Here are eight fool-proof practices that can help you move your workloads to the cloud.
A quick look at cloud migration.
Cloud migration involves moving an organization’s data storage and IT operations to a cloud network. Cloud computing services are hosted in a multi-tenant environment and can be delivered via the internet or direct connection.
The main types of cloud services are software as a service (SaaS), in which a subscription grants access to a cloud provider’s software; infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which involves renting computing resources like servers and storage; and platform as a service (PaaS), which is a combination of the two. SaaS requires the least involvement as you are simply using a pre-engineered service while the provider takes care of all the technological aspects. At the other end of the spectrum, IaaS gives you more control over your cloud environment. PaaS allows you to customize your cloud environment without having to build everything from scratch.
Clouds can be public, in which multiple users share the same cloud computing resources; private, which involves a platform dedicated to a single user; or hybrid, which combines the two. There are many cloud providers. Popular examples include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS EBS.
Why migrate to the cloud?
Organizations choose to move to the cloud for a variety of reasons. Outsourcing your data storage to a cloud provider eliminates the need to build your own infrastructure, and simplifies your engineering and management requirements, so you can focus your energies on developing your software.
Cloud-enabled application development environments provide the scale and flexibility needed to expand your operations quickly and adapt to evolving customer needs. If you own your own physical hardware, it is more complicated and expensive to scale up or down. The economy of scale associated with the cloud reduces your costs, and you only pay for the storage capacity you use.
Another reason to migrate to the cloud is the burden of maintaining legacy infrastructure. Cloud services mitigate the risks of IT outages and data loss. While cloud computing has provided a competitive advantage, it is fast becoming a competitive necessity.
The challenges of cloud migration
Some key challenges for moving to the cloud include:
- Complexity of Migration: depending on your cloud computing needs, it can be challenging to find the right cloud solution or decouple your application from your current architecture of licenses. Some applications are more difficult to migrate, such as those with a monolithic structure or those relying on older languages and systems.
- Cloud Management: the scale and flexibility of the cloud can be difficult to manage.
- Legacy Software: if you don’t adequately plan for it, it can be difficult to migrate your legacy applications or rehost your data center infrastructure on the cloud. This is especially the case if you lose track of legacy components.
- Vendor Lock-in: you may become too dependent on a particular service provider or vendor, which makes it difficult to adjust your service or switch to another cloud.
- Cloud Security: Security approach and strategies change as you migrate to the cloud. While cloud providers are responsible for the security of the infrastructure itself, the design of the applications becomes a lot more reliant of the APIs. In addition, application and data security remain within the scope of responsibility of the organization who owns the data, but the methods of eliminating vulnerabilities and protecting from threats can be different in the cloud than on premises. Further, cloud infrastructure itself and its own management layer, in a way, represent their own application. it can be a challenge to manage your security credentials for access to this client infrastructure. Your cloud service account may require access to sensitive information or root permissions.
- Organizational Changes: aside from the technical aspect, a smooth and effective transition to the cloud requires that your team is all on board. Some developers may resist changes to the established order. New skillsets may be required to manage DevOps and CI/CD processes as public clouds become a part of your deployment platform.
8 Tips to Build a Smart Cloud Migration Plan
The following practices can help you move your operations to the cloud:
1. Choose the right cloud solution
Each cloud deployment model offers its own set of advantages and suits different needs. You should ensure that your cloud infrastructure is flexible and scalable, supports global deployment, and lets you keep track of usage and billing data. Data redundancy and backup are also essential aspects of a cloud service.
The most popular option is a public cloud, as it is often easy to use and cost-efficient. Private clouds can also take advantage of third-party computing power but provide better isolation than public clouds, which sometimes helps with compliance. Hybrid solutions allow you to protect sensitive areas in a private cloud while taking advantage of the efficiency of public cloud services for less sensitive requirements.
