Public cloud migration: go for easy wins first

Advice Rene Millman Feb 25, 2014

Which services should be put into the cloud first? Find the low-hanging fruit and go from there

Moving to any new infrastructure is never easy; one slip up could spell disaster for an organisation, especially one that has to rely on so many mission-critical systems. But the cloud has matured to the point where 69 per cent of CIOs are now considering moving even mission-critical apps to the cloud, according to a survey carried out by cloud provider Vitustream.

The move to public cloud can present itself as a daunting task and often things get held up as CIOs and IT managers ponder how to get into the cloud and what can be ported over.

While taking a strategic view of moving to public cloud is a good long-term path, making tactical moves can also help things along the way. The easiest tactic in moving to the public cloud is looking for easy wins along the way, moving the most obvious and straightforward applications first.

In picking the low hanging fruit, CIOs can prove the worth of the cloud to their boards while working up to the more complex cases.

But what are the low hanging fruit? Well, let's start with commodity infrastructure and applications,

The easiest tactic in moving to the public cloud is looking for easy wins along the way, moving the most obvious and straightforward applications first

The first easy win for organisations is commodity infrastructure and applications. These are things like email, file storage and creating server instances. These are essentially commodities that are provided by a number of vendors. Such services are well understood and reasonably standard.

Office productivity applications such as Office 365 or Google Docs manage to cram enough functionality for most users in day-to-day tasks (although admittedly web versions of productivity apps tend to miss out a lot of features required by power users). These should be used to complement desktop products and not replace them. However, they do have some advantages over their non-cloud siblings insofar as allowing real-time collaboration on documents with colleagues, wherever they may be, on what every device they are (or you are) using. If your organisation only ever uses a small subset of a full-blown office productivity suite, the cloud is a no-brainer.

Email is another good candidate for porting over to the cloud. Porting from on-premise to cloud has become steadily easier over the last few years to the point that thousands of mailboxes on internal systems can be transferred to a cloud provider with relatively few problems. It is safe to say that email systems are now so standardise there is no value to keeping it within the on-premise infrastructure other than for regulatory issues.

Non-integrated systems are another thing to consider porting to the cloud. Here we mean those applications that have no reliance on other systems. Ie. they run on one server and don’t make API calls or other such connections to other servers within an organisation’s infrastructure. They don’t rely on complicated relationships with databases, storage, and the underlying network. These should be easy to transfer into the cloud as you don’t have to be concerned about the pain of integration or untangling them from other applications and servers elsewhere in the organisation.

Brand new application and infrastructure
New systems or services should also be easy to start in the cloud without having to worry about legacy systems or infrastructure.

Of course, anyone starting a business today from scratch, the cloud should be the first port of call rather than traditional infrastructure or applications. This is unleashing a huge amount of value to organisations whose primary function is not about supporting IT systems but about doing what needs to be done to move the business forward. Many new firms are doing this, as they don’t want to own any type of IT infrastructure or be responsible for maintaining it.

Organisations may also look to the cloud to test proof of concepts, prototypes and pilot sites. Organisations that want to test something, by its very nature this will be a point instance and not integrated with the rest of the infrastructure.