How To Build a Cloud Migration Strategy in 2021?

Wiktor Starzak

Mar 2, 2021 • 10 min read

What should the process of creating a cloud migration strategy look like? What challenges or problems can be expected? We will present the benefits and pitfalls of cloud migration, as well as take you step-by-step through the process of creating a cloud migration strategy.

According to Gartner, by 2022 companies will contribute $1.3 trillion towards shifting to cloud computing. While cloud migration is associated with multiple benefits such as dynamic scaling and cost reduction, in order to do it effectively it’s indispensable to have a cloud migration strategy in place.

Why is it worth moving to the cloud – benefits for businesses

Before discussing the cloud migration strategy steps, let’s take a look at the benefits associated with moving your data to the cloud.

Pay for resources that you use

Cloud migration removes the need to invest in costly equipment and doesn’t require setting up and operating any data centers. Businesses save significantly on purchasing hardware, facilities, and utilities which are necessary in the case of traditional computing. They only pay for resources that they actually need and use.

Dynamic scaling (+ on-demand availability)

Scaling capabilities are indispensable for enabling business growth. Keeping enough resources to account for peak demand is a huge expenditure and an issue frequently encountered in traditional computing.

By migrating to the cloud, businesses can eliminate this cost as resources are available on-demand. This indicates that companies can scale up during increased demand and scale down if the demand is lower.

High availability (redundant hardware in different regions)

As your servers aren’t located on-site, you can access your storage from virtually anywhere in the world. Furthermore, top cloud computing platforms ensure high security standards. As their servers are spread across the globe, there are also rarely any performance or accessibility issues.

Easy recovery and infrastructure modification

Many cloud computing platforms, including Google Cloud, offer a backup service and so-called ‘cloud disaster recovery’.

As explained by Techopedia, it functions as “an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution that backs up designated system data on a remote offsite cloud server”. When you use a cloud service, you can also easily scale your storage capacity and usage without having to worry about modifying your infrastructure.

Lower maintenance costs

Lastly, as you do not need to set up and maintain your own physical servers, your business enjoys a lot of savings over time. You pay solely for the storage and features you use.

Building a cloud migration strategy step by step

While creating a cloud migration strategy is a rather straightforward task, occasionally you might run into some issues and challenges, which we discuss in the next section. To prepare a cloud architecture you must first come up with well-written documentation showing server dependencies to enable architects and DevOps to design the architecture.

For the purpose of estimating the infrastructure cost, you should also include the following information: used data storage, in/out traffic & CPU/memory, and resource usage. Let’s now take a look at how you can create a cloud migration strategy.

1. Plan the infrastructure

These steps require DevOps & architects to plan what the infrastructure will look like and how to make it cost-effective using the tools provided by cloud providers.

While for small infrastructures this process is straightforward, for infrastructures with high amounts of traffic it might prove longer. It can even involve some change proposals to the application code so it matches the microservices/serverless approach in order to reduce costs.

2. Plan the migration steps

Depending on the scale and amount of data, the migration might take an hour, or even up to a few weeks! That's why you should create a plan on how to make all of the gears work together with zero (or almost zero) downtime with a potential revert procedure.

At this step of the migration journey, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Given my business and data specificity, how to make the switch to a cloud infrastructure as safe as possible?
  • Are there any services that I should migrate first (and if so, what are they)? Or will my organization be better off migrating all its data at once?
  • How to apply database & data synchronization so that the data is available (i.e., mirrored) in the cloud and on-premise throughout the migration?

3. Ask your DevOps to create IaC (Infrastructure as Code)

At this step, your DevOps specialists (or the external cloud technology consultants you work with) should apply the necessary changes to your code.

For instance, there might be some old legacy applications that require updating. Alternatively, you might need to convert your apps into microservices to make them scale asynchronously.

Another potential scenario is that your DevOps will need to add CDN support. The bottom line – there are a lot of potential reasons why your team will need to review and modify your apps at this stage.

Once they’ve done the necessary alterations, you will need to sync the data and databases to the cloud.

4. Create the test (staging) infrastructure

If you’ve never heard of staging before, it is a nearly-identical environment where you can test out the features of your app and its performance before merging it to the production infrastructure.

You will also need to create such an environment for your IaC code where you’ll be able to compare the actual costs with your estimations and implement a ‘Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery’ (CI/CD) process.

By using such a test infrastructure, you will be able to update the services to make them more secure and flexible. Next, you can proceed to the testing stage.

5. Tests (performance, integration, etc.)

During the cloud migration testing, you must clearly define the type of software testing that you’re going to run – during and after the migration.

What’s more, it’s necessary for decision-makers to ensure that there are enough skilled personnel, tools, and resources to spot any potential problems and tackle them early in the process.

6. Create the production infrastructure and implement the migration plan

If your performance and integration tests have delivered satisfying results and you’ve successfully finalized all of the previous steps, you can create a production infrastructure. This means you can put the migration plan defined in the second step to work.

If everything goes as expected in this last step, your cloud migration process will be successfully completed.

What challenges or problems can be expected when building a cloud migration strategy?

With the above in mind, before you proceed to create your cloud migration strategy, you must also be aware of the potential issues and challenges you might encounter.

Potential challenges

Maintaining website uptime throughout the migration

One potential challenge you might have to face during the cloud migration is ensuring access to your services throughout the process. This can be tricky, as the location of your data will influence how your app operates.

If the time you migrate your data and services isn’t synchronized, you jeopardize the performance for the end user. It’s quite easy to imagine the disturbance in services your application will witness if part of your services are stored on on-site servers while your data is already in an external data center.

That said, there are other areas you must also be aware of – database synchronizations and file storage sync being two of them.

To summarize, migrating your app and data at the same time are crucial to maintaining service performance and avoiding downtime. Your team must plan these steps carefully in order to keep the potential downtime to an absolute minimum.

Costs associated with invocation time

In a serverless approach, such as the one you’re leveraging for your cloud storage, developers run functions to perform tasks. You must keep in mind that you will be paying for invocation time, i.e., the time it takes for your function code to be executed, either successfully or erroneously.

Therefore, if you have high on-site traffic or long-running requests, you must work on optimization and keeping the invocation time as short as possible.

Potential problems

Might require more DevOps resources and skills

Depending on how large your infrastructure is, cloud migration might require the involvement of a bigger team, as one DevOps might not be sufficient to do it in a timely manner.

Another issue is finding an employee skilled enough to run the migration effectively. In fact, shortages of cybersecurity talent are responsible for 40% of delays in cloud migration projects.

It can be pricey

Cloud migration can prove pricey if you’re moving from big old legacy systems, as your programming team might have to refactor them. The purpose of it is to ensure that your system runs smoothly – refactoring changes the code’s structure without modifying its functionality.

Summary

While cloud migration might initially appear like a complex and arduous process, it doesn’t have to be one, provided that you follow the right process.

As mentioned in this post, there are several steps your team needs to take. Once you’ve established that cloud computing is the right choice for your business, you should start off by carefully planning the infrastructure and migration.

Next, your DevOps team will need to create so-called IaC documentation, which will be a point of reference once you test your migration on a test environment. Once you’ve successfully completed all previous steps, you’ll be able to make your migration a fact and finally reap the benefits of using off-site infrastructure.

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