“The Cloud” is finally becoming a viable alternative for the SMB market. Costs are decreasing as performance and reliability increase. We expect to see an even larger adoption among our clients new and old in the coming year, and anticipate lots of migration discussion ahead!
– Patrick Torney, eDot
The following article written by: Jeff Bertolucci, Information Week
The migration to the cloud is well underway. According to the Verizon State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2014 Report, 65% of today’s enterprises are using cloud computing. That figure is sure to rise as more businesses discover the benefits of moving to the cloud, including lower capital and operating costs for data centers and improved application performance and resiliency, to list just a few.
But migrating to the cloud can be tricky. Common challenges include finding the right cloud vendor or vendors; transitioning from years of legacy IT investments and hardware; and determining how to best manage cloud resources. KPMG’s 2014 Cloud Survey Report, which polled nearly 800 global executives, found that roughly half of organizations surveyed use cloud technology to lower costs — the most tangible benefit. Of respondents, 42% said they use the cloud to better enable their mobile workforces, while 37% use it to interact more efficiently with their customers and partners.
Business analytics is another driving force. “Cloud enables greater levels of data access and makes it easier to share data between IT systems and collaborate across the business,” the KMPG report states. And because cloud data storage is relatively affordable, organizations can store and analyze vast amounts of information.
Cloud computing comes in a variety of flavors. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer, courtesy of Accenture’s 2014 report on cloud services for the healthcare industry.
Clouds (the computing variety) typically take one of four forms: private, public, hybrid, or community. They can be a combination of these forms as well.
- Private clouds: These are generally dedicated to a single organization for private use. They can be built either on-premises or off-site — the latter option usually provided by a third party — and they deliver virtualized application, communications, and infrastructure services.
- Public clouds: As the name suggests, they’re accessible to the public via a network. A public cloud is owned and provided by a third party.
- Hybrid clouds: These offer best of private and public clouds. They enable an organization to retain private, sensitive information in a private cloud, but also provide access to a variety of cloud computing services offered by public clouds.
- Community clouds: These are collaborative systems shared by a limited number of organizations, often within the same industry (e.g. healthcare) or geographical region. Costs are split among the users. Community clouds can be hosted internally, or externally by third parties.
Whichever cloud option you choose, here are 10 migration mistakes to avoid.
You’ve seen one cloud, you’ve seen ’em all
All clouds offerings are pretty much equal … right? Nope, not even close. As CloudEndure, a cloud migration and disaster recovery provider, points out in its whitepaper on migrating to the AWS cloud, each cloud setup or provider brings its unique set of strengths and shortcomings. A private cloud, for instance, may offer greater flexibility but less scalability. And with a public cloud, if you’re already invested in a particular vendor you’ll have an easier migration journey by sticking with the same vendor’s public cloud offering.
Junking your old IT hardware
After migrating to the cloud, what should you do with your stockpile of used data center equipment? A common mistake that enterprises make is either to throw out their old hardware or pay someone to remove it, Frank Muscarello, cofounder and CEO of IT hardware trading exchange MarkITx, said in an article by William Toll on the ProfitBricks blog. Pointing out that the market for used IT computers and other gear is north of $300 billion, Muscarello recommended that enterprises should try a hardware exchange to recoup some IT budget cash.
Migrating all apps to the cloud
Not all business applications should migrate to the cloud, and enterprises must determine which apps are best suited to a cloud environment. Mitigating factors vary by industry, of course. Healthcare organizations, for instance, should carefully study how a cloud-based operation might impact their applications’ ability to meet stringent compliance, governance, and security issues, according to an Accenture report on the subject (via a blog post by David Linthicum of Cloud Technology Partners). Another important tip: Your service contract with a cloud provider should clearly define the security services the provider is required to provide, Accenture said.
Not tuning your apps for the cloud
Here’s another app-related misstep: When businesses migrate their most essential applications to the cloud, they often fail to check how those apps will perform in their new environment. For instance, apps running on an in-house data center can access the company’s full computing power: server CPU, memory, storage, and so on. But as ISPFast.com, a company that connects businesses with Internet service providers, points out, those same apps in the cloud must share computing resources with other apps hosted on the cloud provider’s servers. It’s important for enterprises to tweak their apps to run optimally in the cloud.
Not doing your due diligence
Do your homework! Organizations often fail to thoroughly research a cloud technology or provider before embracing it. It’s important to carefully study your IT infrastructure, needs, and usage to best determine which cloud service is right for you, advises cloud communications provider 4PSA. Jot down a list of expectations to discuss with potential providers, and explore what new possibilities a cloud-based system provides. Also, find out how to leverage the cloud’s on-demand processing power to maximize your applications’ “bursty” needs.
Lacking in-house expertise
Your cloud service provider has an experienced team of cloud technology experts (or so you hope). But you should have cloud expertise in-house as well. An enterprise needs tech experts to ensure that its cloud platform delivers sufficient computing muscle. “You need a person/team that can implement your business’s cloud strategy for you and ensure it is optimally managed and controlled. This is how you can maximize the potential of the cloud for business benefit,” writes Stan Roach, chief customer officer at Agiliron, a SaaS solution provider.
Not starting small
It’s wiser to dip your toe in the cloud service pool than to cannonball into the deep end. Start by migrating modest services that will have limited negative impact should something go haywire. An enterprise should pick “the low-hanging fruit” for early migration to the cloud — for example, batch processing systems, big data analytics platforms, collaborative tools, or Web applications, advises CloudOps, a Montreal-based cloud provider.
Ignoring cloud geography
Enterprise applications may run within a single geographic region (e.g., a specific nation), from multiple locations, or perhaps across the globe. As Cisco explains in its cloud-migration whitepaper, consumer-focused apps are often used in multiple geographic regions — and sometimes unpredictably. Enterprises may want to block certain apps — often for regulatory or security purposes — in specific regions. And since multinational companies have offices scattered around the world, they might benefit from distributing apps closer to their points of access.
The moral of the story? Always explore the geopolitical ramifications of your cloud architecture, and ask potential providers if they’re capable of handling your far-flung needs. Global cloud providers, for instance, typically allow enterprises to configure expected access for an app by purchasing capacity in different geographic regions, according to Cisco.
Ignoring big data
Large enterprises often find themselves facing a data-transfer dilemma: What’s the best way to migrate massive applications and terabytes of data to the cloud? Delphix technical evangelist Kyle Hailey, in an article for CloudTimes, outlines such concerns as determining the best way to move behemoth enterprise apps to the cloud. (One tried-and-true method is to ship customer storage disks to the cloud provider.) Another thorny issue is finding the most affordable way to sync on-premises and cloud environments. The bottom line: Pre-move preparation is the best way to achieve smooth cloud migration.
Not keeping a scorecard
Organizations are increasingly recognizing that every application has its own unique cloud migration path, says Verizon in its Enterprise Cloud 2014 Report. The telecom giant recommends enterprises try a “scorecard” approach to prioritizing their application portfolios. This requires evaluating each workload’s economic, security, and risk profile.