Many factors affect the success of a migration project, such as the availability of skilled IT staff, an understanding of the source and target database architectures, and realistic project planning. Identifying these factors before embarking on a migration project can speed up execution and reduce the impact of any challenges encountered along the way. Most importantly in any cloud implementation is the alignment of business initiatives and objectives with appropriate cloud solutions. This means working with your chosen cloud or managed service provider to develop a robust migration methodology specific to your organisation. Typically, this will involve an assessment workshop, a design and build phase, pilot testing, and only then, full scale commissioning. We explain these steps in further detail below.
Assess and Plan
The successful migration of services to the cloud requires an assessment phase. This is usually completed over a series of workshops and through the deployment of automated information gathering tools to evaluate the existing data centre environment and its suitability to move to a cloud architecture. Identifying the workloads for migration will determine the cloud model most appropriate for your organisation, be it private, public or hybrid. In addition to different cloud models, there are two types of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models:
- Commodity IaaS – intended for ‘cloud applications’ where the application itself is distributed across nodes as well as across multiple availability zones for redundancy.
- Enterprise class IaaS – intended for enterprise applications, with the cloud infrastructure designed for performance, with redundancy and high availability.
Typically, enterprise class IaaS models are most suitable for traditional workloads when reliability is required and expected. Commodity IaaS clouds, on the other hand, are built for distributed workloads. Infrastructure failure is expected and applications are designs to withstand this. Applications are built for multi-site redundancy across zones.
Design and Build
Once you have assessed your workloads and done your due diligence to determine the most appropriate cloud model for your organisation, you must develop the strategy. The design phase involves an assessment of an organisation’s existing network, data centre and application environment and produces a series of detailed design documents that articulate network, application migration and implementation processes.
A migration plan is then created based on the destination workload profiles. The plan combines a specific sequence of actions and the human and financial resources required. It evaluates migration options for each specific workload and the location of the workload placement, including:
- Rightsizing the workloads
- Network design
- Application profiling
- Dependency mapping
- Data protection
Organisations must also decide whether they will embark on a phased or ‘big bang’ approach to cloud implementation. Most organisations favour an incremental approach as it allows them to ‘cloud-enable’ their IT assets without interrupting day-to-day business operations. It is in this phase that you will also determine the approach to cloud migration. The ‘lift and shift’ method is a common option, where in-house applications can be replicated in the cloud without re-design. If your organisation is ‘bleeding costs’ from maintaining its own infrastructure, or you are migrating applications for disaster recovery purposes, then this is the way to go, as re-architecting applications can be costly and time-consuming. Generally though, re-design is recommended for resource-intensive applications, such as those used for big data analysis and image rendering. Otherwise, they can suffer from performance and latency issues.
The design and build phase should document the complete migration strategy for workloads moving to the cloud. It is important to have clear communication of the planned cloud migration approach with all stakeholders.
Pilot testing is a recommended approach to mitigate any potential migration risk. It verifies that the services migrated or provisioned meet the business requirements and expectations, and ensures that critical business applications perform as expected in a cloud environment before migrating the production instances. Pilot testing also verifies the migration process, allowing for better planning of the commissioning phase.
At the successful completion of the pilot, a full scale commissioning of the cloud program of works can be undertaken, including the implementation of any tools required for migration, workload configurations and network configuration. Testing applications and databases following the implementation is also recommended and is usually the largest contributor to the migration effort. This involves tasks such as data verification, testing of database stored procedures and functions, and testing of application interaction with new database platforms.
Cloud migration is a reasonably straightforward process as long as you have a carefully planned approach. By assessing the current portfolio of applications, an organisation is able to understand the challenges, complexity, and level of effort required to have its workloads migrated.
For a more in-depth, step-by-step process to determining the most appropriate cloud strategy for your enterprise, download our whitepaper, ‘Selecting the right cloud’.