Cloud Migration Approach: Basics

Lately, I was struggling to get hold of a document which could possibly explain the cloud migration strategies in  uncomplicated way, as they say that “If you couldn’t explain it simply, perhaps you don’t know it good enough!”, so here I am trying to “simplify” cloud migration strategy for architects who like to keep it simple. Let us first understand why we should book a ticket to the cloud junction.

 Cloud is indeed a fascinating destination for enterprises, there are numerous benefits by the cloud service providers, namely:-

  • Elasticity
  • High Availability
  • Reduced IT maintenance cost
  • Capital-expenditure Free ( Pay as you go model)
  • Work from anywhere ( * not applicable to Virtual Private Clouds)
  • Security ( *may not be a key point depending on enterprise’s compliances/policies)

Phew, that was quite a few advantages but the best one is cost benefit. Enterprises are thinking of cloud mainly to achieve cost savings, but there are also a couple of  business goals like “ reduced time to the market”, “improved availability”, “better end-customer experience ( you are free to read that as Digital Transformation enabler” and “opening new markets/revenue streams” as primary adoption driver.

So let me break it to you, the story was very fascinating so far but unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the cloud.  The mistake most of the enterprises are making today is that they invest more time in identifying a preferred cloud environment before understanding how that specific cloud service coincides with their organization’s business goals and application portfolio.  So the real challenge is what questionnaire would help you to select the best cloud solution for your enterprise based on your present IT status.  I have prepared a few pointers to help you with cloud migration journey.

Why am I really thinking of cloud?

There are many reasons why your organization could be moving to the cloud, and you need to clarify those reasons so you can efficiently define your goals. It could be driven by management’s decision to achieve cost optimization, reduction in TCO or perhaps it is a sub-component of overall digital transformation strategy. A few white papers I had read on the internet also mention that quite often cloud migration is driven by change in leadership or ownership of the company.

In-house IT support capabilities also play a major role in adopting cloud services as when we go to the cloud we no longer need a big fleet of engineers for maintaining IT infra, so indirectly cost savings again. Most of the organization face IT infra related issues that often result in decreased customer satisfaction levels, so you let the cloud provider manage that complexity for you.

Availability is something that cloud has to offer for lower price, so if I need a highly available infra without investing much, cloud is an obvious choice for me.  

If my organization is planning to explore new business opportunities in overseas markets and would like to use IT as an enabler, I wouldn’t be more happy to go for cloud services as it saves a lot of OPEX.

Quite a handful good pointers, isn’t it? Sadly there will be caveats like security compliances, application compatibility which doesn’t really allow all workloads to be migrated to cloud; we will cover them in forthcoming sections of this document.

Is this is the right time to migrate to cloud?

You read that right, not every time is a good time to migrate to the cloud there are numerous factors which would decide if it is the right time or not. So what would decide if it is right time or not.

·        Is your existing IT infra hardware nearing EoL or EoS?

·        Is your current DC or the hosted DC nearing end of lease or end or support?

·        Is it time to renew your enterprise software perhaps you can consider the likes of MS-Office365

·        Do you have reduced customer-satisfaction due to downtime caused by IT infra? Are you facing issues due to IT staff’s limited capability or team’s sizing?

Can I really migrate my applications to the cloud?

That is right, cloud isn’t for everything (though the marketing says it is but as I’ve mentioned before that it isn’t “one size fits all”).  Most of the organization prefers to go with the QA or DR segment migration to cloud first owing to lower risk associated with it, it also serves as a POC (proof of concept) for the organization to figure out the low level limitations that may emerge during the migration phase, it helps with production workload migration at later stages.  

Email is the most preferred workload to go onto the cloud first

Web browser based services like SharePoint, WordPress, Joomla & Drupal are also known to be quite cloud friendly ( do note that the end user experience may vary owing to multiple parameters like, latency, IOPS,  compute instances processing capabilities etc. )

For enterprise application, security plays the most important role before we even talk about the application’s compatibility on cloud platform; we need to gauge the overall risk tolerance? Are there various classifications of the data that result in higher or lower tolerance to exposure and what are tangible and intangible losses if your data is compromised? Security is a big topic and I would be just leaving a few points to ponder here without going into details. All you need to remember is your data is your responsibility and not the cloud provider’s.  We shall cover security in detail in next section.

You also need to gauge if the cloud provide all of the infrastructure building blocks that your application may require & the probability of reusing your existing resource management and configuration tools.

