7 tips for effectively migrating to the cloud

Moving to the cloud without the right strategy results in higher costs, security flaws, and disappointment with the outcome, says Gartner.

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Migrating data, applications, and other resources to the cloud has been on the to-do list for many organizations for some time. But with the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, those efforts have ramped up even further as businesses are forced to support a remote workforce. Despite the increased need for cloud services, moving in this direction without a clear strategy is a process doomed to fail. A new forecast from research firm Gartner offers seven recommendations on how to effectively migrate to the cloud.

SEE: Managing the multicloud (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic) 

The advice was shared by Gartner analysts on Monday at the company's virtual IT Infrastructure Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference 2020.

"A cloud strategy is critical for every organization and should be a concise point of view on cloud and its role in the organization," Gartner senior research director Raj Bala said. 

"Moving to cloud without a cloud strategy results in ad hoc adoption patterns, resulting in higher costs, disjointed management, security vulnerabilities, and overall dissatisfaction with cloud outcomes."

1. Ensure cloud strategy follows business strategy

Business strategies vary significantly by organizations.

"It is crucial for enterprise architects and I&O leaders to ensure that their cloud strategy aligns with and actively supports their organization's business strategy regardless of whether their organization provides consumer services, business services, or other products," Bala said.

2. Assess five types of risks

When setting a cloud strategy, enterprise architects and I&O leaders must assess cloud-related risks for the following five types of risk: 1) agility risk; 2) availability risk; 3) security risk; 4) supplier risk; and 5) compliance risk. The possible risks must be weighed against the potential benefits in a balanced and compliant manner.

"Risk management must be an integral part of any cloud strategy process," Bala said. "Formulating specific cloud exit strategies before committing to any cloud project or vendor risk management is a key step in reaching balanced cloud deployment decisions."

3. Question cost reduction as a main driver for adoption

Gartner says one of the most frequent cloud questions asked by clients is: "Is the cloud really cheaper?" Answering this requires a nuanced approach as total cost depends on the type of cloud service and the characteristics of workloads, and on the specific circumstances of the organization, it says.

"As most organizations have gained experience with real cloud implementations, the benefits are more in innovation and speed, rather than cost," Bala said.

4. Plan potential routes

For many organizations, a cloud strategy should plan for different possible routes to the cloud, such as the following:

  • Rehosting is used to move an application with minimal effort. This also means minimal change and therefore minimal benefits, as most of the application aspects stay the same.
  • Refactoring is used to take advantage of services such as cloud-managed databases rather than migrating existing databases to the cloud and continuing to internally manage them, but in another place.
  • Rebuilding is used to recreate a strategic application with a cloud native architecture that enables the use of elastic scalability and pay-per-use cloud pricing models.

5. Understand the shared responsibility model

A fundamental change that cloud computing introduces is the concept of a shared responsibility model. The responsibilities of the cloud provider are defined by the features and capabilities of the cloud service being offered. The responsibility of customers is to leverage the capabilities of the cloud service within their organization's own processes to get the desirable result.

"Cloud customers need to clearly understand what they may reasonably expect from their provider and what is their own responsibility," Bala said. "Also, as skills and experience are essential to responsible use of cloud services, organizations should facilitate training, education and eventually certification of their staff using the cloud services."

6. Differentiate the approach for 3 typical areas of enterprise adoption

Gartner has observed three distinct areas of cloud adoption: 1) adoption of software as a service (SaaS) for rapid access to modern standard functionality; 2) adoption of cloud infrastructure platforms (CIPS) for building unique new functions; and 3) migration of current and legacy applications.

When formulating their cloud strategy, enterprise architects and I&O leaders should take a holistic view that addresses the tradeoffs they must make between operational control and management. The approach should be evaluated for each application deployed to the cloud.

7. Embrace the changing role of the IT department

Over time, the IT department may adopt a role with regards to cloud services comparable to that of the HR department with regards to human resources.

"IT could facilitate increasingly digital-savvy business departments to select and leverage the right cloud services," Bala said. "No matter what cloud strategy enterprise architects and I&O leaders decide on, the strategy will involve a changing role for their internal IT organization. Typically, this leads organization to appoint a cloud architect, establish a cloud center of excellence, and set up a cloud service broker group that liaises between business stakeholders and cloud service providers."

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