You can also opt for a multi-cloud solution, which combines services from multiple providers and helps prevent vendor lock-in. This sometimes involves splitting your database workloads. You should evaluate your needs in terms of security, flexibility, and usability. Likewise, you should consider whether you want a SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS model.
2. Adopt a phased migration strategy
It can be difficult to migrate heavy legacy applications, so you can do it in increments.
The most comprehensive migration strategy is re-architecting, or refactoring, which is challenging because it involves rebuilding your entire application environment. However, this strategy is ultimately the most rewarding as it allows you to engineer features to fit your application requirements, and can help improve developer agility.
If you have trouble refactoring your applications immediately, you can opt for a simpler strategy to begin with, which will buy you time to acquire new skills so you can successfully re-architect later.
An easier strategy you can employ in the meantime is rehosting, which involves deploying your application through a managed service provider or a local hosting service. This allows you to migrate your application quickly while minimizing the impact on your application’s functionality. The host provides your infrastructure and maintenance needs so you don’t have to perform the more complex aspects of migration.
Another strategy is re-platforming, which allows you to keep your core architecture and reduces management and operation costs. This is similar to rehosting but involves a slight modification of your infrastructure. The advantage is that you can move your database to a managed service while saving on licensing costs.
3. Identify and manage your components
When migrating to the cloud, you need to keep track of all your resources, including applications and software components. Developers often use open source components to save time and money, but they can easily lose visibility and neglect the maintenance of these resources. This can result in a failure to upgrade and resolve vulnerabilities.
Run a discovery to identify open source components or legacy software so you can keep track of them in an inventory. You can then determine which components you want to move to the cloud, and which you can eliminate to reduce your migration footprint. You can easily replace certain architecture components on the cloud. Static code analysis can also help in this task.
4. Automate your migration
Cloud automation allows you to build infrastructure as code and deploy your applications automatically so you can avoid downtime. You can also automate your migration strategy. Many applications involve repeatable patterns, which you can identify and automate to improve consistency and accelerate the migration process. There are many tools that can help in this process, especially for applications that are already based on Dockers or other containers.
5. Apply good governance
You should establish policies for in-house use and third-party access to your cloud. You should also closely monitor the cloud environment during and after migration. This involves examining your network, system, application, and audit logs to identify areas for optimization. You can use a monitoring dashboard to visualize components and utilization patterns.
6. Secure your cloud
Together with re-engineering your application, you should re-engineer your approach to security. A move to public cloud often contributes to the agility of DevOps process and increases frequency of releases. Cloud security strategy should include good understanding of how to incorporate security into the DevOps process and ensure security of the APIs between the individual components of your application as well as interfaces between the cloud itself, your data and your payloads.
Securing your access points and limiting credentials is also very important, as compromised credentials can open your entire infrastructure to being compromised by a hacker. Don’t create an access key for your root account unless it is necessary. For example, when using AWS, you can provide limited credentials to Identity and Access Management (AIM) users that interact with the AWS system on a daily basis.
7. Prepare a maintenance plan
Outsourcing your hardware and software maintenance needs to a cloud provider reduces your management burden, but it does not mean you can simply adopt a cloud solution and forget about it altogether. You should allocate funds and time for ongoing management.
You should also ensure that you can scale capacity to respond to demand or switch providers when necessary. This requires an ongoing assessment of your changing needs and providing user alerts.
8. Use a cloud-enabled disaster recovery solution
A cloud-enabled disaster recovery (DR) solution involves a hot site, which replicates your on-premise infrastructure but is hosted in the cloud. It is continuously updated and cheaper than an on-premise DR solution. In case of a disaster that renders your normal hardware unusable, you can continue working via the cloud.
Cloud computing is a major transformative technology that is becoming indispensable to software developers. With the increasing complexity of both applications and IT infrastructures, it can be a challenge to migrate to the cloud. You can use these 8 tips to help streamline the process and ensure a secure and agile environment for your application development needs.