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July 13, 2021 | Matt Brickey

Six Steps to an Effective Cloud Migration Strategy

Does your organization have a digital transformation project underway? The cloud can make most of those transformation goals attainable. Whether you’re modernizing supply chain applications, moving rich media content to the edge, or extending enterprise applications to remote workers, you’re likely building with cloud services. 

Cloud technologies are everywhere. A Deloitte report predicts cloud services revenues will grow at or above 30% annually through 2025. Surveyed executives cited innovation, cost savings, and organizational agility as their top three motivations.  

Unfortunately, many cloud migration strategies fail to achieve their goals. A Unisys survey of more than 1,000 IT and business leaders revealed that 37% of American businesses have failed to realize major benefits from cloud adoption. However, of those companies who made cloud adoption a major or core part of their business strategy, 77% reported tangible business benefits.

Only 23% of companies that made cloud adoption a minor aspect of their strategy achieved benefits. Clearly, to achieve success with the cloud, it must be a central component of an organization’s competitive strategy. 

At the same time, however, 41% of business leaders were extremely or very concerned about their competitors innovating faster, with 30% saying that their organization had already been impacted by a competitor’s cloud innovations. One-third said they were afraid this competition might even put their companies out of business. 

Reasons why cloud adoptions fail

One common reason for failure is an ad hoc approach to cloud adoption. Different departments and workgroups may subscribe to their own cloud application or storage service, with or without IT’s knowledge. These impromptu deployments (especially those who proceed without building a business case) often lead to major headaches for IT and complicate efforts to achieve an integrated, cross-enterprise cloud infrastructure. 

Another common mistake is neglecting the interdependencies between the various applications and data sources, especially in multicloud and hybrid environments. A single migration project may involve multiple cloud platforms, services, and providers, all selected based on the unique needs of an application and its users. However, IT managers must migrate interdependent applications that share data or processes at the same time, while ensuring they’re integrated and able to interoperate in the new cloud environment. 

The Unisys reports hints at a third major reason for failure: 59% of respondents handled their cloud adoption internally. This often means they did it without sufficient expertise to manage the critical details of cloud selection, workload sizing, deployment, security, or management. 

An unsuccessful or underachieving migration not only wastes resources but may discourage a company from pursuing future cloud development, thus inhibiting its ability to innovate and compete. A thorough cloud migration strategy can help ensure that your cloud adoption efforts succeed and achieve the company’s goals. 

Six key components of an effective cloud migration strategy

We’ve covered the many decisions that need to be made before a cloud migration. Here are six components needed for your cloud migration strategy: 

1. Selecting the right cloud environment

Because IT environments are complex, no single cloud environment or deployment model fits every need. A cloud migration strategy requires careful selection of the cloud platforms, deployment models, and platforms. 

There are three basic cloud environments: public, private, and hosted multitenant (a  privately hosted environment with a public cloud’s multitenant architecture). 

Most companies today have multicloud or hybrid IT environments. Multicloud includes a mix of public cloud services and, possibly, private cloud or multitenant hosted cloud. A hybrid environment is usually a mix of multicloud and non-cloud applications. Hybrid environments allow each application to have a setting that will optimize performance and best meet end-user needs.  

When deciding on a cloud environment and model of deployment, an IT manager may consider factors such as regulatory requirements, licensing issues, scalability, accessibility for distributed workers, the computing needs of the workloads, or a desire to keep existing investments in hardware or software. 

With a private cloud, you own the hardware and software, whether you manage it in-house or have a hosting company manage it for you. The private cloud’s single-tenant architecture usually provides more reliable and consistent performance because the company doesn’t have to share the IT resources with others. 

A private environment is a good choice for high-performance and high-security applications or legacy systems that aren’t suited for the public cloud. However, while you have full control over the hardware, software, security, etc., you also shoulder the entire cost of the environment, which can be very expensive.  

Public clouds use a multitenant architecture that customers share, along with the cost. It’s cheaper than building your own private cloud infrastructure. One of the most common reasons to move to a public cloud is to reduce capital expenses in favor of operating expenses. Using a public cloud also gives you greater scalability to sudden changes in demand for compute power, memory, or storage. 

Also read: Top Migration Best Practices for Controlling Cloud Costs 

Because public cloud services are paid by subscription, the expense is more predictable and affordable than upfront capital investments for private cloud or on-premises legacy applications. Finally, the public cloud offers accessibility to remote workers and branch offices, a huge benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Avoid these legacy application pitfalls during your cloud migration. 

Public cloud service models

When buying public cloud services, you also must decide how much infrastructure support you want from the provider. There are three basic public cloud services models to choose from: software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS). 

2. The cloud readiness assessment

First take stock of your existing IT environment and resources, as well as your company’s goals for the migration by conducting a readiness assessment. A readiness assessment will include an inventory of a company’s software, hardware, data repositories, security solutions, cloud services, and IT employee skillsets. 

