10 Best Practices for Your Cloud Migration

10 Best Practices for Your Cloud MigrationBill Gates said 20 years ago, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven,” and that adage couldn’t be truer today. With today’s digital transformation driving the demand for new, disruptive solutions, your business colleagues are expecting their IT team to be agile and ready to adapt new technologies. While moving to cloud has many benefits, it is critical that you proceed with caution. But at the same time, there’s pressure to hurry up.

Whether your company is looking to move one workstream, multiple workstream, or an entire portfolio, transforming from on-premises to cloud-based IT requires more than just understanding the technology.

Successful cloud adoption requires a cultural change, laser-like focus and a detailed blueprint built with input from across the organization. A single missed step or forgotten application buried in your IT infrastructure can cause costly and time-consuming delays, disruptions and outages.

As you read these key cloud migration best practices below, think about how they apply to your organization.

1. Evaluate the complexity of applications and data.

A critical consideration when determining an application’s complexity is its connections. You’ll need to map your application dependencies to understand all the other applications and servers it communicates with, how often they communicate, and whether it’s bidirectional or unidirectional. Look for multi-tier dependencies and dependencies between different parts of the organization.

Gather detailed migration requirements through a focused discovery and assessment process. Understanding what you’re dealing with is an essential first step in any migration.

We intentionally designed rich visualization tools in TransitionManager, so it would show every known data point, application, server, etc. as well as – and this is vital – how they are interdependent. You should have clear visibility into the inner workings and dependencies of all of your applications. A successful discovery phase consolidates information from multiple available sources of information with focus on quality and speed. As with any data aggregation initiative, the information must be normalized, validated and transformed into an actionable “vault of truth” to allow for predictable change management.

2. Take a dual approach.

As a general rule of thumb, you should migrate the least complex applications first. Beginning with complex applications can create major headaches for an organization. Mobile workstream provide the most flexibility (single server, no external storage) – and are quickest and easiest to move; complex applications require greater planning and coordination.

3. Outline how operations will take shape in the cloud.

Outline and share a clear cloud governance model; establish a clear set of roles and responsibilities. This will enable you to say, “Well, here’s a governance process that we have in place which enables bringing in the new application and allows business owners to actually be able to get their job done.”

4. Start small and simple. But think big.

Once a decision is made to adopt a cloud strategy, there is often a level of excitement to get started to quickly realize some of the benefits business seeks to gain. This can lead to trying to do too much all at once – planning a business case, scoping a change, and formulating a cloud strategy all at once will likely lead to chaos or analysis paralysis.

Starting with a small project is a great way to lay a foundation to accelerate cloud adoption in the future, and prepare for your future cloud migration at scale. Identify the core cloud capabilities needed to support your first project, and organize a core group of experts to deliver it. Once the first project is complete, various aspects of your cloud capabilities can be extended to support more  complex applications.

Small, quick wins are the best proof points for future projects, and can turn skeptics into supporters.

5. Develop a migration strategy that incorporates both business goals and technical requirements

Just because you can move something quickly to the cloud doesn’t mean you should, at least not until you have an understanding of both the business and technical requirements and dependencies for the application. This includes including availability, performance, manageability, security and recoverability.

  • What are the performance requirements for an app and what are its dependencies?
  • What other applications and servers does it connect to, and where are they?
  • Are they mainframes and will latency be a problem?
  • Does your HR app integrate with a legacy application?
  • What are the availability and security requirements? Can you easily identify which applications have HIPAA data?

It’s critical to ensure that your migration strategy takes a comprehensive approach to understanding all aspects of your applications, and this means the tools and processes you use must help you easily identify and understand these aspects.

6. Build a robust migration plan made up of teams, tools and processes all centered around the migration activities.

It’s important to make informed decisions about which assets must be migrated together. Once you’ve discovered all of your assets and their dependencies, you will be able to create the road map for making these “move bundles” and sequence the move events.

Be sure you have a platform that effectively assigns, manages and tracks tasks. Team members should have the ability to check off their tasks in real-time and tasks should be sequenced automatically as each predecessor is completed.

These obsolete approaches bring unnecessary interruptions and delays which will drastically slow down progress and may risk errors.

Status updates can also be disruptive as stakeholders constantly check in on status, consuming valuable resources while trying to alleviate their own concerns that all steps are progressing smoothly. Consider instead using a collaborative, real-time dashboard with information visible to all appropriate levels of management and IT.

7.  Verify your migration through testing.

Testing should be performed throughout the migration process to identify and remediate issues. Our clients have the ability to test alternative scenarios and see the impact on application dependencies and the overall migration.

We’ve seen many clients come to us for help after projects have stalled at this stage when they are experiencing “analysis paralysis” – they don’t have all the information to make decisions and everything slows down to a crawl or stalls altogether.

8.  Maintain everything to be sure it remains resilient.

A data center migration is much like moving into a new home. Everything is clean, organized, and landscaped just the way you want it on day one. However, it can fall into disarray and disrepair if you fail to do regular maintenance.

Now you should consider implementing a robust maintenance plan to ensure your environment will continue to run smoothly over time, as well as be ready for future updates and upgrades. Test the processes you have used for all phases of the data center migration to ensure maintenance of best practices and long-term resilience of your IT environment.

Don’t let all the discovery and clean up from the last several months go to waste.

9. Automate and implement automation frameworks and prepare for migration at scale.

Consider how you will adapt to new information and even new requirements along the way. Imagine it’s two weeks before the migration event and new business or technical information suddenly arises and will likely impact your plan; how do you respond?

It’s very common to receive notice of an addition or deletion in the week prior to a      move event. Can you easily factor in the change and continue with your plan without  missing a beat?

At times like this, automated runbooks can empower the team to be responsive without introducing risk or working through the night validating all the revised plan elements. We insisted on building automatically generated runbooks into our TransitionManager tool. These runbooks are instrumental in ensuring that all shutdown, migration and start up procedures are properly sequenced and can be replicated in seconds.

10. Be prepared to manage change – both planned and unplanned.

Managing change in an organizational setting requires careful consideration of the users, customers, vendors and partners that will be participating in the new cloud IT landscape.

If you follow a prescriptive approach to implementing a cloud program, and have the right tools, it can streamline your transformation, accelerate time to value, and reduce risk.

For years TDS has been helping companies – often large, with complex environments and across all industries – plan, design and build their cloud migration programs and transform their IT organizations. We captured that experience and a proven methodology and built it into the design of TransitionManager, our web-based collaboration and planning platform built to manage IT transformations.

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