Cloud Migration: Discovery & Planning

Migrating workloads to the cloud requires time and effort spent on up-front planning. The first part of this series explains the technical assessments and evaluations required for a successful cloud migration.

Ryan Pelerin

December 19, 2014

4 Min Read
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Cloud adoption through transformation -- moving digital assets from physical or hybrid hosting servers to the cloud -- poses specific strategic and technical challenges for a business enterprise. With a multitude of new automated cloud tools and software products attempting to solve the migration problem, sophisticated enterprise migration planning will be in high demand and even more critical to the success of any migration effort.

To that end, understanding best-practices for migrating workloads, data, and applications from datacenters, back-office server rooms, and other hosting environments to the cloud will help ensure a cost-effective and streamlined migration process.

This, the first in a four-part series, focuses specifically on the cloud migration discovery and planning stages, including technical assessments, hardware/software evaluations, and application dependency mapping. By investing the effort up front to adequately plan and prepare for the migration, the chances of executing a smooth and seamless cloud migration are enhanced exponentially.

Evaluate and coordinate
Understanding the motivation and internal factors driving the migration are extremely important elements of the discovery and planning process. Seamless collaboration and communication between both technical and business teams are critical to the success of the pre-migration planning.

Migration priorities -- including scalability, resolving existing service or application functionality issues, or reducing or eliminating in-house IT expenses -- can influence the decision-making process about the destination architecture, the cloud hosting provider, and, to some extent, the dynamics of the migration itself.

For instance, when moving to higher-traffic, scalable environments that require load balancing among multiple servers, more advanced and comprehensive procedures, such as load, stress, and performance testing, are generally required.

Assess the source environment
As part of the discovery and planning phase of a migration, conduct a thorough assessment of the source environment. Review your existing physical or hybrid architecture and create a comprehensive inventory of the applications, websites, workloads, databases, and other services that require migration to the cloud. Make sure to categorize the application and web/data services by type, function, and priority.

You'll need to navigate the options for discovery on your current environment, including methods and agents that can expedite the process without interference with your production servers and applications. This exercise is necessary not only to determine what needs to be moved, but what does not need to be moved. It’s equally important to identify what should not be migrated, and outdated applications and redundant data should be identified early in the process.

Understanding what kind of server resources will be required to smoothly effect the migration also provides critical insight and helps make critical decisions about the ultimate plan, scope, and cost of the migration itself.

Dependency mapping
Dependency mapping -- determining workload/server interdependencies -- is essential to the pre-migration planning process. Understanding the contours of the web, data, and application services landscape (especially components that depend on caching or DNS to function) is a prerequisite for determining how a migration project will flow.

Documenting these service relationships during your pre-migration assessment helps identify tasks that can be performed concurrently to conserve project time and capital, and also ensures post-migration functionality while streamlining the testing process. To help accomplish this, build out a step-by-step migration task checklist -- a critical asset and output of the migration planning stage.

Destination architecture
Planning the destination architecture must include consideration for technical requirements -- such as high availability, scalability, or elasticity -- that may be needed in the new cloud environment, including the deployment and use of auto-scaling tools. Prepare architecture planning documentation, and obtain proposals from potential hosting service providers.

While OS upgrades will require a primarily manual migration process, "like-to-like" server migrations that do not require an OS upgrade may be accomplished using some of the automated migration tools that are available. A hybrid approach that automates part of the process can significantly reduce the cost, complexity, and overall project lifetime of the migration.

Contingency planning
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the planning process is preparing a viable rollback strategy (such as independent database servers for data replication to the old environment to ensure data integrity) to mitigate risk if the go-live execution encounters problems. Establish reliable backup services in the new environment if needed, and be able to design and implement comprehensive disaster recovery plans and fail-over environments if your business requires it.

While it does represent more effort on the front end, a thorough discovery, assessment, and planning phase prior to executing the migration itself will pay dividends in helping to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to the cloud.

About the Author(s)

Ryan Pelerin

Founding partner and COO, WSM International

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