What Are the Key Decision Points in a Cloud Migration Strategy?

Major decisions are hard.

We deliberate, strategize, do cost-benefit analysis, and plan ahead before taking major decisions. These decisions could be personal life decisions about choosing college — a high-stakes decision in the life of a high-school kid — or choosing our life partner.

Same with organizations as with individuals.

For organizations, a decision to shift the organizational headquarter could be one example of a major inflexion point or decision point. NASA decided to start a commercial crew program which was a major shift in direction in terms of human space exploration for NASA. Similarly, migrating to the cloud is a major decision for businesses.

Whether an organization is already on the cloud in some way and wants to adopt cloud technologies more completely or whether an organization is taking the first steps to transfer its data and applications to the cloud, there will need to be a comprehensive cloud migration strategy.

Cloud migration will need to be broken down into several steps. We’ll discuss each of those steps in detail in this article. But first…

What is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration involves moving data, applications, or other business elements to the cloud. A company can migrate to the cloud in a number of ways. Transferring data and applications from an on-premises data center to a public cloud is one common model.

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What is the first step to follow in cloud migration?

Cloud infrastructure and public cloud solutions can be enormously beneficial for businesses — among other reasons, there can be significant cost savings, companies will gain anytime/anywhere access to data while enjoying high performance levels, robust security and scalability, and disaster recovery is faster.

Naturally, the global cloud computing market is growing very fast and it’s projected to reach $623 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 18%.

But to gain the most benefits from cloud migration, there is a need to map out a comprehensive strategy for your cloud migration since there is scope to assign different levels of priority to the cloud migration requirement of various data storages, processes, and applications belonging to your organization.

Indeed, some data may need to be kept on premises or in an on-premises data center rather than being stored on the cloud — because of regulatory or compliance requirements.

When it comes to the first step to follow in cloud migration, that step should be to be clear about the reasons for your cloud migration plan. What is causing you to consider a cloud migration will determine the best cloud migration strategy applicable to your organization.

As part of planning a cloud migration, you should determine your cloud server, cloud networking, cloud storage, cloud database, and cloud security/firewall needs.

It takes real commitment to excel — whether it’s running marathons as an octogenarian woman or wrestling alligators or skateboarding while visually impaired — the same applies to cloud migration.

Cloud Migration Steps or Checklist

Checklists have helped airline pilots (as well as surgeons) immensely by helping keep track of essential steps or components of a complicated process. For organizations, cloud migration is a key and complex and the project proceeds far more smoothly when there are clear steps or checklists on hand.

The particulars of a checklist can vary from organization to organization (or from project manager to project manager). Here are a few suggested items to include:

  1. Find out which IT workloads will move to the cloud and classify them using different criteria like complexity, criticality, etc.
  2. Find out the right cloud provider who offers the kind of cloud services that you would need.
  3. Carefully work out the cost of the migration.
  4. Assign a team to efficiently execute the cloud migration.
  5. Provide clarity to the migration team about the goals of the cloud migration.
  6. Carefully determine the migration tasks that’ll be handled internally versus those to be handled by the cloud provider.
  7. Carefully prioritize the workloads for migration — which ones have to be moved to the cloud, which ones come next, and so forth.
  8. Prepare a plan containing the roadmap and schedule for the cloud migration.
  9. Keep all stakeholders updated about what to expect during and after the cloud migration.
  10. List any cloud-based applications used by the organization and determine what to do about them — leave them ‘as is’ or replace them with other cloud-based applications or services.
  11. Have a security plan in place for the cloud migration and for the post-migration phase.
  12. Have KPIs for different aspects of migration such as user experience, application performance, and so forth.
  13. Fully test every application and workload; make adjustments where needed, after review.

Cloud Migration Types/Types of Cloud Migration Strategies

Once you decide upon the kind of cloud environment or cloud model — public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud — you can proceed with analyzing which type of cloud migration suits your requirements best.

The six most common approaches to cloud migration — Gartner had originally come up with five R’s — are known as the “six R’s of migration” and they are as follows:

  1. Rehosting (“life and shift”): If you want to adopt a conservative approach to cloud adoption, you could lift your entire software/product stack and shift it from on-premises hosting to cloud hosting. This makes for the quickest way to do cloud migration — and the least risky way. But you are also skipping some of the powerful and advanced cloud computing features and capabilities such as CI/CD, monitoring systems, recovery automation, containerization, or open-source compatible services. You are merely lifting and shifting an application, VM, and OS from its current location to a public cloud environment. Companies adopting this cloud migration approach will choose an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider and recreate their application with the cloud provider taking care of virtualization, servers, storage, and networking while the application, data, runtime, middleware, and OS are taken care of by the company.
  2. Replatforming: This is similar to the rehosting cloud migration methodology with a few tweaks and adjustments to optimize things for the cloud. This methodology might let you continue with your legacy technology such as mainframes. Companies adopting this cloud migration strategy can be considered as conservative organizations who are taking their first steps into the cloud or dipping their toes in cloud technologies and want to be sure about the benefits of cloud adoption. Rather than requiring rebuilding of the entire application to be cloud native, what this cloud migration technique requires is testing of application performance to validate any minor changes that may have been made to the code base.
  3. Refactoring/Rearchitecting: These two terms are used somewhat interchangeably though rearchitecting tends to refer to a more substantial overhaul of the application code whereas refactoring refers to optimizing cloud-based applications in a Platform as a Service (PaaS) set-up. Refactoring could refer to application component updates such as .Net or Java updates. Rearchitecting could let you benefit from cloud capabilities such as auto-scaling, containerization, microservices, or serverless computing. With rearchitecting your application’s logic to make the application cloud-native, you are poised to take advantage of innovative opportunities in the long-term.
  4. Repurchasing/Replacing: If you are finally ready to let go of your legacy infrastructure and move to the cloud, it might be best to adopt various cloud-native apps such as Salesforce for CRM. The move to the cloud will typically happen to a cloud-based SaaS product and you’ll need to transfer only the data. This can be quite cost-effective if you are stuck in some legacy system that is no longer up-to-scratch in the contemporary, dynamic and competitive business environment. The only challenge is that employees will need training on the new app/platform.
  5. Retaining: Sometimes, organizations may need to run some application using on-premises infrastructure. It could be a critical application running on legacy mainframes. Or, there may be data that you are required to keep on premises because of regulatory or compliance reasons. You may not be ready to migrate certain applications to the cloud. In such a scenario, it would make sense to go for a hybrid cloud migration strategy where you keep some of your workloads in their current environment and migrate some of the workload to the cloud.
  6. Retiring: When you assess your application portfolio as part of your cloud migration process, you may come to realize that some of the applications, environments, or other IT workloads can be shut down without affecting productivity or negatively impacting your business in any manner whatsoever. In such a situation, it is better to end those applications or replace them with other services or components. This can lead to cost reduction, storage optimization, savings in licensing fees and so forth.

