A carefully executed data migration plan and the right migration technology can make cloud a viable option for scalable data storage.
As organizations continue to amass vast amounts of data, cloud has come to the fore as a solution that can meet growing storage demands. A notable 64 percent of respondents to Vision Solutions 2015 State of Resilience Report, which surveyed IT professionals, said that their organizations currently use cloud services. The number has more than doubled since 2011, when just 23 percent of respondents used the cloud.
In fact, some of the world's top organizations are inching toward an all-cloud model. For example, AT&T has thrown its hat into the ring, with plans to virtualize 75 percent of its network by 2020, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
This widespread adoption is hardly surprising, given cloud's many benefits for data storage. In particular, cloud has the capacity to store the enormous amount of data organizations must capture for business. Cloud providers help businesses keep pace in another way as well; they refresh their infrastructure on a fairly regular basis and tend to do so more often than other types of vendors, so users get the latest technology supporting their storage.
Scalability is another major benefit, and it's one of the main reasons companies turn to the cloud to meet data storage demands. Since it's not restricted to a certain amount of storage space, users can adapt to market changes very quickly with cloud services. For example, an online ticket seller can expand its infrastructure for a 24-hour period in anticipation of massive demand due to an event and then scale it back once the rush period has passed.
Cloud also pairs nicely with Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). It provides a target environment for DRaaS and can significantly reduce recovery times compared to conventional (non-virtualized) disaster recovery approaches.
But in order to take full advantage of the cloud's benefits, IT must execute a successful data migration. Once an organization has decided to incorporate cloud into its storage solutions, IT leaders must map out a thorough migration plan.
Make the Planning Process Clear, Not Cloudy
There is no getting around it: data migrations are incredibly complex, and IT must create a meticulous plan for successful completion. It's also very important to work with partners who possess a high level of expertise. Equally important is selecting systems that allow test migrations, user acceptance testing, and the ability to transition back to the on-premise infrastructure quickly in the event that something goes wrong.
There is a discipline to the process that will increase chances for a successful migration. It begins with thoughtful, in-depth discovery, assessment, and planning phases. Many departments simply do not fully grasp what their data storage needs are, and virtual sprawl has not helped matters. This is why discovery and assessment are critical. In these stages, organizations can uncover what they actually have and decide which applications to migrate and which ones should not be migrated, either because they're no longer adding business value or they're redundant.
Another consideration organizations must make when planning a migration to cloud is deciding what kind of storage model they want to adopt. How much data will they keep on-premise, and how much will they move to the cloud? Will they utilize public cloud at all or use private cloud exclusively? Hybrid cloud—a blend of on-premise, private cloud and public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms—has become a popular model. It offers a comfortable way for companies to ease into a cloud environment.
Enterprises must also assess which business applications are suited for a cloud environment. Moving applications at random can harm their performance. IT should get granular; mitigating factors vary by industry, so this is a strategic consideration during assessment. The migration team should also remember that every application follows its own unique cloud migration path. In order to guide each application properly throughout the migration process, IT should keep a "scorecard" with each workload's economic, security, and risk profile.
Cloud migration beginners may choose to narrow their selected applications even further. When it comes to deciding what to migrate, organizations may want to take a conservative approach to migration at first. It's wise to begin by migrating services that would make a minimal negative impact should something go wrong. Batch processing systems, big data analytics platforms, collaborative tools, and Web applications are examples of the type of data many organizations store in the cloud.
Finally, it's important for companies to understand the difference between virtualization and private cloud. Many enterprises believe they have built a private cloud, when in reality they have just virtualized their storage setup. The first step of cloud is virtualization, but the solution must also be fully orchestrated and automated to become a private cloud. Some public cloud vendors are going so far as to make orchestration tools available to enterprises, because their end goal is for companies to develop a hybrid solution. They know that if an organization has a positive experience with a hybrid cloud, it is more likely to adopt an all-cloud solution.
Many organizations are already running hybrid clouds, but not all are part of a fully integrated setup. A true hybrid cloud integrates on-premise and cloud so they work seamlessly together. Some smaller providers are creating hybrid solutions by pairing a locally hosted private cloud with a public cloud. This type of solution is appealing to users because they can store sensitive information in the private cloud, an ideal option for companies with data privacy concerns.
On Cloud Nine: Executing a Successful Migration
Once an organization has taken stock of its assets and decided on a storage model, IT leaders and department heads should meet to finalize which assets to migrate. From there, it's time to map out the migration process, considering all potential scenarios.
IT must also understand all of the interdependencies between applications and data streams. With this information in hand, IT leaders should determine which servers they will migrate and in what order. Taking a phased approach is best; the migration team should submit data to cycles of user acceptance testing. A common approach involves selecting a subset of random data and inspecting it to ensure the migration was completed "as designed."
Once the migration process begins, applications may present a challenge. Historically, migrating large enterprise applications has been a painful and laborious process. Fortunately, IT can now use data solutions, which facilitate swift migration of data from on-premise to cloud regardless of storage infrastructure. The software in data solutions leverages three key components to facilitate cloud migration: a single copy of all duplicate data blocks, compression of data blocks, and streaming replication of changed data blocks.
Applications require further attention upon implementation. In order to ensure performance, IT must tune applications to the cloud environment; the migration team should never assume they will run properly without tweaks. For example, applications running on an in-house data center can access the company's full computing power. But in the cloud, the very same apps compete for compute resources with other apps hosted on the cloud provider's servers. IT must enable these applications to perform at an optimal level despite the reduction in available power or consider a private, hosted cloud, which will probably limit the flexibility achieved by moving to the cloud.
Smooth Sailing in the Cloud
The migration process can become laborious at times, so organizations should choose flexible migration solutions to make it less cumbersome. Solutions that offer flexibility will support an effortless transition to the cloud, allowing users to feel confident in their decision. The right technology propels customers into their cloud environment, making not only the migration seamless but also the first impressions of their new environment positive.
The migration itself may only be one piece of the cloud equation, but it sets the stage for continued cloud usage and accelerated cloud adoption across businesses today. And when companies execute successful data migrations, they are poised to enjoy the benefits of a cloud solution that helps them soar toward new horizons.