With the increasing popularity of cloud computing, many businesses are turning to cloud migration to take advantage of the scalability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility of cloud services. In this article, we will delve into the elements of cloud migration, including the types, processes, benefits, and challenges that organizations may face when transitioning to the cloud. Additionally, we will explore the potential impact of cloud migration on businesses and the future of cloud computing.
What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving an organization's data, applications, and systems from on-premises servers to cloud-based servers. This can involve transferring data, configuring applications for use in the cloud, and implementing security measures to protect data in the new environment. Cloud migration allows businesses to take advantage of the scalability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility of cloud computing services.
Why Cloud Migration is Important
Cloud migration allows businesses to treat computing as a utility and only pay for the resources they need. However, this process can be complex, and not all workloads are suitable for the cloud. It is important for businesses to have clear goals and business use cases before starting a cloud migration. Successful cloud migration requires careful planning and testing to ensure the workloads are secure and performing as intended. While it can be challenging, evaluating and approaching each workload individually can lead to successful and beneficial cloud use.
Key Benefits of Cloud Migration
Not only can cloud migration reduce costs in the long run, but it also offers a range of benefits for businesses.
- Improved Agility and Flexibility - With the ability to easily scale resources on demand, businesses can deploy and manage workloads more efficiently without the need for large infrastructure investments.
- Improved Scalability - The cloud can quickly provide additional resources to meet the demands of a workload without the need for new hardware or platforms.
- Room for Innovation - The cloud allows businesses to try new designs and test workloads without risking large investments in local infrastructure.
- Reduced Local Resource Demands - By hosting non-critical workloads in the cloud, businesses can reduce the strain on their local data center and potentially avoid costly expansions.
- Long-Term Cost Management - While the cost of the cloud may not be significantly lower than a local data center, the shift from large capital expenses to smaller monthly operational costs can help with budgeting and forecasting.
- Improved Workload Performance - With multiple regional data centers, the cloud can improve performance for global workloads by hosting them closer to their users while complying with data sovereignty and other regulatory requirements.
Cloud Migration Strategies
Cloud migration is not a one-size-fits-all process. There are three main types of cloud migrations - lift and shift, re-platforming, and refactoring - each with its own unique approach and advantages.
Lift and Shift
Also known as rehosting, lift and shift is a direct approach to cloud migration. This involves moving a workload and its associated data from a local environment to a cloud provider's infrastructure. For instance, a virtual machine (VM) and its storage volume can be easily and quickly redeployed to the cloud if there are minimal dependencies and little impact on business operations.
Some workloads may not be suitable for a simple rehosting approach. Enterprise workloads can be complex and have multiple dependencies, so a business may decide to adjust and improve its performance in a public cloud setting. For instance, instead of deploying a copy of a database, a company can use a compatible database service already available through the cloud provider. However, this re-platforming process may be more challenging, time-consuming, and require additional testing and validation compared to rehosting.
Refactoring is the process of redesigning a workload to optimize its use of cloud resources and performance. This involves completely reworking the workload, potentially utilizing cloud-native services like serverless computing or containerization. For example, a large Virtual Machine (VM) can be transformed into a microservices application using Kubernetes, allowing for better scalability and cost efficiency. Refactoring is a more advanced and time-consuming type of cloud migration, typically used by companies with a strong focus on cloud-based workload design and deployment.
Cloud Migration Deployment Models
There are four deployment models for cloud migration and three major categories to be considered for cloud deployments. Enterprises can choose between the following cloud deployment models:
- Public Cloud – Where the cloud allows many users to access resources through the internet or dedicated connections.
- Private Cloud – Where all data is kept in a data center using proprietary architecture.
- Hybrid Cloud – Elements of both public and private clouds are combined, allowing for the transfer of data between the two environments.
- Multi-cloud – With more than one cloud provider, the company would utilize IaaS services from multiple public cloud providers.
In addition to selecting a cloud model, there are three main categories of cloud services to consider for deployments:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This model offers users access to computing, storage, and other services such as firewalls and load balancers, allowing them to create a customized infrastructure for their workload in the cloud.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS offerings provide users with specific or integrated capabilities that eliminate the need for them to deploy and manage those capabilities themselves. Examples include a cloud-based software development platform or a container deployment and management platform.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS involves using a cloud service to access specific applications, such as Microsoft Office 365 or Concur, for expense reporting. With SaaS, the responsibility of developing, operating, and maintaining the application falls on the provider rather than the business.
