Laying the Groundwork for Cloud Migrations

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Five Ways to Migrate Applications to the Cloud

Migration strategies organizations should consider when moving to the cloud.

To say that the cloud is the latest technology to hit the enterprise is something of an understatement. In reality, it's a technology that will completely remake the enterprise from the ground up, effecting major changes in everything from systems and infrastructure to business processes and staffing.

Clearly, this kind of change won't be easy. And probably the most daunting aspect of the cloud is ensuring that data, and data accessibility, is maintained as the shift occurs.

Fortunately, since many of the top cloud platform providers are also enterprises themselves, we have merely to look at their own cloud migration practices to see how it should be done. A prime candidate is IBM, which recently deployed a new cloud-based version of its own Cognos analytics software and is putting large portions of its test and development capabilities to the cloud.

According to CIO Jeanette Horan, there are a number of ways to ease the pain of such a major disruption. For instance, buy-in from affected departments is crucial, with the full understanding that they are giving up control over their own IT silos. Ideally, this should begin with IT itself - if they can give up control, anyone can. It also helps if the entire organization can settle on a single cloud platform (in IBM's case, this would be ZLinux), and then begin a gradual migration to ensure cloud systems and architectures are functioning properly before committing additional resources.

Microsoft, too, has a vested interest in ensuring cloud migrations go smoothly. With the launch of Office 365, which includes cloud-based versions of SharePoint and Exchange, Redmond is looking to the cloud for a significant chunk of future revenues. However, as the experiences of Arlington County, Va., show, solid prep work is needed before the migration commences. Small things, like ensuring everyone is up-to-date with their existing Office platforms so they can easily upgrade to 365, can slow things down substantially.

The choice of cloud provider can also affect both the complexity and the cost of the migration as well. Mimecast, for example, is offering six months of free migration services for customers upgrading to Office 365 and Exchange 2010. The package includes a 58-day rolling email archive to prevent loss or inaccessibility when servers are taken offline. It also includes the Mimecast Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) that automates mail routing procedures.

In any migration, however, some basic pre-planning is in order, according to ZDNet's Michael Lee. First, you need to define the scope of the migration and come up with a strategy to meet your goals. It's also important to spell out clearly exactly what you expect from your provider, and then keep employees fully aware of what is going on and what they should expect during and after the migration. It's also not a bad idea to have an exit strategy in place, just in case things don't work out as planned.

In theory, the cloud should provide a more robust, flexible environment than traditional enterprise infrastructure, and that should make data migration a little easier. That may come true at some point, but for the moment, cloud migration is likely to be just as complicated.

The basic process hasn't changed - only the configuration of the underlying resources.

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