Developing a sound cloud migration strategy

Cloud migration is again in the headlines as The Third Platform continues to gain visibility. Although cloud computing has been mainstream for some time, the technology is now percolating to the top of many IT strategy plans. More than ever, the cloud represents a technology platform for business growth and innovation that delivers significant advantages and opportunities through easy, scalable and real-time access to computing resources and IT services.

The cloud, along with other third platform technologies, can help organizations improve how they do business by helping them rethink and re-assess the ways they use technology. In general, the cloud can contribute to an organization’s success by enabling it to react quickly to opportunities that create competitive advantages; build deeper and more effective partnerships that drive business; and effectively allocate time and resources to what differentiates the organization.

Define the business value

To define the business value and benefits of the cloud, organizations should first understand the capabilities of the cloud.

When an organization is considering the cloud – or even if they’ve started migrating applications or workloads – they can explore cloud-based offerings by consulting with solutions specialists from the Zones Advanced Solutions Group, who can provide technology, cloud solutions, and best practice guidance to help make the most of cloud computing and other third platform technologies.

Step back and ask the right questions

Each organization must decide if cloud technology will serve them well, whether public, private, hybrid or – in some cases – not at all.

Before making any decisions about cloud models, services, providers and subscriptions, priority should be given to developing a strategic roadmap. Knowing details about the current IT infrastructure helps IT managers and Zones determine which cloud services are strategically the most beneficial for the organization.

Zones offers no-cost Solutions Strategy Workshops, conducted by our solutions architects. During these ½-day to full-day workshops, a Zones solution architect leads an organization’s IT team through a review of its existing IT environment. During the workshop, we work with customers to identify the risk profile for each application being considered for cloud migration. We also determine flexibility requirements for fluctuating workloads (performance and capacity).

Other objectives of the workshop are to:

  • Define and prioritize organization needs and wants
  • Outline high level operational requirements
  • Determine dependencies of data and applications
  • Assign risk tolerance to data and applications
  • Establish performance requirements (high or low latency)
  • Summarize compliance regulations and IT governance

Workshop participants also discuss and agree on future state, or the desired end-state, and the existing technologies that are available to bridge the gap. A “compare-and-contrast” of cloud solutions and services from Zones’ key partners also takes place during the meeting.

After the session, customers receive a strategic roadmap, a workshop summary and budgetary cost documents from their Zones solution architect.

Put the strategic plan into action

A strategic roadmap prepares the Zones customer for the pre-deployment phase of their cloud migration project. The Zones solution architect along with other IT specialists and the organization’s IT team will participate in a Solution Definition Workshop . This involves in-depth meetings, pre-deployment planning, and cloud solution selection that can take a couple of days or several weeks when the project is complex.

Customers have the opportunity to see product demonstrations of recommended solutions. We can also arrange small pilot programs that are designed to help customers evaluate cloud solutions in their own working environments prior to making a final selection.

A customer’s Zones account executive, along with the Zones project team, will work with cloud providers to develop quotes, establish service levels, and when required put plans in place for ongoing management.

During the project, Zones data center solution architects and cloud engineers engage with other Zones resources as necessary, including software licensing specialists and industry-certified engineers as well as solution architects in networking, storage, security and mobility.

Know what can make a big difference later on

Customers spend a lot of time and effort moving into the cloud, so Zones wants to be sure the cloud migration is successful for the long-term. At Zones, we take a proactive, forward-thinking approach to all IT projects. During a cloud migration, we advise on critical points that can be costly later or open a door to potential risks.

Choosing the right subscription plan is as important as choosing the right workload and solution. We’ll scope out pricing options based on the use cases for specific workloads and applications. For example, during the discovery phase we may have identified a seasonal workload that would be managed most cost-effectively under a pay-as-you-go service.

Here are some of the other forward-thinking and business continuity considerations:

  • What can be done now to ease moving other workloads to the cloud in the future?
  • Are the cloud solutions able to satisfy future options/expected requirements?
  • Is there a back-out strategy if there is a change in service providers?
  • Does the disaster recovery process satisfy the organization’s RTO/RPO requirements?
  • Does the cloud service provider meet IT governance requirements?

Finally, it should be mentioned that a cloud migration is much easier when an environment is virtualized, since workloads and data can be easily moved. If an organization hasn’t virtualized yet, the IT manager should consult with a Zones solutions architect prior to migrating to the cloud.

Leverage Zones expertise and professional services

It’s easy to get lost in all the complexity that’s inherent in a cloud migration. While each cloud migration project is unique, here are some of the core services Zones provides:

  • Application inventory and dependency analysis
  • Performance base lining (pre- and post-deployment)
  • Project planning, scheduling and management
  • Compatibility testing and remediation
  • Systems testing and user acceptance testing

Zones can help you strategically and mindfully build a cloud environment where innovation thrives, interactions are more meaningful, and cost-effective processes are in place.

Contributed by Nina Hillman
Zones Solution Architect
Virtualization/Cloud Solutions

This post was excerpted from an article that appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Zones Solutions Journal magazine. You can view the online version of the entire issue here.