It should be noted that a business can utilize all three cloud categories in a combination that best fits their specific needs.
The Process of Cloud Migration
The steps enterprises follow for cloud migration are based on various factors, such as the type of migration needed as well as the resources the enterprise wishes to move. Below is a checklist of common elements that help ensure a successful process.
- Understanding the Purpose of Cloud Migration. The first step in the cloud migration process is understanding the purpose behind it. This means clearly defining the business objectives and setting expectations for the project. It is important to have at least one tangible and measurable reason for the migration, and if there is none, it may be best to pause the project and reassess.
- Determining the Target Application(s). The second step involves assessing the current environment and identifying which applications are suitable for migration based on business, technical, and compliance factors. It's important to keep in mind that not all workloads are suitable for the cloud due to potential issues with performance, security, or compliance. Additionally, a migration does not have to be a complete overhaul and can instead be done in smaller, individual projects. It may be beneficial to start with simpler, low-priority workloads to gain experience before tackling more complex or critical ones. It is also important to include all dependencies, such as related databases, in the migration project.
- Choosing a Cloud Target. Once an application has been selected for migration, the business must determine the best cloud deployment model for its needs, such as public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud, as well as whether to use IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS. This decision will depend on factors such as the complexity of the workload and the desired outcome of the migration.
- Selecting a Proven Cloud Helper. It is crucial to carefully evaluate potential cloud partners to ensure they have a strong reputation and will remain in operation in the long term. This may seem overly cautious, but in the world of cloud computing, the track record of a provider is crucial. It can be extremely disruptive for a business to suddenly learn that their essential provider is shutting down, leaving them to hastily search for alternatives with potentially negative consequences.
- Evaluating Costs and Needs. Moving to the cloud incurs costs, so it is important to consider the cost of migration. This may include monthly fees for software-as-a-service, per-user fees for platform-as-a-service, and various expenses for infrastructure-as-a-service resources and services. As cloud costs are ongoing, businesses must budget accordingly for both the migration process and ongoing support.
- Choosing the Appropriate Cloud Architecture. While the architectures for Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service are mostly established, and their costs can be easily calculated, creating an infrastructure design for a workload in an Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud environment can be difficult, particularly for complex and scalable architectures.
- Creating the Migration Plan. This involves determining the timeline and approach for the cloud migration and outlining the steps to be taken. The plan should include preparations for transferring data, validating dependencies (such as databases), migrating the workload to the intended target, and conducting thorough testing and validation. A clear process for transitioning from the local workload to the migrated cloud workload should be established.
- Performing the Migration. Once all preparations and plans are in place, the business can begin transferring data and workloads according to the migration strategy. This is when the actual movement and thorough testing occur. It is important for business and technology leaders, as well as workload owners, to monitor performance and security during this process. In some cases, it may be prudent to run the local and cloud workloads simultaneously for a brief period, gradually increasing the number of users on the cloud workload until it is fully validated and can replace the local workload.
- Monitoring and Reporting. It is common for cloud workloads to have performance monitoring tools in place to track their availability, accessibility, health, and performance. Stakeholders should ensure these reporting services are active, and the workload is meeting the established key performance indicators.
- Following Up. After a cloud migration, there may be some changes and adjustments needed. From a technical standpoint, resources previously used by the local workload may be freed up or shut down to save costs. At the business level, the migration of a workload to the cloud could result in staff being reassigned to new projects. For instance, transferring a custom workload to a Software-as-a-Service offering could allow developers to work on different tasks. Continued monitoring and adaptation may be necessary to ensure the success and efficiency of the cloud migration.
Challenges of Cloud Migration
During the migration process, the company may face potential issues and challenges during or after the process. Below is a list of potential issues that may arise, as well as ideas to mitigate these problems.
- Potential for Excessive Costs. Unlike traditional data centers with fixed costs, cloud services operate on a pay-per-use model, which can lead to fluctuating expenses. Unforeseen high service utilization or unplanned application growth can result in unexpected and unprepared-for expenses. Therefore, cost planning is essential in cloud architecture, and it is beneficial to have a professional cloud architect with experience to design a secure plan and set scalability limits to prevent unexpected expenses.
