Corporate Information Technology (IT) departments are quickly evolving from a traditional technology support role to an internal service provider to line of business owners. IT can no longer simply function as a best effort based on a fixed IT budget within a company. Instead, it’s an enabler of technology application and IT resources that directly relate to customers and business operations. Cloud computing is a primary tool for providing these on-demand technology services; however, the transition from traditional internal IT operations to cloud computing must be carefully planned and executed.
Benefits and challenges migrating to the cloud
Business and IT leaders within most organizations have certainly heard about cloud computing at this point, but many do not truly understand how this can benefit their enterprise and how to begin the transformation. While the basic definitions, use cases, and capabilities of a cloud are beyond the scope of this article, it is important to determine how your particular organization would most benefit. Saving cost, or at least reducing capital expense cycles may be a primary motivator for some, while enabling rapid deployment of new applications and IT resources if universally accepted as a primary goal.
Organizations should understand that the type of cloud environments deployed or used—private, public, or hybrid—directly affects the cost of services, features available, and the methods of managing the cloud. While an organization can often save money leveraging cloud, a private cloud, for example, often costs more money and effort to initially deploy before any savings are achieved. Limited internal IT personnel and cloud-related skills may also limit the pace and/or ability to migrate to cloud so careful assessment of the current IT organization and use of outside consultants are recommended.
Best practices for starting the journey to cloud
There are way too many best practices or “lessons learned” to cover in this article but I have included best practice checklists in every chapter of my book, The Enterprise Cloud, covering topics such as cloud operations, architecture and deployment, security, application transformation, cloud management platforms, and hybrid/cloud brokering. For this article and as an overall starting point for organizations and business leaders, I will highlight the following:
- Assess each of your organization’s current applications and data to determine the value to your business and customers, the criticality/necessity, and current challenges. If the application is critical to your business, or your could improve, for example, revenues or customer satisfaction, then maybe that application should be improved and moved to cloud first. You will likely find applications that can simply be retired or possibly replaced by a SaaS cloud offering in the cloud while more complex applications may need to be re-written in order to leverage the cloud.
- Hire outside consultants to help with application assessments, cloud model decisions and deployments, and to help the migration process. Building an internal private cloud often requires skills that existing internal IT personnel simply do not have.
- Deploying an initial private cloud, or procuring public cloud services, to host virtual machines is a very common method to start the journey to cloud. Select “low hanging fruit” applications such as email or shared document repositories as initial cloud migrations.
- It is the applications and development environments in the cloud that take much longer to deploy and migrate to—large organizations often create 3-5 year plans for migrating their applications and data. Budgets for application migrations or re-writing is often the driver for a multi-year migration plan. Organizations needing or wanting to move application migrations more quickly should highly consider outside consulting expertise who have the ability to stage/operate application “migration factories” or multiple teams to handle migrations and app development as parallel processes.
- Understand and plan for the reality that you will most likely have multiple cloud providers (including integration with legacy internal IT) to form a hybrid cloud environment. This hybrid environment will require management of each cloud provider, using each provider’s administration portal, or consider using a cloud broker management platform.
To learn more, listen to my conversation with O’Reilly editor Brian Anderson, in which we discuss these topics and more:
- The benefits and challenges of migrating to the cloud
- Assessing the current enterprise (Internal IT) and applications
- Private, public, and hybrid clouds
- Cloud brokering, and multi-provider cloud environments
- What about OpenStack?
- Migrating virtual machines and applications, using containers and cloud native approaches
- Cloud security
- Best practices for cloud migration
This post and podcast is a collaboration between O'Reilly and NGINX. See our statement of editorial independence.