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Data Center Migration to the Cloud: Why Your Business Should Do It Now

Data center migration is ideal for businesses who are looking to exit or reduce on-premises data centers, migrate workloads as is, modernize apps, or leave another cloud. Executing migrations, however, is no small task, and as a result, there are many enterprise workloads that still run in on-premises data centers. Often technology leaders want to migrate more of their workloads and infrastructure to a private or public cloud, but they are turned off by the seemingly complex processes and strategies involved in cloud migration or lack the internal cloud skills necessary to make the transition.

Though data center migration can be a daunting business initiative, the benefits of moving to the cloud are well worth the effort, and the challenges of the migration process can be mitigated by creating a strategy, using the correct tools, and utilizing professional services. Data center migration provides a great opportunity to revise, rethink, and improve an organization's IT architecture. It also ultimately impacts business-critical drivers such as reducing capital expenditure, decreasing ongoing cost, improving scalability and elasticity, improving time-to-market, enacting digital transformation, and attaining improvements in security and compliance.

Common data center migration challenges

To ensure a seamless and successful migration to the cloud, businesses should be aware of the potential complexities and risks associated with data center migration. The complexities and risks are addressable, and if addressed properly, organizations can create not only an optimal environment for their migration project but provide the launch point for business transformation.

Not understanding workloads

While cloud platforms are touted as flexible, it is a service-oriented resource, and it should be treated as such. To be successful in cloud deployment, organizations need to be aware of performance, compatibility, performance requirements (including hardware, software, and IOPS), required software, and adaptability to changes in their workloads. Teams need to run their cloud workloads on the cloud service that is best aligned with the needs of the application and the business.

Not understanding licensing

Cloud marketplaces allow businesses to easily “rent” software at an hourly rate. Though the ease of this purchase is enticing, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only option out there. Not all large vendors offer licensing mobility for all applications outside the operating system. In fact, companies should leverage existing relationships with licensing brokers. Just because a business is migrating to the cloud doesn’t mean that a business should abandon existing licensing channels. Organizations should familiarize themselves with their choices for licensing to better maximize ROI.

Not looking for opportunities to incorporate PaaS

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model where a cloud service provider delivers hardware and software tools to users over the internet versus a build-it-yourself Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model. The PaaS provider abstracts everything—servers, networks, storage, operating system software, databases, development tools—enabling teams to focus on their application. This enables PaaS customers to build, test, deploy, run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively than they could if they had to build out and manage an IaaS environment on top of their application. While businesses shouldn’t feel compelled to rewrite all their network configurations and operating environments, they should see where they can have quick PaaS wins to replace aging systems.

Not proactively preparing for cloud migration

Building a new data center is a major IT event and usually goes hand-in-hand with another significant business event, such as an acquisition or outgrowing the existing data center. In the case of moving to a new on-premises data center, business will slow down as the company takes on a physical move. Migrating to the cloud is usually not coupled with an eventful business change, and as a result, business does not stop when a company chooses to migrate to the cloud. Therefore, a critical part of cloud migration success is designing the whole process as something that can run along with other IT changes that occur on the same timeline. Application teams frequently adopt cloud deployment practices months before their systems actually migrate to the cloud. By doing so, the team is ready before their infrastructure is even prepared, which makes cloud migration a much smoother event. Combining cloud events with other changes in this manner will maximize a company's ability to succeed.

Treating and running the cloud environment like traditional data centers

It seems obvious that cloud environments should be treated differently from traditional data centers, but this is actually a common pitfall for organizations to fall in. For example, preparing to migrate to the cloud should not include traditional data center services, like air conditioning, power supply, physical security, and other data center infrastructure, as a part of the planning. Again, this may seem very obvious, but if a business is used to certain practices, it can be surprisingly difficult to break entrenched mindsets and processes.

Joey Yore is a Manager, Principal Consultants at 2nd Watch.

(Part two of this article will focus on how to plan for a data center migration.)