Raju Chekuri is President and CEO at NetEnrich.
Any sound IT project begins with an assessment of current state, goals and requirements. Moving to the cloud is no exception; in fact, cloud computing is less a project than a transformation of running IT. This makes doing a proper and well-planned assessment even more important if your company is planning a migration in part or in full to the cloud.
Yet one assessment isn’t exactly like another. This is a specialized effort, which most IT departments aren’t prepared to do on their own.
I like to think of assessments as the start of a journey, delivering a roadmap for milestones, costs and ROI. Don’t be fooled by experts who will tell you that an assessment is the same thing as capacity planning.
There’s much more to preparing for a bulletproof cloud environment than mapping your on-premise environment to cloud infrastructure. You’ve got to understand the differences between the two environments, and plan accordingly.
A glaring difference between on-premises infrastructure and running in the cloud is latency. Applications hosted in the cloud will require sufficient bandwidth and compute resource to make up for the longer distance that data must travel to get to your employees, as well as the effect of shared resources.
Cloud platforms also will vary. Microsoft Azure, for example, offers a network accelerator service called ExpressRoute that offers better network speeds for such use cases. Be sure to work with a firm that is an expert in your cloud platform of choice.
Regardless of providers, here’s a list of some of the common pitfalls that IT organizations encounter in assessments, leading to performance issues and cost overruns later.
Lack of existing performance data. It’s challenging to design a new environment without benchmarks. You may think that whatever infrastructure you have deployed internally will translate seamlessly to the cloud. That’s not usually the case. To avoid under-provisioning or over-provisioning your new cloud environment, make sure to gather adequate performance metrics over a few weeks, as opposed to just a few hours. This data will allow you to understand user patterns and system requirements under different conditions and scenarios.
Not enough bandwidth. You’ve got to have the right pipes to run in the cloud. To determine your needs, first analyze how much network bandwidth your applications currently use, or plan to use. Next, consider the architecture. If you will have a hybrid environment straddling your on-premises and Microsoft Azure environments, for instance, then you might want to consider a dedicated line.
Lack of planning for cloud storage. Transitioning from on-premises storage such as SAN to cloud storage comes with many options. Public cloud storage options include block storage (ideal for high-performance applications), File and NAS storage, object storage and tape storage. The latter two choices are best for archiving. Another decision is whether your systems require local or global redundancy — the latter being more resilient for high uptime needs of critical systems, yet also more expensive.
Overlooking app dependencies. Applications today rarely run in isolation. They connect to databases and other applications, which may be running on different servers and the VMs. If you fail to consider those dependencies and move an application to the cloud without its “partners,” the application won’t work well, if at all. Therefore, move applications and their dependent systems together, to avoid such issues. Dependency mapping is no small feat. It takes time and a certain amount of expertise. Ensure that your migration partner is willing and able to perform this extremely important task for your environment. It requires automated tools to do this cost-effectively, which is why not all service partners can offer it.
Going all-in when you really shouldn’t. An integral part of the assessment is analyzing the risk of moving a system to the cloud. Some applications, like heavily customized legacy systems, will be too expensive or problematic to adapt to the cloud. It’s simply not worth the trouble. Other applications may require control that cloud infrastructure can’t support. Moving to the cloud is quite often a phased effort or a hybrid project, especially for large, multifaceted organizations. Vendors that push an all-in strategy at all costs should be put out to pasture.
Making false assumptions about security. Cloud platforms have matured to the point that there is ample truth in the saying that cloud security is better than what most companies can manage on their own. That makes perfect sense, since the big cloud companies have thousands of large corporate customers to support; they can’t risk a security breach if they want to stay relevant and grow the lucrative enterprise business.
However, with security, “measure twice, and cut once.”
Planning for the cloud means considering not only what security needs you’ll have for those systems migrating, but how your company can actually benefit from the strong security technologies available in the cloud.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to consider in an assessment. As always, industry and company-specific issues and needs will dictate your plan. But just like planning a cross-country move for your family, there’s always more contingencies to consider in making the transition smooth and happy for all.
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