Cloud Migration Blog
2019: Key Cloud Migration Challenges & How to Overcome ThemBy Emma Tompkins on Jan 9, 2019 6:51:35 AM
It’s a turbulent time for businesses today. As technology continues to permeate every part of our lives, organisations flock to the cloud in their droves in an effort to cut costs, stay nimble and ensure future survival. A deluge of new challenges have subsequently emerged out of abandoning the status quo in favor of technologies that are defining a new business era.
Whilst each journey to the cloud is unique, the challenges along the way are pervasive. More sophisticated cyber attacks, increasingly stringent regulatory compliance, data center closures, unplanned failures and data loss are all issues of major concern, whether you are a CIO or Cloud Architect. Businesses must be looking ahead to the journey and preparing accordingly for a safe and controlled cloud migration.
The cloud enables organizations to effectively balance agile innovation with continuity, scale at volume, reduce IT costs and mitigate security risks. Yet, despite the vast array of benefits, making the move is not a task to be taken lightly. It requires meticulous planning and exquisite execution, which explains why migration is often cited second to security on the cloud computing pain spectrum (Global Dots - June 28, 2018).
Choosing the right Cloud Service Provider
The wealth of like-for-like cloud services can make it difficult to choose a cloud service provider. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are among the giants, whilst many more niche players saturate the market with bespoke services. This often leaves IT leaders and C-suite executives in a state of analysis paralysis, stuck at the first hurdle of digital transformation.
Although budget plays a key part in making a decision, organizations need to consider their primary goal for moving to the cloud. Each business will have its own set of requirements and therefore, a unique justification for adopting cloud. One organization may need to leverage the enormous instant scalability offered by some providers. Whereas another might benefit from more personalized applications management options offered by niche providers. Key to choosing the right cloud provider therefore requires a defined selection and procurement process appropriately weighted towards an organization’s unique set of goals and circumstances.
Many organizations may find that their systems are not cloud ready. The main challenge is to connect legacy systems with newer applications that run in the cloud. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to choose a vendor that provides the necessary services to support a company's hybrid environment.
Security, compliance, architecture, manageability, service levels, support and cost are all critical factors to consider before choosing a cloud provider. However, it’s essential that the chosen vendor also understands the specific objectives of the business, as well as the motive behind their decision to move to the cloud. Without the right blend of technical expertise and services excellence, the partnership will not empower the business in the cloud. Therefore, the alignment of business goals and a vendors’ services is a critical part of the cloud provider decision making process.
Evaluating the current IT portfolio
Any dramatic change within an IT environment demands thorough discovery and analysis of current infrastructures before deciding on which elements to migrate. This is often the most challenging part of a cloud migration project. It takes time to uncover issues, document findings and turn them into actionable insight, especially for organizations that spread their infrastructure across multiple data centers or teams. Yet, many organizations rely on manual processes to assess their current environment. This often leads to further delays and potential bottlenecks. By the time the discovery process is complete, the organization’s infrastructure has changed.
A successful cloud migration project starts with understanding on-premise application workload profiles. A key part of this discovery process is figuring out ‘what talks to what’, or rather, analysing the knock-on effect systems can potentially have on one another. Businesses often fall victim to this domino effect of incompatibility, causing them to come unstuck after moving the first app to the cloud. Workload intelligence, combined with dependency mapping therefore adds critical insight to the decision-making process, and significantly reduces the possibility of missing dependencies during the move.
What to modernize and what to leave behind?
A migration is not simply a matter of lift and shift. The prioritization of what to move and when is fundamental to a successful cloud migration. The best applications for early migration are those with the fewest dependencies. This ensures unforeseeable problems can be dealt with whilst the stakes are low. It also provides valuable learning and confidence before tackling more complex workloads in the future. Starting small is therefore key to a successful cloud migration.
Businesses should also consider how migrating those least critical applications will impact the overall IT ecosystem. Some applications are more suited in the cloud than others, particularly applications with variable usage patterns. Therefore, it's important to align business goals with the benefits that the cloud brings; such as faster and frequent application releases and flexible auto-scaling. Prioritizing the migration of these applications leverages the numerous advantages offered in the cloud and eliminates waste on premises.