- Lack of Cloud Strategy. Many organizations make the mistake of seeing cloud migration as a transformative process and blindly following the trend without fully understanding its implications. However, the true transformation comes from how cloud services are used to benefit and improve the business. This is why having a well-developed cloud strategy is crucial for a successful migration. Without a clear plan in place, the migration is likely to fail. A good strategy should involve understanding the current infrastructure and the target cloud, anticipating potential obstacles, and creating backup plans for any issues that may arise. The key is to have a comprehensive plan that addresses the purpose, goals, methods, and potential challenges of cloud migration.
- Application Performance. Some applications may face challenges in the cloud, such as latency issues, security concerns, or compliance difficulties, despite being expected to perform better in this environment. It is crucial for IT leaders to identify the reasons behind these problems and address them accordingly. In some cases, the higher costs or underperformance of an application in the cloud may not be due to the application or the cloud itself but rather the fact that traditional application architectures are not optimized for the computing, storage, networking, and other services provided by a public cloud environment.
- Application Sustainability. It's important for managers to carefully evaluate their on-premises applications and consider both business and technical factors when deciding which ones to move to the cloud. For instance, a critical workload with sensitive data may need to remain on-premises due to business considerations such as compliance and data sovereignty.
- Lack of Cloud Exit Strategy. Another potential challenge of cloud migration is the lack of a solid exit strategy. This involves planning for the possibility of moving applications and data out of the cloud and back to on-premises or a private cloud environment. IT managers must consider various factors such as data storage, technical transition, and any legal or business implications. It is crucial to test the application before and after the repatriation, as any adjustments made for cloud benefits, such as horizontal scaling, may no longer be applicable once the application is back on-premises.
- Migration Failures Being Temporary. A failed cloud migration does not necessarily mean it is permanent. In most cases, the application can be reassessed and potentially redesigned before being migrated back to the cloud, increasing the chances of success. It is important to evaluate the changes made before the initial migration and determine if returning the application to its original platform is a feasible option. However, some applications that have been re-platformed or refactored for the cloud may not be able to go back to traditional on-premises infrastructure. In these situations, it may be necessary to try migrating to a different cloud provider or implementing updates and patches before attempting the migration again in the future.
- Poor Design or Provisioning of Infrastructure. The success of a cloud migration can be greatly affected by poor infrastructure design and provisioning. It is crucial to have a well-designed infrastructure that includes the necessary resources and services for the workload, such as virtual compute instances, storage volumes, networking components, and support services. Failing to properly design and provision the infrastructure can result in performance problems or even a failed migration. For example, one common mistake made by cloud administrators is selecting the wrong instance type. It is essential to allocate the correct amount of CPU and memory resources, and ensure sufficient network connectivity for data transfer. A successful cloud migration often requires the expertise of experienced and well-trained cloud architects and engineers who can understand the specific requirements of the workload and design the most suitable cloud components for hosting it.
- Lack of Staff Training. Having a well-trained and knowledgeable staff is essential for a successful cloud migration. Managing applications in the cloud requires a different skill set compared to traditional data centers and virtualized resources. This is particularly important for data security, as the approach may need to be adjusted for the cloud environment. Employee training should be a priority, considering the skill sets of each individual and ensuring they are capable of handling and managing cloud services. If there is not enough time for thorough training before a migration, it may be beneficial to hire an experienced AWS partner to oversee the project.
Frequently Asked Questions
Organizations with a strong focus on cloud-based workload design and deployment should consider cloud migration. Additionally, those that have a well-developed cloud migration strategy and the resources to properly design and provision the infrastructure should also consider this process.
The cost of cloud migration can vary depending on the size and complexity of the workload, as well as the specific needs of the organization. It may involve costs for training, hiring a cloud partner, and potentially redesigning the workload. However, in the long run, properly executed cloud migration can result in cost savings and improved efficiency.
The duration of the cloud migration process can vary depending on the size and complexity of the workload, as well as the level of preparation and planning beforehand. It could range from a few weeks to several months, with larger and more complex workloads typically taking longer to migrate