A cloud migration strategy: a 5-step checklist

Cloud migration strategy requires significant initial investments before it starts bringing you benefits. It is a complicated process, often requiring many difficult decisions. At some point, the need to migrate to the cloud falls upon your tech experts, from data scientists to machine learning engineers, who could be unprepared to handle this task alone. To alleviate the situation, our professional IT consultants and cloud migration services experts have joined the efforts to help you along the way.

The following guide provides five essential steps to control your cloud migration project.

1. Define how much cloud capacity you need

The traditional providers of internet infrastructure don’t sell computational power. Instead, they sell resources, or, to be more specific, servers that run 24/7, charging you by the hour even when you aren’t using these resources. In most cases, your cloud-based application or system is not fully loaded during the prepaid time, so you’re wasting your budget away paying for the server’s idle time.

Now, the numbers will vary depending on your scale of operations. For example, if a local company goes without night-time operations like reporting or maintenance, it will face 12 hours of downtime. It means that 50% of their infrastructure budget goes down the drain.

Scalability is a sensitive matter

Simply purchasing a large server based solely on abstract traffic predictions can be too optimistic, while buying a small server can backfire if you end up going viral and your system crashes under immense pressure.

Therefore, the right approach to your cloud migration strategy would be to go for the cloud capable of auto-scaling or to use serverless backend systems based on AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, or similar specialised services. Such services enable automatic backend scaling, meaning you can benefit from pay-as-you-go and pay-as-you-use models.

However, using the cloud is not always a good idea. For example, when hosting in the cloud, you don’t know on which physical servers your components will be deployed. Network-attached storage could be less efficient than local drives. And in the case of high-loaded systems where the response time is critical, local servers can work better.

2. Adjust your architecture

If you migrate your system as is, the cloud will always be more expensive than local storage. To optimise costs, you should adjust your architecture before migration and choose the right services to facilitate this complex process.

You should also add the cloud provider management costs and scalability overheads since cloud providers offer fully managed services.

Considering all these factors, the only correct approach to cloud migration is deciding which system components must be left on premises and which need to be migrated to the cloud.

Balancing service utilisation

Before you make any big decisions, analyse the services that are fully loaded and the underutilised ones. Optimising the architecture first will make the cloud cheaper than a dedicated server. To help you with that, here’s a list of the most typical out-of-the-box steps you can take:

  • Move all your static resources to CDN: this should take some of the load off your application servers.
  • Use in-platform infrastructure components such as load balancers, message queues, and caching services.
  • Replace rarely used routines and services with serverless handlers (from AWS Lambda or Azure Functions).
  • The identical replacement can be accomplished for simple backend services with a sporadic load and those tolerant of response time.

To discover more services that can be replaced, you can consult cloud computing providers such as AWS and Azure, currently the two most popular ones.

3. Calculate costs

Answering the notorious pricing question is incredibly difficult. The calculations can easily sway to either side depending on what you think is the best option—on-premises or the cloud.

Let’s provide a straightforward example. Imagine you have a system that was initially designed to run on-premises. This is a very busy system with more than 10 TB of data, an 8,000,000+ events per day update rate, and a 30,000 events per minute throughput. You’re going to need a cloud migration strategy for this system.

In this case, you will be migrating in two steps: 

  1. You will rewrite the infrastructure components to benefit from serverless services
  2. You will choose the best out-of-the-box cloud services

By optimising and re-engineering your infrastructure, you will be able to migrate while requiring fewer languages. And, by using serverless services, you will see a dramatic cut in overall costs. 

A few perks of migrating this way will be automated scaling, simplified development and support, and resource optimisation.

4. Protect your data

For security reasons, specific industries can’t fully consider cloud migration: for example, banking and finance, the public sector, insurance, and healthcare. However, many highly regulated organisations, including government agencies, that work with different types of sensitive data have found a way to host their systems on the cloud.

They are opting for a hybrid model where they only have to store segments of their data in the cloud, thereby safeguarding themselves from attacks by maintaining strict user access limits and utilising robust government firewalls.

Even if you have multiple security concerns, moving to the cloud is still a possibility if you and your chosen cloud provider can share the following responsibilities:

Your responsibilitiesCloud provider’s responsibilities
Choose your cloud provider based on their security acknowledgments.Analyse security risks and scan your architecture for loopholes.
Create an effective SLA that covers provider-client relationships, third parties, and cloud brokers.Create a case-specific threat management plan with a clear incident resolution roadmap.
Choose hybrid models where you can keep your mission-critical solutions secured on the premises.Counteract security risks with virtual machines that are separate from the corporate network.
Maintain a flexible security model that keeps evolving in response to threats.

5. Choose open source

Many businesses referring to external software development services and looking to adopt the cloud fear the so-called vendor lock-in, that is, being unable to leave the cloud or change their provider after committing to one. Also among the most significant concerns are the interoperability and portability of applications when switching vendors and the fear of paying even more to change the infrastructure.

To address lock-in concerns, you should discover what exactly is behind the provider’s brand name by researching their documentation or asking an expert. For example, here are some services from the AWS stack that are open-source or interoperable:

  • AWS ElastiCache: a caching service using either Redis or Memcached on the backend
  • Amazon Aurora: a database service that is compatible with MySQL
  • Amazon Redshift: a data warehouse service initially built on top of PostgreSQL that is still compatible with most SQL features

You can also choose cloud services that utilise either standard or open protocols, allowing you to switch providers when necessary. In addition, open protocols make room for equipment interoperability without using proprietary gateways or interfaces.

Now, if cloud services offer their own proprietary protocols alongside open protocols, then the advice is always to opt for the latter. For example, Azure Service Bus provides its own API as well as a supporting AMQP — an open messaging protocol. By choosing an open standard, you get to remain flexible. This means you can switch your provider or even deploy your own service instance that supports the same protocol without making any significant changes in client components.

Conclusion

Cloud migration is a complex, multi-level process that requires a solid amount of planning. This guide outlined the critical cloud migration steps that can help you minimise your infrastructure costs, avoid vendor lock-in, and address the common fears that come with cloud adoption.

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Liza Dzhezhora is a Healthcare IT Analyst at Itransition, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver, CO. She looks into the ways IT technologies can streamline healthcare processes and explores how medical IoT, AI, robotics, and healthcare analytics help solve industry challenges.

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