Minimizing business downtime
Downtime is frequently cited as the biggest challenge of migrating workloads to the cloud. The biggest hurdle between a successful and unsuccessful cloud migration over time is network connectivity. Even the minutest downtime can be catastrophic to the business, both in terms of revenue and reputation. In fact, 98% of organizations say a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000 (Source: Rand Group).
Mark Clark, head of cloud strategy at Teradata, believes that companies should be more concerned about how they move data from on-prem data centers to public cloud providers than they ought to be about security. The priority therefore should be to plan accordingly to minimize disruption and ensure business continuity during the migration.
A live migration refers to the process of moving a running virtual machine or application between different physical machines without disconnecting the client or application. This guarantees long-term success, as it brings together delivery, go live tools, integration testing, source control and unit testing all whilst the source is still in production. This allows the business to test the migration offline before any cutover is made and ensures risk mitigation when moving from physical to virtual environments.
Automation is fundamental to a successful cloud journey, not just during the initial migration, but also during ongoing optimization of the cloud environment. Efficiency and productivity are the primary motives behind automating the cloud migration process, which cultivates a level of consistency and repeatability unmatched by manual processes. There’s also the added benefit of not having to add staff to the project team to manually asses, fix and convert application for the virtual cloud platform. A decision that, invariably, is becoming less attractive, what with the growing skills gap and the huge costs associated with hiring internally or outsourcing manual application testing and remediation.
To fully leverage the cloud, organizations should automate application compatibility testing and fixing, since the cloud allows multiple virtual platforms to be tested and remediated simultaneously. This reduces cloud migration time requirements and lowers the unit cost of the individual workload.
Agent vs Agentless
Many organizations are resistant to move to the cloud over the fear that comes with entrusting a third party with company data. With compliance and security at the top of every CIO’s agenda, migrating data means potentially making company sensitive data (and customer data) exposed to security risks. Furthermore, replication solutions that rely on agents often require businesses to disable anti-virus (AV), which further increases the risk of a cyber attack.
Key to overcoming this challenge is to opt for an agentless migration, which is the least-invasive method for cloning workloads from place to place. By avoiding agents and replication altogether, the cutover is fast and seamless, and requires no additional processes or labor. The data is always encrypted, which eliminates the potential for data leakage, and there are no agents that require special treatments that might accidentally compromise the organisation’s network security. As a low risk and high performing solution, agentless migrations are the way to go and the increasingly prevalence of successful agentless migrations speaks volumes about the need to fully embrace digital transformation.
Keeping data safe and staying compliant during the migration
The consequences of insufficient data security are huge. If data is lost, leaked, or exposed to a cyber attack during a migration it could cause serious disruption. For highly regulated companies that are bound by law to protect personal customer data, concerns around IT governance and compliance can make the migration process seem deeply unattractive.
In the US, the GDPR shifts the compliance burden to the third-party data processors themselves, requiring them to report to clients data breaches involving their clients’ data “without undue delay after becoming aware.” Shifting the burden however does little to protect the reputation of the company who could still end up losing customer over the negligence to ensure customer data is protected at all times. A secure point-to-point migration ensures the company's data is transferred via a preferred routable path and data is protected behind a firewall at all times. This ensures that the company's personal data is not visible to any third party during the migration, which eliminates the potential for non-compliance during the move.
A cloud migration is complex. It requires meticulous planning and impeccable expertise to architect, secure and manage a cloud migration. Your success will depend on the partner you choose and the extent of their knowledge, skill-set and experience to identify and manage the cloud migration project and execute in line with the overarching digital strategy of the business.
As you look ahead to the journey, be sure to prepare for a safe and controlled cloud migration. Talk to RiverMeadow about our deep experience and mix of capabilities and find out how you can move your workloads to the cloud without jeopardizing applications or data and, perhaps more importantly, day-to-day business operations.