Cloud is gaining a significant momentum in Indian industry, irrespective of verticals. But while migrating to cloud, can be really painful if you do not follow the proper policies or practices. The author in this article has explained the best practices, an organization should follow, while migrating to cloud platform.
According to several independent industry reports it is estimated that India cloud services market will touch $1.3 billion by 2017 and that the market is growing by approx 33 per cent every year. (1) Gone are the days when IT experts would hire traditional web hosting services. Small and big entrepreneurs have started utilizing cloud computing on a larger scale and this is a result of developments in the domain and different benefits associated with it.
Cloud computing offers pay-as-you-use model to reduce unwanted cost to company and this has propelled high number of SMEs to adopt this platform because they cannot afford to purchase large space for storage, applications and other resources. However, enterprises need a cloud migration plan. Enterprises have the option of moving to private, hybrid and public cloud. Migrating to the cloud can be challenging however by following a pattern of established guidelines, enterprises can smoothly transition to the cloud.
What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud Migration is the process of moving an organization’s data, applications and other elements of the IT from on premise facilities to cloud. A transition to cloud involves the usual IT issues primarily raising from the fact that the data and applications are stored and managed remotely. When an organization embarks a cloud migration process, they need to consider many aspects like privacy, security, interoperability, business continuity and how the cloud embeds seamlessly into their IT organization. Cloud Migration is a journey rather than a process.
Driving Factors For cloud platforms:
The cloud has revolutionized the technology landscape, and is providing enterprises new abilities to deliver technology solutions to their users. With constant changes in technology and continuous demands on hardware and software provisioning, IT departments face a constant challenge in catering to ongoing needs and meeting business demands in a timely and cost-effective manner. With the cloud, some of these challenges can be easily overcome.
- From a financial standpoint, for those organizations interested in converting Capex to Opex, the cloud provides the biggest advantage as it works on a pay-per-use model
- For those organizations requiring a more dynamic environment, the cloud provides flexibility and ability to quickly ramp-up with on-demand provisioning or change over without significant overheads or loss of time
- By providing enhanced security and better performance due to the larger scale that a cloud provider operates in, it eliminates the spectre of ageing which most IT organizations face every now and then Cloud also eliminates the need for enterprises to maintain a large team of people for administrating the infrastructure.
Guidelines for enterprises moving IT Infrastructure to a third-party Cloud –
- Selecting an appropriate Cloud model
While moving to cloud it is important to choose a model – Public Cloud, Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud after assessing your business requirement. This depends on the control vs governance policy that an organization would want to have on its infrastructure, post moving to Cloud.
- Evaluating Cost vs. ROI
Cloud computing follows a utility based pricing model. While appointing a vendor, one should assess the billing rate whether the vendor charges a fixed cost for initial set-up, mentions a minimum contract period, minimum charges for compute and storage monthly. Enterprises should look at cloud not only from cost saving perspective but also from the long run and how feasible it is for the organisation.
- Selecting the right vendor
Selecting a right vendor is crucial as you are moving your server and your data to a third party. It is essential that you assess the right vendors and go through a rigorous evaluation process once you have decided to move forward.
- Creating unambiguous Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
SLA’s of the cloud service provider needs to be analysed thoroughly by reading the fine print and all clauses should be clearly defined to avoid any confusion and determine what the minimum level of assurance you need, perform a cost-benefit analysis and make an appropriate choice.
- Support Services
It is very important for the provider to provide the relevant support services along with a clear picture of the probable outages that may occur. The vendor should have a qualified team of engineers who will be able to provide 24X7 support. Based on the criticality of the applications/data and the business needs, the right support option needs to be subscribed to.
Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure offer a graded paid support service.
- Transparency and Simplicity
it is very essential that enterprises chose a provider who maintains transparency in terms of where the server will reside, what security measures will be taken, who all will be assessing the data from their end, and how do they authenticate those engineers, etc.
- Security and compliance with international standards
Security is one of the key aspects while moving to cloud and enterprises must assess vendor’s security infrastructure and expertise. It is very essential for the users to be confident about vendor’s security approach, data centre reliability, number of engineers accessing the data and the like.
- Observing industry specific regulations
The vendor must be compliant to industry specific regulations. E.g. if you are into healthcare domain providing services in USA, you need to comply to HIPAA and HITECH act, which are U.S. laws that apply to most doctors’ offices, hospitals, health insurance companies, and other companies involved in the healthcare industry that may have access to patient information (called Protected Health Information or PHI).
Not all applications are suited for cloud. Hence, a thorough application portfolio assessment is needed with inter-dependencies clearly understood to define the cloud roadmap. The Roadmap is a long term vision based on which we can derive the short, mid and long term plans. The risks have to be evaluated, mitigation plans put in place before you start the actual migration. The complexity of the migration and the potential ROI it can deliver can also form the basis of the overall assessment. There may be need to do short proof-of-concepts and develop technical alternatives if you encounter any hindrances.
Once all the stakeholders have a buy-in on the roadmap, you need to start the migration process one application at a time. At times, it may even make sense to move a part of the application to cloud, test it and then move the other parts one by one. This can ensure reduced risks where-in you test the reliability of the overall system at each stage. Innovation is happening at a much rapid pace in IT industry and Enterprises can no longer remain stranger to it. The key themes for most IT departments in coming years would be in cloud, mobile, collaboration and analytics.