Cloud Migration – The Pain And The Opportunity

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Running a number of businesses, some using the cloud and some not, I’ve seen firsthand the reality of what it takes to move systems from traditional on-premise delivery to the cloud. Whether it’s because of push-back from users, IT department concerns, functional gaps or differences in the way applications are written, the migration is hard. While many would like to suggest the move from on-prem to cloud as being a smooth progression akin to floating down a calm stream, the reality is that often it’s more a case of battling a heaving sea in a little canoe, all the while braving pirates and sea dragons!

A recent post over on GigaOm discussed an infographic released by Cisco that speaks to some of this pain. To quote GigaOm:

The 2012 Cisco Global Cloud Networking Survey queried more than 1,300 people on their feelings and experiences with moving to a cloud computing model. While the majority of respondents expressed relative comfort with the state of their cloud migrations, some took rather extreme negative positions.

While it’s easy to be dubious about these infographics, and the veracity of the data behind them, the post does raise some issues that those in the Ccloud industry, as well as those working within organizations implementing cloud, need to think about. As one commenter said:

Migrating to the cloud is not an easy process but good preparation goes a long way toward making it easier. Many businesses do not have their internal systems in good shape in the first place so migrating them to the cloud in bad condition must be horrendous. It sounds like many of the respondents to the survey need to sort their own end out first before moving to the cloud but do not necessarily have the chance to do so as they are either being told to go into the cloud by CEO/CIOs or they are pretty blindly moving forward without knowing where they’re going. They would be best to simplify their systems as much as they can by getting commonality among internal systems, reining in shadow IT and getting all business units on board.

This is an area that we as cloud evangelists need to front up to. While those of us at the very head of the cloud wave find it easy to shirk off the difficulties of the cloud, and simplistically say that cloud is easier, faster, cheaper and better, that approach is both disrespectful to the real issues that organizations face, and unhelpful if we really want cloud to shine.

Rather we need to look at the issues in their entirety and help organizations embark on a well thought out process as they move to the cloud. It’s one area that I’m noticing developing at the moment as more and more third party cloud providers get founded that have an ethos of truly partnering with their clients and helping them plan a gradual process of migration. I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently with two Australasia-based companies following this model – ProQuest consulting and Trineo both take a view that, from my experience, is more attuned to the realities of their customers.

Part of the reason I created CloudU was to encourage organizations to proactively apprize themselves of the issues they’re likely to face in their move to the cloud. One of the CloudU papers is in fact dedicated to this subject and in it we attempted to draw some general conclusions about where the issues often lie. In fact, later this month I’ll be presenting a workshop at the Cloud Computing Summit that looks at these areas in detail.

As I see it, we can break the issues down into three distinct categories:

Technical considerations (languages, scale, security, performance, migration)
External business considerations (costs, vendor lock-in, vendor choice)
Internal business considerations (the changing IT role, cultural issues)

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at these areas in detail as a way of giving organizations looking to move to the cloud something of a step-by-step plan to begin the process. I’d be keen to hear people’s thoughts about my suggestions, and about the issues generally.

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  1. Transformation to cloud is not as clear cut a decision and needs to weighed on its merits for each application at time of business refresh. Cloud delivers another option to consider, a new form factor delivery method that will not be right for every company, in every instance and at the same time. Mixing cloud and on network as your needs, budget and resource allow will be the way forwards. Not considering cloud because of its generic cloud format in itself will be a mistake.

    Businesses need a strategy to move towards cloud, a plan, a thought through agenda of when, why and how it will adopt cloud. An example of a process for attaining such a strategy can be reviewed at

    Ian Moyse


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