Ready for the Cloud? Here’s What You Should Move (and When)

May 2 2016 | by Yoav Mor

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Public Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) vendors, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, offer many benefits over traditional data centers. But where do you start? Which applications do you move first? These are business decisions that need very careful consideration. Because, when you migrate the right application, you can gain significant operational efficiencies. And you’ll eliminate many of the headaches of managing the in-house infrastructure that supports it. But make the wrong decision and you could end up paying significantly more.

This is why enterprises often find the hybrid approach, using a mixture of public cloud-based and in-house infrastructure, the best solution when looking to revise their IT infrastructure. So how do you decide which of your applications are ready for the cloud? And when should you move them?

Cloud Adoption – Take One Step at a Time

You may have spent years of hard work and investment developing and running mission-critical applications in a traditional data center environment. So, if they’re still fit for purpose, now isn’t the time to migrate them. The workloads may rely on legacy systems. Or transition to the cloud may require considerable reprogramming and system reconfiguration. This can be difficult, time-consuming and laden with potential pitfalls.

What’s more, though leasing a cloud instance is the right choice in many cases, it may still be more expensive than using hardware you already own. So, if you have the existing capability, it usually makes financial sense to continue using it.

And performance may also be an issue. The cloud can offer almost boundless compute resources. But if you have limited Internet bandwidth then reduced access speed could negatively affect the user experience. Similarly, if your cloud-based application integrates with in-house systems, this communication layer will introduce unnecessary latency.

So take one step at a time and focus on those applications that will bring you immediate benefit. As your IT requirements change, the time may come to migrate more or even all of your existing IT infrastructure. This may be when there are wider strategic reasons for cloud adoption, which we’ll cover later.

So What Should You Migrate to the Cloud?

The on-demand nature of the public cloud makes it ideal for dynamic workloads that need to be scaled up or down as required. Typically, online retail sites experience seasonal fluctuations in sales and may benefit from compute resources they can boost during peak periods. Similarly, large-scale enterprises may want extra IT capability to perform high-load batch processing at financial year end. Many organizations also experience sudden bursts of processing activity triggered by news, weather and other external events. The cloud could help them deal with these surges without negative impact on their everyday computation workloads. Jobs such as big data analysis and provisioning scratch and temporary dev/test environments are well suited to the cloud.

Virtualized on-premises environments are a natural choice, as they’re easier to migrate. Standalone applications that run in isolation are also far easier to move than heavily integrated and complex systems. And newer applications that run on the latest operating systems are far less likely to run into compatibility problems.

When Should You Migrate?

Cloud adoption is not only a question of what systems to migrate but also when. If you don’t already have existing IT infrastructure then moving straight to the cloud will save you the upfront investment of an in-house system. And you’ll get everything off the ground a lot more quickly. The cloud also offers these advantages to enterprises when building new applications from scratch or when on-premise infrastructure nears the end of its life cycle.

If your servers are already pushed to their limit, it may be a good time to switch to a hybrid configuration and handle traffic bursts through your cloud extension. And there may be wider business reasons for migration. For example, when demand for space is high, it may make financial sense to release areas in your data center for other purposes. Or when you want to simplify your finances—as it’s much easier to keep track of your IT expenses if you have one simple bill to pay every month.

What Other Factors Should You Consider?

Your Proof of Concept will need to address a broad range of other factors before you can make a sound business case for moving to the cloud. Will your application function? How easy will it be to migrate? Will it be cost-effective? Will you get the same level of performance? But you’ll also need to ask yourself what features you’ll need and whether your preferred vendor can provide them. Do you need bare metal servers? What level of security do you require for compliance? And how will you be able to maintain a secure administration policy in a hybrid cloud environment?

Bear in mind the issues aren’t simply technical or financial. There are also human factors to consider. Some team members may be resistant to change. So, by planning ahead and integrating cloud services into your hardware life-cycle policy, staff have more time to get used to the idea. And that could be enough to get everyone on board and ensure a successful path to adoption.

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