What to look for in an enterprise cloud plan Featured

8:01pm EDT November 30, 2011
What to look for in an enterprise cloud plan

Moving to the cloud. It’s what everyone seems to be talking about lately. It’s what everyone seems to be recommending. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Before migrating to a cloud environment, there are several facets you need to think through.

Smart Business learned more from David Feinglass, director of Solutions Engineering at Latisys, about the key components that make up a smart cloud migration plan.

What does a company need to think through before migrating to a cloud service provider?

Cloud migration is a big step for any organization and, potentially, a risky decision if not planned for properly. There are a few questions that need to be answered before you even think about migration. For instance, why does your business require elastic, on-demand computing? Are you making the move for server virtualization, consolidation, disaster recovery, storage, cost savings, capital expense reduction, etc.? This question rarely applies to an enterprise’s IT infrastructure as a whole — it is more often something that needs to be aligned for each application.

If cloud migration does make sense for an organization, what are the first steps?

Before taking on a migration to a cloud service provider, I always recommend organizations think through three main objectives.

1) Understand what type of migration makes the most sense for your organization:

Staged migration — This requires moving single departments and services over, one at a time, to keep day-to-day business as close to as-is as possible during the migration.

Forklift migration — This requires temporarily cutting out service during the migration process. It’s the quickest and least expensive option, but the scariest for most companies to take on because of that period of downtime.

Phased migration — This requires simultaneously running redundant systems during the physical transition. This is likely the most costly option, but for a company that demands no service interruptions, it may be an essential choice.

2) Understand exactly what you are going to be migrating:

From servers to networking, storage, replication and recovery services, licenses and more, it’s essential that you think through exactly what parts of your infrastructure are going to be a part of your cloud, and whether or not you want to own, rent or buy these capabilities.

3) Understand exactly how much internal and external IT support your migration will require:

It’s probably going to be more work than you think. So, make sure you understand the expertise needed to pull off a successful migration, and partner with the right tools and third-party resources in order to make it happen.

How do you put together the right migration plan for your organization?

There’s a different ‘right’ migration plan for every business. Size matters. Speed matters. But it is what you’re moving that often matters most. Looking at each of your applications and services to understand if they lend themselves to virtual machine migration portability and federated cloud environments is a good first step.

A great way to map the VM migration portability is to put together a matrix.  On one axis, identify all of your applications, such as Web, both external facing and intranet sites, e-mail, CRM, analytics, billing, testing/staging, help desk, document management, etc. And then identify what types of services each application represents. Is it revenue generating, frontline support, analytics, back office support, seasonal services, etc.?

Based on the type of service your applications fall under, you should be able to determine which applications are the best fit for portability and which aren’t really portable. There are many applications that will be an on individual-case basis for your organization, but typically the seasonal or one-time project-based applications are the best fit, along with any application that isn’t revenue generating and the only instance of that application.

What should an organization look for in a cloud service provider?

You really need to do your homework and make sure the service provider is a good fit in terms of data center capabilities, security and support. Assess your workload history together and talk through possible solutions. Understand what their role is going to be in terms of strategy, development and the physical migration itself. And get a clear and conservative understanding of what your downtime, if any, will be during the move. The more their pitch sounds like they think migration is a ‘cookie-cutter solution,’ the more you need to be on guard. This move is a strategic decision for your company, and it’s essential you take the right steps now.

David Feinglass is director of Solutions Engineering at Latisys. Reach him at david-feinglass@latisys.com.