Cloud Computing Scenarios

Cloud computing is for any business that wants to continue to stay in business. Yours could be doing pretty well in your line of business but you can see the on-premises technology like servers hitting their technical limits or nearing their replacement cycle. Instead of making expensive hardware and software purchases to upgrade your on-premises set-up which may or may not be an in-house data center, you would be better off stepping foot into the cloud where you gain access to cutting edge computing resources and limitless storage with the latest cloud security technologies.

You could be a startup looking to splurge some serious dollars in a marketing campaign. Your marketing budget would become a waste if consumers swarm your ecommerce site and it proceeds to promptly crash. Cloud technologies are elastic and server capacities can be set to grow automatically to stay in line with web traffic. When you use cloud technologies, your website will not only not crash under increased traffic, it will be able to withstand malicious attacks such as DDoS attacks, malware and worse.

You could be running a software development organization that uses DevOps to get the most out of your developers. You have implemented DevOps practices and successfully removed the siloes. But to get the most of DevOps, you need to make your processes cloud-based. Cloud DevOps will help automate processes so that DevOps can function at its best and smoothest with automatic provisioning of resources and other benefits.

What Are The Use Cases For Cloud Migration?

There could be hundreds of use cases for why organizations would want to migrate to cloud solutions. Here are four broad categories of cloud migration use cases:

  1. Elastic Web Hosting Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) capabilities offered by public cloud service providers is a great boon when website traffic goes through sudden spikes. With cloud management tools at your disposal, it’s easy to scale up as necessary so that users have smooth sailing while browsing your site or making a purchase on your ecommerce site.
  2. Making Use of Big Data Businesses of all kinds — retail and social media among others — gather, analyze and monetize vast amounts of data pertaining to user behavior. In fact, most companies collect data to gain insights and improve product development, marketing and much else. In such scenarios, IaaS-based cloud services can be immensely helpful to analyze and interpret this information — and that in turn can be a huge competitive advantage for that company.
  3. Disaster Recovery Made Easy Cloud offers virtually unlimited data storage and organizations can take advantage of that to create automatic data backups. That in turn helps when the unthinkable disaster strikes — with this PaaS feature, you can be back up and running in no time at all.
  4. Empowering Software Development Building, testing and deploying software used take years before the advent of the cloud. With cloud-based PaaS solutions, software development teams have a far more synergistic way. Now, DevOps is happening on the cloud — cloud DevOps leads to faster software releases, continuous deployment of code and more. Software development in the cloud has made the process more robust thanks to cloud features such as process automation, code compilation, and more.

The Future (of Cloud Computing) Is Limitless

Organizations — just as much as individuals — will benefit when they learn to grow beyond their assumed constraints. Organizations may be limiting their current and future potential based on some past experience.

There was a time when a technology company CEO had famously opined that people are surely not going to be needing personal computers in their homes! A computer magazine had once famously predicted that computers would eventually weigh less than 1.5 tons!

We don’t know what the future holds with advances in AI/ML and quantum computing on the horizon. 3D printing, growing vegetables (lettuce) in space, lab-grown meat, photographing the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, detecting gravitational waves, electric flying cars — all of these have been accomplished already.

Some concepts — such as 3D printing — have such a vast array of applications that we would need to drill down to specific industries where these concepts are making a difference. For example, 3D printing is making its presence felt in the automobile industry in several different ways.

Cloud computing is similarly pervasive already and will be even more so in the years to come. Statista projects that “The worldwide public cloud computing market continues to grow and is expected to reach an estimated 495 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. This encompasses business processes, platform, infrastructure, software, management, security, and advertising services delivered by public cloud services.”

One more market report on cloud computing concludes that the global cloud computing market size is expected to grow from USD 445.3 billion in 2021 to USD 947.3 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 16.3%.

A longer-term study by Grand View Research projects that the global cloud computing market will reach USD 1,554.94 billion by 2030.

About Nolan Foster

With 20+ years of expertise in building cloud-native services and security solutions, Nolan Foster spearheads Public Cloud and Managed Security Services at Ace Cloud Hosting. He is well versed in the dynamic trends of cloud computing and cybersecurity.
Foster offers expert consultations for empowering cloud infrastructure with customized solutions and comprehensive managed security.

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