The 9 vital questions you must ask before cloud migration

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Cloud migration is a priority for CIOs, but success lies in getting your plans and processes nailed down. Answering these nine crucial questions can help.

Moving IT workloads to the cloud has become a key CIO priority. The latest RightScale State of the Cloud report suggests that it’s the second highest priority for CIOs in 2019, behind only optimising costs for existing cloud use, while research from MarketsandMarkets predicts the cloud migration market will grow a quarter (24.5%) in the years between 2017 and 2022.

Yet while organisations are looking for the most effective cloud migration strategy, many are still finding their migration projects fail, or come in significantly over budget. Indeed, in one 2018 Forrester survey, 40% of businesses questioned admitted that their cloud migration costs were higher than expected.

However, these risks can be mitigated or avoided outright by finding the right process and ensuring that cloud and business strategies align. It’s all a matter of asking yourself the right questions, as we investigate below:

1. What should you migrate, and in what order?

Laurence Guihard-Joly, of IBM’s Global Cloud Migration Factory, has pointed out that cloud migrations require careful strategic planning and a multipronged approach, which revolves around not just making sure applications find the right cloud environment, but also not putting applications that belong on-premise in the cloud.

As such, every migration needs to start with an assessment of your existing applications and environments, sorting applications in terms of their performance, access and security requirements and their technical dependencies. This can help you avoid diminished performance or unforeseen costs.

2. How will your applications operate in the cloud?

When you get to grips with the above requirements you can also work out how best to operate your applications in the cloud. For simple applications -- or those that already run on a virtualised platform, the simple ‘lift and shift’ approach will work, but more complex applications that rely upon specific platforms or data resources may need to be modernised or even re-architected.

3. How will the move impact IT and business performance?

In some respects, cloud migration is the art of minimising disruption and downtime – of prioritising business needs over technology requirements. Only by understanding how, when and why your teams use applications can you prioritise and schedule migration tasks to preserve business continuity wherever possible and minimise disruption where not.

4. How will you migrate the data?

Data migration often plays second fiddle to moving applications and workloads, but it shouldn’t. Once again, it’s a question of understanding the priorities and dependencies and promoting continuity. Data can also be exposed during the migration process, making it critical that it's properly secured. Monitoring and post-migration checks are also vital. How can you ensure that you’re not losing valuable data?

5. How will you manage governance and security?

At the media company, Ascential, CIO Sean Harley put governance and security front-and-centre in its cloud migration process.

“You can’t just go into the cloud all-in” he told CIO UK. “You have to focus in on what the governance processes are – how do you manage costs predominantly – as well as the governance around cloud infrastructures.”

There are two sides to this. First, you need to align the governance and security requirements of applications with the security provisions of your prospective cloud platforms. How can you ensure that your applications and data will be guarded with appropriate levels of security and still remain accessible and fully auditable? Second, how can you manage and control what services are being used, at what cost and by whom? This is key to preventing cloud costs from spiralling out of control.

6. How do you identify the most appropriate cloud providers?

Answer the questions above, and it soon becomes clear that different applications will have different requirements, and that no single cloud platform or provider is ideal for all of them.

For most organisations, a hybrid, multicloud approach involving a range of private cloud, public cloud and SaaS providers will be optimal, even if this creates challenges in terms of orchestration and management.

7. Are your staff ready the change?

Moving to the cloud will mean new processes and ways of working, which your teams won’t get to grips with overnight. Telefonica UK CIO Brendan O’Rourke isolates this as a key challenge in the firm’s migration process, where even changes like moving employees from using local storage to cloud-based infrastructure could reduce the momentum. Here, O’Rourke commissioned videos and online and internal training to get workers up to speed. A successful migration means bringing your people with you too, not just your applications.

8. What are the realistic costs and timelines?

Only once you’ve answered the above can you come up with a realistic idea of costs and timelines. Even then you need to be prepared for some surprises, and you’ll need a framework in place to manage the transactions. Here, it helps if you can work with service providers who already have a robust and proven methodology.

9. Who should you work with to migrate?

Just asking all these questions requires a grasp of the migration process and expertise in the technologies involved. Finding answers and implementing your strategy will take this to another level. This is why it makes sense to find a partner with experience, know-how and an established methodology, plus the end-to-end services to help you both ask the right questions and define specific answers for your organization.

This is where IBM’s Global Technology Services can help, with the services, methodologies and tools to help you migrate successfully to a multicloud environment that’s custom-built to match your organisation’s needs. To find out more, visit https://www.ibm.com/uk-en/services/cloud

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