Remember that your existing OLAs and SLAs may change with a migration. So try to align them with your cloud provider.

Another point that I always stress on is that all whitepapers that we find on internet would only guide you to efficiently migrate your data to the cloud without talking about a scenario when you decide to retrieve your data back from the cloud. The question is why someone would do it (didn’t we mention so many good features of cloud a few minutes back, well ironically it has nothing to do with the features but business requirements and cost justifications. Sometimes, you get so big that public cloud pricing doesn’t make sense any longer.), to keep this whitepaper brief, I would request the readers to go through the story of Dropbox’s exodus from a leading cloud service platform.

https://www.wired.com/2016/03/epic-story-dropboxs-exodus-amazon-cloud-empire/

What are the success criteria for cloud migration?

 Most commonly you will measure your organization’s cloud migration success by calculating savings in CAPEX and OPEX, how sooner you can hit the market when you migrate to cloud (Time to Market). Improvements in reliability, flexibility and availability.

Luckily all these parameters can be quantified and would make perfect sense to the C-Level.

Will cloud help me to grow my business?

A million dollar question here,  end of the day any technology  that doesn’t contributes ( directly or indirectly) to the organization’s business growth is useless, IT is no more a liability but it is often seen a business enabler now.

·        It will help you to drastically cut down on the cost of support and total cost of ownership.

·        Cloud can play a very important part in digitally transforming your organization.

·        You only need to focus on expanding your core business; cloud is highly scalable and can scale along the business (on-demand).  

Will my organization’s security policy allow me to migrate to the cloud?

Here comes the tough one, every organization has IT security policies and compliance requirements. You need to evaluate your organization’s risk tolerance.

Since not all data in an organization is classified as sensitive, you need to clearly classify the data, for example Sensitive, Confidential, Private, Proprietary or Public. Since public data is the least sensitive data used by the company and would cause the least harm if disclosed we can plan to migrate such data to the cloud first.

Even with the public data you must implement measures to ensure CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) of the data. 

If your organization has any regulatory obligations you must ensure that cloud adheres to the same. For example a few clients that I have worked with have a regulatory obligation that all data must physically reside in the same country.

Remember cloud is a shared infrastructure and hence susceptible to security threats, you must implement measures to mitigate these threats (encrypting data at rest and transit).

How to migrate to cloud?

Well you plan… a lot… a lot I mean; you essentially identify applications, prepare a dependency tree for that particular application (on other services or components). See if that application can be packaged into a VM instance.

·        Ensure that your cloud platform meets the necessary parameters to host the application like latency, bandwidth, compute capability, IOPS etc. 

·        Ensure that necessary security checks are in place (Identify and Access Management, required level of restriction (Access Control List or Security Groups).

·        If it’s a hybrid deployment, decide on the type of connectivity you would choose IPSec VPN or connecting directly to the Cloud provider via a leased line.

·        Study the licensing requirement (BYOL or licensing package offered by the provider).

·        Are you existing configuration/monitoring/alerting tool good enough to manage/monitor these applications on cloud?

·        Determine the total effort requirement for moving the application to the cloud?

Based on your organizations’ security policies and your application requirements you would select a cloud service provider and proceed with POC.

Preparing POC & Migration

Times to get your hands dirty, you proceed to build the necessary instances on the cloud, replicate the data-base to cloud-based DB and test the application for the required performance parameter. Use your existing tools (if you can) to manage and monitor the cloud infra.

Once the POC is successful, you should plan for the migration in order to minimize the downtime. Going into the migration details is beyond the scope of this document as different workloads would have different requirements associated with them.

 Before migration it is very important to make the business owners aware of this change and educate the IT engineers on this transition and their role.

You must create an internal user awareness document to enable internal business customers to easily provision the services that they need (Self Service Portal) & Standard Operating Procedure for the IT Service staff. 

Conclusion & Disclaimer

I totally understand that this document isn’t very exhaustive but very soon I shall be coming out with more documents on detailed migration approach. Since I am not a cloud guru this document may have fair errors in it (FYI, I have always been an average student with average IQ). I would be very happy if you could correct me on the points I have discussed in the document. My email ID is given in contact me section of this document. 

For Further Reading

I highly recommend this document from Amazon Web Services to understand the migration strategy in detail:-

http://media.amazonwebservices.com/CloudMigration-main.pdf 

Contact Me

Mayank Nauni

mayanknauni@gmail.com

LinkedIn:- https://sg.linkedin.com/in/mayanknauni

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