cloud computing can offer some cost advantages. For those companies, moving some applications onto a cloud-based infrastructure—such as cloud storage or servers—can save them the cost of maintaining and upgrading in-house hardware. They own and manage their applications, while the cloud provider has responsibility to maintain the hardware.

charting-a-path-to-the-cloudA more progressive company will already have adopted cloud computing and now wants to upgrade to a hyperscale cloud infrastructure and platform such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Migrating to a hyperscale cloud provider will enable the organization to take advantage of large-scale, geographically distributed processing, faster compute speeds and the ability to scale up or out as needed.

“The aggressive ones are willing to try things out, even if they fail and have to re-factor,” noted Brickey. “They’re already in a hybrid cloud environment so they’re familiar with the various cost models and advantages of the cloud.”

Regardless of an organization’s level of cloud maturity, Brickey advises beginning a cloud migration a year in advance, and more if a large, complex migration is planned. Assessing the IT environment and soliciting feedback from stakeholders and cloud providers is the best way to prepare, he said.

“The more you talk it through with your vendors, application owners, partners and employees, the fewer unknowns you’ll have and the better your process will be,” advised Brickey. “There are so many moving parts and the organizational time is often undersold.”

In addition, most IT departments can benefit from the assistance of a managed cloud services provider to advise, plan and manage a migration. A cloud migration requires both extra time and specialized expertise – something most busy IT departments lack. Cloud services providers are experts in migration and have handled all sorts of difficult or complex scenarios. A provider such as TierPoint can ensure that each stage of the project goes smoothly.

Thinking about migrating to the cloud?

To learn more about the ups and downs of a cloud migration, watch Avoid Migration Migraines. If you are planning a move to the cloud, don't miss this opportunity for a no-obligation roadmap for success. Learn more about TierPoint’s Cloud Assessment.

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