Six steps to taking the complexity out of moving to the cloud

Organisations considering a move to the cloud are often hesitant to do so, as the process involved can seem daunting and fraught with complexity.

April 24, 2013

By Roelof Louw, Cloud Expert at T-Systems in South Africa

Organisations considering a move to the cloud are often hesitant to do so, as the process involved can seem daunting and fraught with complexity. Aside from this, there are the ever-present questions around bandwidth availability, speed and reliability, which can affect cloud services, as well as security concerns around data hosted outside of a company’s control. Integration and change management are further issues that need to be addressed.

However, moving to the cloud need not be the complicated process it is made out to be. By following these five steps, and then taking one step further with a Proof of Concept (PoC), organisations can take the complexity out of moving to the cloud and mitigate the risk of cloud migration, ensuring a smooth transition and uninterrupted services.

Step 1: Define the business case
While a move to the cloud need not be overly complex, it remains a big decision and one that could severely affect services and the entire organisation. For this reason, before any move to the cloud is even considered, organisations need to define the business case for migrating to the cloud. If there is no business case, organisations should not be moving to the cloud, as it will not deliver value. The business value or benefit that organisations expect to attain from the cloud needs to be clearly defined and laid out, so that a cloud strategy can be built around this and have an end goal in mind. This will not only define the path going forward, but will also provide a metric upon which to measure success.

Step 2: Consult the experts
There are many different cloud providers out there, all offering different aspects of cloud services and all with different areas of focus. Selecting the right services from the right provider can be a complex process. Consultancy services will not only help you to select the correct solutions, but will also assist with the other steps in the process of migrating to the cloud. From cloud readiness assessments to creating the roadmap for implementation and everything in between, partnering with expert consultants is possibly the single most important way of removing the complexity of a cloud migration.

Step 3: Consider the application and process environment
Before making a move to the cloud it is vital to conduct an assessment of the total business process and application landscape, and the existing IT infrastructure. Your consulting partner can assist here, to ensure that an organisation-wide assessment takes place, including business processes, IT and services. This then enables organisations to understand what services and applications can be moved to the cloud, how they can be migrated to the cloud, and what changes, re-engineering or upgrades need to take place on the infrastructure side to facilitate this move.

Step 4: Make the public/private/hybrid decision
Once an assessment had been done on which applications and services can be moved to the cloud, a decision must be made whether to implement a private cloud, utilise the public cloud or adopt a hybrid model of both. From a public cloud perspective, it is necessary to understand the regulations and legalities around your data, and whether or not there are any restrictions on the location of that stored data. Confidential information is not suitable for storage in public cloud, as laws like the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act require stringent security and locally stored information. The private cloud provides great security as the data is stored in a specified site and security can be heightened, but this obviously involves cost considerations. For this reason, many organisations adopt a hybrid approach, with public cloud solutions used for non-confidential, non-business critical information, and a private cloud solution for sensitive and confidential information. Your consulting partner will be able to advise here as well.

Step 5: Develop the cloud roadmap
Once the assessment process is complete and the decision regarding public versus private cloud has been agreed upon, a cloud roadmap should be developed. This roadmap should be based on the business case developed in step one, and should outline the strategy for transformation, migration and integration, with the environment that has been upgraded as necessary. This roadmap also outlines which applications and services will be moved into the cloud and the timeframe for doing so. It is not advisable to migrate 100% of the environment into the cloud in a single move, as integration needs to be smooth and services cannot be disrupted. The roadmap will outline the phases and approach for conducting this migration.

Step 6: The PoC
A PoC, while not absolutely necessary, can be useful before migrating to the cloud. By embarking on a PoC, the systems run parallel, as they were previously and in the cloud, offering an opportunity to troubleshoot any potential issues and providing assurance of a smooth transition. While applications can be tested in a PoC environment, it is often more useful to test the different service models and provisioning, as moving to the cloud changes not only the environment, but billing and expenses as well. The PoC can help organisations to understand and identify any challenges or changes that need to be made before the environment is migrated. It also allows for testing of the changes to processes and applications that must be made when moving to a cloud model. By identifying any problems before migration, the transition can be made seamlessly, so that when the cloud environment goes live, all issues have already resolved and addressed. Most reputable cloud providers will offer a PoC as a free service, to prove the usefulness and benefits of their solution, to enable users to streamline their environment before the move.

To conclude
Cloud computing is a technology platform that the majority of organisations are considering, if not actively seeking to migrate to. While the process may seem complex, and the risks involved with moving to cloud services may be a factor, by following these six steps and following them with a PoC, organisations can ensure that their transition is smooth and seamless. Partnering with expert consultants can also dramatically ease the complexity and ensure that organisations can optimally leverage the benefits of the cloud to their specific organisation without disrupting services.