In today’s corporate IT landscape, every organization (whether they admit it or not) operates a hybrid-cloud architecture. As more organizations migrate traditional platforms running in an on-premises data center to a public cloud provider, there are many aspects that needs to be considered to minimize the financial, operational, and architectural impact such a migration might make.
Be it Azure, AWS, or a regionally-based, privately-hosted cloud provider…you have options. There really isn’t a wrong answer either. But before making a decision that’s right for you, it’s important to understand everything you have to move forward efficiently.
As you begin this journey, you need a plan. We are sharing our experience in three areas we believe every professional IT organization should evaluate to minimize the potential disruption.
We start here because it’s the core of cloud migration journey. You simply need to know what you have before you can determine how it works together.
We usually start the journey with a few different toolsets to gather information about what is running today. Here’s a tool we often use as a starting point. (If you have questions about the data and what it measures, we’ll gladly walk you through it.) We use the data to determine how your systems are built, and what resources they require to run.
Ultimately, this dialogue exposes a fair amount of house cleaning that can take place. You’ll find oversized VM’s, aging snapshots, and zombie VM’s. Once you’re done, this standard house cleaning leads to fewer moving parts and a tidy environment.
More importantly, a clean house leads to reduced costs during refreshes or cloud provisioning. It also clears the horizon for future planning and support.
Included in this step, you should be documenting each asset and corresponding traits, both physical and virtual. Next, you’ll align them to product owners. Gathering all of the pertinent systems information builds an intimate knowledge of the assets under your control. It also sets you up for future resource tiering and process automation.
Once a list of all systems and assets are laid out, it is important to understand how everything works together. What are your workflows? What business processes are interlinked?
Understanding system dependency is vital as you layout your future architecture. With a clear application dependency map, you can improve troubleshooting. Your business continuity/protection plans are also built around this core framework.
As you lay out your future systems strategy, you’ll use this foundational exercise to determine which core services are reliant on each other for existence.
Data Storage: Detailing Capacity, Utilization and Architecture
A thorough discovery should also include identification of your data storage assets and use cases. Typically, the block storage components of the conversation are straight forward. Don’t forget to breakout any structured or unstructured file storage, as well as your backup targets. These use cases become prime candidates in your exploration of the available cloud services.
If we can assist in this data gathering process, hit us up. It’s pretty straight forward. The real work comes in the dialogue and documentation of the assets.
We spent some time reviewing Cloud-based Data Management a while back. Within the post, we explore the strategic basics of the approach as well as some assumptive financial impacts. If Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is new to your organization, this is an easy use case to target first.
With the completion of these first three steps, you should now have a strong grasp on what you have, how it works and where your data set resides.
Understanding your network design is vital in the transition to the cloud. Incorporating this silo also shows the value of having multiple strategic leaders at the table to think through the impact to your technical systems. Ultimately, cross-discipline collaboration helps in the pursuit of excellence.
As you shift to the cloud, make sure you consider the major traffic patterns and how they will be affected. First, your intra-datacenter communication. How do your different application and application tiers talk to each other? How will they talk to each short-term and long-term?
Secondly, consider service delivery. Do you host any public-facing services? How does a cloud entry point affect your users? For internal services, what do those paths look like? Make sure you understand the bandwidth and latency requirements from the branch to the application and keep user experience in mind. Are the same security tools available and effective in the cloud or does your team need to consider alternatives?
Finally, consider how your remote offices will connect to the Internet. Do you head-end your traffic out of one location? That could be cost- and performance-prohibitive in the cloud if you are retiring the datacenter. Consider alternative connectivity options that provide the experience your users need that also meet your business’ requirements.
It’s not unusual for Network Design portion of the dialogue to drive new considerations for where to place your secondary data center needs. Application latency requirements become a strong consideration as new dependencies start to traverse your network. Thus, physical placement of workloads in a public cloud-adjacent facility help improve application performance.
For more on the topic, pay our post on Azure-based Networking Design a visit.
All of the best technical plans can quickly go to waste without the proper alignment to the SLA’s required of the business. We typically explore two conversations at length to ensure the future architectures are in alignment with the needs of the organization.
Compliance and Commitments
Typically, our SLA’s are driven by some sort of regulatory compliance or commitment to a business contract. In most cases, the technical teams we support have a history of supporting these requirements. Other times, as we engage in the conversation, we need to pull some additional voices into the room.
Either way, it’s a great time to revalidate the technical alignment to the needs of the organization. Looking at previously executed security audits is another great place to bring definition to the outcome needed.
If the plan is to move to a public cloud provider, a careful review of the legal terms & conditions (“T&C’s”) is probably required. How does the cloud provider distribute your data? What are your protection options? Do you application teams gain the flexibility at the application design layer that they need?
These type of conversations will likely drive out any additional toolsets that may be required to functionally support the future state.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Typically 2-3 models are developed to represent the financial impacts of the desired outcomes.
We usually start with the Business-As-Usual (BAU) cost analysis. This is usually the easiest structure to pull together. Highlight some of the following costs in your analysis.
- Technology Assets and Associated Costs
- Think initial purchases and required maintenance contracts
- Remaining book value of the IT assets you may have purchased outright
- Colocation Fees
- Connectivity Charges
- Any Operational Contracts or Commitments
Next, align similar cost structures for the new architecture. When layered against the other alternatives, you gain a clear understanding of the financial impact of your options.
Although sometimes hard to monetize, you should consider any operational impacts to future changes. Will the new location require additional/fewer resources? Will it change your hiring profile? How do the new architectures impact your systems design?
Many of our sizing tools now incorporate some layer of assumed costing for your cloud migration. This analysis comes from the initial systems analysis we perform.
We often find that our predetermined assumptions will work themselves out as you explore your cloud migration options. Depending on your systems and network design, the architectures and supporting financials with shake out differently than you expect!
Still struggling to get this cloud migration started? No worries! We often find an outside perspective can cut through the mundane to bring clarity to the situation.
Hit us up in the chat if you want to get this exercise started. Or, just give us a call at (616) 202-6518.
We love to help! As always, get better and be excellent.