The assessment will also spell out an organization’s current IT needs and future goals. Understanding your organization’s IT assets, resources, and goals will greatly reduce problems during the migration. 

A readiness assessment may also include the security requirements for cloud and non-cloud applications, projected workload needs, and a map of the dependencies between applications. The plan will also include a migration plan with options for different cloud platforms or possible hybrid deployments. 

Many managed services providers offer pre-migration evaluations. TierPoint’s Cloud Readiness Assessment, for example, provides customers with a customized cloud roadmap, an estimated TCO and ROI, and a phased migration plan based on IT dependencies. 

3. Metrics

What do you hope to achieve from a cloud migration? Will it improve response times for remote users or reduce IT operating costs? 

Metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) help measure progress from the migration. KPIs can also help prove the need for cloud migration to upper management and gain support and resources for the project. 

Some metrics that may be used to measure migration progress include: 

  • network throughput 
  • network latency
  • application response rates and availability 
  • error rates 
  • memory usage rates 
  • CPU usage 
  • storage costs 
  • monthly downtime 

The key is to select metrics that are most important to your business, and which best illustrate the need for, and value of, cloud adoption. There are many cloud migration tools available, such as automated discovery tools for quickly identifying IT assets, application dependency mapping tools, and cloud sizing tools. Those can help you evaluate your environment and identify the right metrics to measure success. 

4. Cloud migration team

If you plan to rely on in-house staff for your migration, you’ll want a team with experience in cloud services, cloud development, cybersecurity, and cloud deployment. Key migration team roles include: 

  • A migration architect: Oversee the planning of the migration and development of the cloud infrastructure. refactoring of applications, and application deployment. A cloud architect will ensure project goals are translated into a migration plan, keep track of resources, oversee the integration of applications into the cloud, and interact with cloud specialists and business stakeholders. 
  • Executive leadership, such as the CIO, CTO, or COO: Support from the top-level executives is critical to attaining company buy-in and resources. 
  • IT security and compliance specialists:  Ensure that cloud data and applications are protected and in compliance with government regulations. Hybrid IT and multi-cloud security can be complex, so you’ll need someone with security expertise in the platforms planned for your future IT environment. 
  • Stakeholders: Department managers or others who represent the interest of end-users are important team members. They ensure that the needs of business users are met. 
  • Outside experts: To fill in gaps in your own staff expertise, consider seeking out experts at your cloud services provider for help in planning, deployment, and management of the migration. 

Also read:  How to Assemble Your Cloud Strategy Team 

5. Migration strategies

When migrating an application to the cloud, there are typically three basic options: re-hosting, re-platforming, or refactoring. 

  • Re-hosting: For legacy applications, the lift-and-shift or re-hosting model is most common. Re-hosting may require few or no changes to the code – it just needs to run on a cloud version of its operating system. 
  • Re-platforming: This involves adapting the application to the chosen cloud platform. While it doesn’t require you to re-architect and re-write the application, it does mean changing elements of the code to make use of some common cloud services, such as load balancing. 
  • Re-factoring: Also called re-architecting, this process involves rewriting and containerizing the application so it can interact with the full range of cloud services. For instance, Microsoft’s Azure cloud services include mobile development tools, content delivery services, digital rights protection, disaster recovery, and AI services for developing AI-based applications. 

6. Managed services providers (MSPs)

To reduce the strain on in-house IT departments, companies often get help from an MSP (or cloud provider) that offers data center and managed services–to help with the migration. An MSP such as TierPoint will conduct a cloud readiness assessment, provide cloud migration and platform options, develop a migration plan or roadmap, and help with the implementation. 

MSPs can also help manage customer portfolios of cloud services and platforms. Just as internal IT systems are managed as an interdependent environment, so cloud services should be managed as a single environment. 

Because MSPs typically partner with other cloud technology companies, they can offer an array of cloud services and technologies, including multiple networking options and cloud platforms. TierPoint, for instance, has partnerships with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Nutanix, VMware, Zerto, and many other leading technology companies. Partnerships broaden the number of cloud solutions and types of expert services available to customers.   

Cloud migration can be a complicated undertaking, so it’s important to plan carefully and seek outside expertise. A well-planned migration will ensure the maximum availability of applications and minimize the impact on employee productivity. 

Your Journey to the Cloud starts here

Migrating to the cloud is tough. It requires businesses to build a business case, choose the best platforms for migration, and then conduct the migration. Many businesses do not have the internal expertise to conduct a cloud migration from end to end. Choosing the right cloud migration partner and undergoing a Cloud Readiness Assessment is a great place to start. 

At TierPoint, we can help with your digital transformation needs, whether you’re adopting the cloud for the first time or looking to migrate more to the cloud. Reach out to us  for more information. 

Read our Journey to the Cloud eBook to understand what else you should consider before a cloud migration

Journey to the Cloud | Maximize the Benefits and Minimize the Risks

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