Eight tips for migrating to the cloud

Migrating services to the cloud can be a daunting task, especially if organisations haven't done so before. ZDNet Australia looks into what organisations can do to best prepare themselves for the process.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Migrating services to the cloud can be a daunting task, especially if organisations haven't done so before. ZDNet Australia looks into what organisations can do to best prepare themselves for the process.

  1. Define the scope and strategy of the project

    It's important to have a clear understanding of the full scope of the project, and ensure that it is defined and agreed upon by all parties involved, according to Fujitsu Australia executive general manager and CTO Craig Baty.

    Some of the areas that Baty recommended outlining during scope definition are the requirements for infrastructure, applications, activity and content.

    Additionally, he said that having a growth plan will ensure that organisations don't unexpectedly run out of capacity when it's needed. He suggested examining whether the organisation's requirements are local, or whether they require global expansion; the expected growth of users, data and applications; and the turnaround time for providers to deploy preconfigured systems.

    It may also be the most appropriate time to create a strategy for the cloud. Baty recommends taking into consideration business and market dynamics, revenue growth opportunities, expansion, security and risk mitigation strategies, data sovereignty concerns and time-to-market or time-to-value.

  2. Define what you need from a provider

    Organisations need to ask what attributes they need from a provider to meet their requirements. Some ideas to consider are cost, rapid scalability, flexibility, catalogue management, self-service layer two or three networks, built-in network security and rapid on-boarding, according to VMware engineering manager Tim Hartman.

    Baty said that organisations should ensure that they build a good relationship with the provider to ensure a smooth migration process, examine the quality of the provider's ongoing support and ideally have them located within the same timezone.

    Further requirements that Baty suggested organisations should look at included whether they really need five nines (99.999% uptime) of availability, or whether they could settle for less, and whether they support the organisation's connectivity requirements in terms of performance and security.

    Baty also said that organisations should not assume that their cloud provider has disaster recovery and backup measures in place that suit the organisation's requirements. He said that knowing aspects such as backup frequency and where the backup data is held will ensure that there are no surprises in the future.

  3. Engage your employees in the process

    While migrating services to the cloud can be a financial incentive, organisations need to also convince users of cloud's innovative, rather than cost-cutting, potential. According to Hartman, the biggest change that cloud computing has introduced is giving consumers control and the ability to innovate.

    He said that the ability for cloud-based services to allow more projects to get kicked off in the same amount of time and, if necessary, shut down just as quickly, is a significant business enabler at work and needs to be promoted internally.

    It is not what cloud can save a company, but how much money the company makes by adopting cloud, he said.

  4. Determine what level of governance is required

    Whether dealing with a public cloud or a managed private cloud, organisations need to consider what degree of governance is required to hold providers accountable. Some of this comes in the form of ISO standards, some are contractual conditions and some are reporting processes, said Hartman.

    On the internal side of IT, Hartman said that some implementations may only require lower levels of governance, while other workloads may require additional security and firewall rules put in place. The latter group may have specific processes to apply, and environments with high-governance service level agreements to apply.

    In a high-governance environment, greater levels of control are required and can be achieved through integration with service management solutions, he said.

  5. Determine whether an interim solution is needed

    With some organisations not yet ready to make full use of public cloud offerings, or some that have peaking workloads, interim solutions that will allow them to gain some of the benefits of cloud migration, or account for temporary increases in demand, may need to be examined. Hartman recommends examining the use of hybrid models to migrate workloads in and out of the cloud as required. Solutions exist that allow organisations to build infrastructure to meet a portion of its demand requirements, while moving the rest into the cloud as required, he said.

  6. Have an exit plan

    According to Hartman, long-term contracts and lock-in are a thing of the past. He recommends making sure that organisations have a valid exit/migration strategy, and making it an any-to-any strategy: "How are you going to get [data] from your datacentre to theirs, how are you going to get back again or even how are you going to change partners?"

    Baty agrees, saying that organisations should look at the connectivity between datacentres, and determine the capacity of that connection, including redundant links.

  7. Address privacy and data sovereignty concerns

    Privacy of data and data sovereignty are sensitive issues that need to be addressed prior to migration. Baty recommends looking at the nature of the private data to be handled, who needs access to it, who should definitely not have access to it and asking the provider to demonstrate the security measures that they apply to it.

    Certain government and financial services organisations may be bound by regulatory requirements to ensure that the data they handle is stored onshore. However, according to Baty, many providers cannot guarantee that data is stored exclusively in the same country; a limitation for many organisations. He recommends verifying that the provider is not subjected to national or international laws that might expose customer data to unwanted third parties.

  8. Examine billing arrangements

    Organisations need to assess providers' billing arrangements to ensure that they are making the most of cloud's flexibility. The best financial benefit of cloud services is when you are billed for your usage alone, and unused capacity drops back into the shared pool, said Hartman.

    This makes it ideal for start-ups, but for small and medium businesses and enterprises, budget cycles and purchasing processes need to be considered, he said. For these environments, Hartman recommends setting limits and charging predictable amounts to fit in with budget cycles.

    Baty recommended making sure that the provider offers true pay-per-use functionality and self-service capability through a self-service portal — something that often needs to be built from the ground up.

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