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Key considerations when planning to migrate to the cloud

The goal is to undertake the cloud migration with minimal disruption to operations, at the lowest cost and in the shortest timeframe possible.
Read time 5min 30sec

New technology is usually accompanied by a lot of hype, and new buzzwords get thrown around, which could be overwhelming and confusing for IT business leaders who need to make strategic decisions. Cloud computing is no exception.

The technology has come a long way from its inception in the mid-1990s, to becoming mainstream in the 2000s. The top three public cloud providers − Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services − have undoubtedly accelerated cloud adoption by leveraging their industry dominance and repackaging some of their existing offerings as cloud-based services.

This approach has seen businesses gradually transition to cloud-based services without giving this move a great deal of thought.

To ensure a successful migration to the cloud, there are a number of aspects to consider – and in this first article in a two-part series, I’ve provided a deeper look into the first three critical considerations.

Number one: Clearly defined business goals

Organisations planning to move to the cloud must have a clearly defined and measurable set of outcomes to be achieved by migrating to the cloud. There must be a clear business need. These objectives may include cost savings, business agility or unlocking innovation.

Number two: Cloud migration strategy

Once the goals and objectives are defined, it is important for the organisation to devote sufficient time and pay particular attention to their strategy. A rigorous end-to-end cloud migration plan must be put in place.

This time also provides an opportunity to re-assess requirements to determine which workloads are still necessary and only migrate those that support specific business cases.

Cloud migration methods

There are various cloud migration techniques that businesses can consider based on their needs. The main three methods include:

Rehosting: Also known as ‘lift and shift’, involves using an infrastructure-as-a-service model. The data and applications are moved into the cloud as is.

Refactoring: Also known as ‘lift, tinker and shift’, is when changes are made, or software is repurposed for the cloud environment. In this case, a platform-as-a-service model is used.

Rearchitect: This method requires more significant changes to the architecture and code of the systems being migrated to the cloud. This allows applications to take full advantage of the available cloud, cloud services which may require introducing major code changes.

Cloud migration process

Once a method has been selected, the following cloud migration process can be considered:

Define the use case

The organisation must determine the use case for migrating to the cloud. How will migrating to the public cloud benefit the organisation? Will the cloud be used for disaster recovery? Will all the workloads be migrated to the cloud? Or will a hybrid approach work best?

Once data has been migrated to the cloud, it is important to ensure it is retrievable going forward, and is optimised and secure.

There are also security considerations that must be built into the migration process; such as, will there be a need to encrypt data both at rest and in transit? Does the data need any scrubbing before it is migrated? What are the sizes of datasets being migrated?

Build a business case

Once the requirements are clearly defined, the organisation is now able to assess services offered by cloud providers and other partners and their costs against its requirements.

They can also determine the expected benefits of cloud migration in terms of operational benefits, cost savings and architectural improvements, as well as build a business case for every application planned to migrate to the cloud, showing an expected total cost of ownership (TCO) on the cloud, compared to current TCO.

Execute cloud migration

Once the environment has been assessed and a plan has been mapped out, the organisation is now ready to execute the migration. The objective is to carry out the migration with minimal disruption to normal operations, at the lowest cost and at the shortest period possible.

Once data has been migrated to the cloud, it is important to ensure it is retrievable going forward, and is optimised and secure. It is also important to assess the security of data at rest to ensure it meets applicable compliance laws.

Number three: DIY or outsource

Many large organisations tend to outsource key IT functions to third-party experts to run and manage their IT infrastructure while they focus on their core business.

Without having to worry about routine activities such as infrastructure maintenance, organisations can spend more time innovating and coming up with new products which may give them a competitive-edge.

While the cloud can be viewed as an extension of the organisation’s IT infrastructure, it requires a unique set of skills to manage and run. To avoid costly mistakes, it makes sense for organisations to call upon the expertise of industry players with a proven track record and many successful cloud implementations under their belt.

The following are five benefits of managed services to consider when deciding between outsourcing to a cloud managed services provider or the “do-it-yourself” approach:

Free up internal resources: Offloading routine IT tasks such as system monitoring and patching enables in-house IT resources to focus on the organisation’s core business.

Tap needed expertise: A good cloud managed services provider brings with them deep expertise and experience that can be relied upon to ensure successful implementations of high-profile projects.

Improve and optimise: Ongoing support and maintenance are usually part of the project scope for cloud managed service providers. Their success is tied to the success of the cloud workloads they manage.

Access service when needed: A managed cloud support services provider ensures there is technical support available 24/7 for any eventualities.

Enhance security: Cloud security is a very specialised area and as such, it is important that the organisation partners with specialist service providers that are expects in this field.

Admittedly, the above is already quite a bit of information to consider and so in my next article, which you can expect in June, I’ll delve deeper into aspects like user adoption, data security and cloud computing service models.

Until next time!

Nathi Dube

Data engineer, PBT Group.

Nathi Dube is data engineer at PBT Group. He is a data engineering consultant with local and international experience spanning telco and broadcast media industries, and large-scale greenfield data warehouse projects.

Dube holds a BSc degree with computer science and mathematics majors from the University of the Witwatersrand. He also has scientific computing, Python, machine learning and statistical analysis certificates from WorldQuant University and is an AWS certified cloud practitioner.

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