To the Cloud? – Developing a Cloud Migration Strategy

Developing Migration Strategy

Following the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last year, it became pretty clear that cloud computing had risen to dominance. This was going to be the next big thing, and following Microsoft’s lead, the concept of “cloud” rose to the top of everyone’s mind.

So it was no surprise Microsoft soon after launched a huge ad campaign that included national television spots and placements in high profile mags such as Wired.

With the prominence of cloud established, the question has now become, when you hear that cute little couple in the airport say “to the cloud”, how does one actually get there?

I attended a Gartner seminar that explained the importance of developing a cloud migration Strategy.  Gartner predicts that by 2012, most organizations will have virtualized a large part of their IT environment and by 2015, most will have migrated to the cloud.  There’s much hype about cloud computing at the moment but it is safe to assume that most organizations do not have a Cloud Adoption Strategy so I’ve put together a list of things to consider when taking that leap of faith. In fact, having a structured plan in mind will make it scarcely a “leap” at all.

1. Preparation

This is where you identify key stakeholders to build a core cloud team, identify business objectives and set goals on how to achieve them.  In order to get buy- in from the entire organization it is important that input is gathered from all affected business units within your organization.  Then your core cloud team needs to determine and agree upon the business objectives associated with migrating to the cloud.  Items such as saving capital vs. IT agility, single vendor vs. multi-vendor strategy, and risk tolerance all should be considered.

2. Business and Application Assessment

At this point you should ask yourself, “Which applications can we move to the cloud?”  Within any organization, there are a number of strategic and non-strategic IT services and applications and your core team needs to decide which ones are ready for the cloud and which ones still need to be managed in-house.  For example, there are organizations that are using Gmail as their primary email server but does that make sense for you?  Data protection and security is of utmost importance, especially for organizations that maintain extremely sensitive information e.g. health care, public sector.  Hosting this type of data may not be feasible in the cloud, at least not yet.

3. Vendor Selection

There are myriad cloud vendors out there and, of course at this stage, your organization needs to decide which vendor best fits your cloud strategy requirements.  Gartner suggests a three step process, an approach which you should, in my opinion, be following for any vendor.

Step One:
Request for Information – what’s the viability of the vendor?  Do they have a proven track record?  How transparent are they?

Step Two:
Gather Responses and Review – you will want to scrutinize each vendor’s responses hard and mark off the list those who do not meet your standards or requirements.

Step Three:
Send RFQ and Select the Vendor – be sure to limit your potential vendor list to 2-3 maximum and ensure that the migration plan they map out for you makes total sense for your organization.

4. Risk and Liability Mitigation

Although some risk cannot be avoided, the best way to mitigate it is through upfront planning.  You must consider contingency planning, exit strategies and securing liability insurance.

5. Steady State

Once you’ve deployed your strategy and migrated portions of your IT environment to the cloud, this is where the maintenance work begins.  Employ sound cloud governance procedures and inject cloud management into everyday operational activities.  At this stage it is important that your cloud adoption strategy is measured and meeting the business objectives that you’ve set early on.

Of course, this only scratches the surface on how to migrate to the cloud, but at least it provides a starting point for organizations that are curious about adoption.  There are pitfalls that you should avoid such as skipping steps.  Core teams may be tempted to go straight to vendor selection but doing so will cause you to build an ad hoc strategy that could easily lead to unnecessary risks, cost increases, and unintended business impacts.

So when you hear those words “to the cloud”, now you’ll have a better understanding of what that means and how to get started on your way.

By Ariel del Rosario

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