Ultimately, the most important piece of an enterprise cloud migration isn’t the finished product — it’s the plan you use to construct it all. Building a businesswide plan that accommodates your current cloud usage and future desires can save budget, effort, and time, both in terms of the processes you’re trying to improve through cloud technology and the act of migration itself.
This information may not come as a surprise if your business has a solid strategy in place; however, there are still organizations that don’t have such a plan. According to the latest Right Scale survey, a lack of resources and expertise have supplanted security as the biggest challenge to cloud migration, and it shows when enterprises jump into the cloud without a cohesive strategy. Understanding your business’ relationship with technology and where you’d like the entity as a whole to be at the migration’s completion is crucial to your overall success in using the cloud.
If you’re still deciding what that plan should look like, here are a few points to consider:
Applications and Workloads to Move First
Though giving absolute advice is difficult with a tool as all-encompassing as the cloud, experts from pretty much every source imaginable emphasize the value in starting small. Diving in with both proverbial feet and moving your business-critical data/workloads/apps to the cloud straightaway can be irresponsible under the right — or wrong, as it were — circumstances.
Chances are, your current experimentation with the cloud already follows this advice. Now that you’re formalizing the rest of your enterprise cloud migration, look for apps and workloads with the following attributes:
- Services used for development and testing, if applicable.
- Applications without complex dependencies (read: deep operational ties to other on-premise solutions).
- Apps that can still be used effectively when latency is a factor.
- Apps that could benefit from greater scalability.
- Apps that you plan to stick with for a while, and that don’t have a suitable software-as-a-service (SaaS) alternative that would make migration fraught with unnecessary effort.
Under these guidelines, anything from time-tracking apps to email to CRM solutions could be appropriate for the move. Provided the leap to managed cloud business services wouldn’t break dependencies, big data and analytic applications may be good candidates, too. Finally, nonessential tiered apps may also be parceled out, giving you the flexibility to move bits and pieces throughout different phases of your plan. Add slowly, note the results, and repeat, moving up to bigger, more complex initiatives as you go.
Identifying legacy and other critical apps that may be particularly difficult to “cloudify” can help you plan what to do with them before migration (assuming you choose to migrate them at all). This can be especially useful in determining whether a move to a public or private cloud will eventually offset the effort it takes to put the app there.
Potential issues to consider include hardware/OS compatibility and a need for premigration refactoring. Your company may be better off replacing problematic apps with suitable SaaS (Software as a Service) alternatives, particularly if the replacement can be integrated without extensive employee training or disruption of existing processes and workflows.
What Problems Are You Trying to Solve?
This one may seem obvious, but do yourself a favor and figure out why you want to make this move. Whatever you formalize will inform the questions you ask and help you answer them. The answers could range from chasing new revenue streams to cheaper long-term IT expenditure to even larger plans, like desktop virtualization — just make sure you know.
Public or Private? What About Hybrid?
Another question — largely informed by your goals and the types of applications you want to migrate in your enterprise cloud integration plan — is whether your cloud infrastructure should be public, private, or a hybrid of the two. Public services can do great things, but potential regulatory concerns and a lack of direct control over hardware may give you pause. By the same token, sticking exclusively with private cloud is naturally more complex and costly in the long term. And in either event, outright dismissing one or the other instead of leaving the door open to future exploration is nothing short of setting your IT up for failure.
Of course, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. You could take the hybrid approach, moving less-critical, less-sensitive workloads to public services, while keeping apps that enable core business competencies under your own roof. Many businesses are going hybrid for that sort of granular control — both over the migration and their larger operations when things are finished.
As an addendum, businesses with eyes on a fully or partially private cloud infrastructure may wish to pay particular attention to the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) movement. A combination of commodity hardware and virtualization can make the practice far more affordable than other takes on private cloud infrastructure, while added speed (thanks largely to use of SSDs) and smaller footprints make for enhanced agility and flexibility. Moving so close to a software-defined infrastructure may require some new skills, but with HCI becoming the standard, picking them up is more of an inevitability than anything.
OK, that’s not exactly a question. It is an important consideration for companies considering public cloud services, however. If you or a team member have experience crafting and negotiating desired service levels during this phase of planning, the experience will be invaluable. If not, heavy research (and perhaps paid consultation) is in order.
Wired’s guide to negotiating service-level agreements (SLAs) might be helpful as you decide what factors to negotiate when vendor-picking time comes. Per-app uptime requirements are one obvious point of concern, as are formalized escalation procedures in case of disagreements or unsatisfactory responses to concerns you have. And those are just the start. Like with your overall plan, understanding your business’s needs and wants with public providers prior to having to express them can be highly useful.
Your company wouldn’t create a new product or service without planning the development process, would it? Something as critical and all-encompassing as enterprise cloud migration requires a plan as well, and considering the finer points of your strategy will serve you well in the long run.
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