Advantages of Migrating to the Cloud

Published in Cloud

If you’re like most businesses, you already have at least one workload running in the cloud. However, that doesn’t mean that cloud migration is right for everyone. While cloud environments are generally scalable, reliable, and highly available, those won’t be the only considerations driving your decision.
For companies considering their first cloud migration, there are a lot of factors that you’ll want to take into account, from the benefits and the risks, to the cloud service model and type that is right for your business. In this post, we’ll look at the high-level elements that you should consider as you contemplate a move to the cloud.

Potential Benefits of Cloud Migration

There are many problems that moving to the cloud can solve. Here are some typical scenarios that will benefit from cloud migration.

    • Your application is experiencing increased traffic and it’s becoming difficult to scale resources on the fly to meet the increasing demand.
    • You need to reduce operational costs, while increasing the effectiveness of IT processes.
    • Your clients require fast application implementation and deployment, and thus want to focus more on development while reducing infrastructure overhead.
    • Your clients want to expand their business geographically, but you suspect that setting up a multi-region infrastructure – with all the associated maintenance, time, human, and error control effort – is going to be a challenge.
    • It’s becoming more difficult and expensive to keep up with your growing storage needs.
    • You’d like to build a widely distributed development team. Cloud computing environments allow remotely located employees to access applications and work via the Internet.
    • You need to establish a disaster recovery system but setting it up for an entire data center could double the cost. It would also require a complex disaster recovery plan. Cloud disaster recovery systems can be implemented much more quickly and give you much better control over your resources.
    • Tracking and upgrading underlying server software is a time consuming, yet essential process that requires periodic and sometimes immediate upgrades. In some cases, a cloud provider will take care of this automatically. Some cloud computing models similarly handle many administration tasks such as database backup, software upgrades, and periodic maintenance.
    • Capex to Opex: Cloud computing shifts IT expenditure to a pay-as-you-go model, which is an attractive benefit, especially for startups.

Potential Risks of Cloud Migration

While your specific environment will determine the risks that apply to you, there are some general drawbacks associated with cloud migrations that you will want to consider.

    • If your application stores and retrieves very sensitive data, you might not be able to maintain it in the cloud. Similarly, compliance requirements could also limit your choices.
    • If your existing setup is meeting your needs, doesn’t demand much maintenance, scaling, and availability, and your customers are all happy, why mess with it?
    • If some of the technology you currently rely on is proprietary, you may not be legally able to deploy it to the cloud.
    • Some operations might suffer from added latency when using cloud applications over the internet.
    • If your hardware is controlled by someone else, you might lose some transparency and control when debugging performance issues.
    • Noisy “neighbors” can occasionally make themselves “heard” through shared resources.
    • Your particular application design and architecture might not completely follow distributed cloud architectures, and therefore may require some amount of modification before moving them to the cloud
    • Cloud platform or vendor lock-in: Once in it might be difficult to leave or move between platforms.

What Cloud Service Model Do You Need?

Now that you’ve decided to try the cloud, you’ll have to choose the cloud computing service model that you would like to deploy it in. These are the most common service models:

    • IaaS: Infrastructure as a service is a form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing resources over the internet.
    • PaaS: Platform as a Service is a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure associated with developing and launching an app.
    • SaaS: Software as a service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted.

Here’s where you’ll have to make an important choice.
IaaS is best for companies that don’t mind hosting their applications in third-party data centers, but would prefer to outsource the care of their physical infrastructure to concentrate more completely on developing, deployment, and monitoring.
However, if you prefer your applications to be portable, you might want to simply drop your code onto a robust PaaS platform that provides a full (and invisible) infrastructure environment. SaaS is a delivery model through which centrally hosted productivity software is licensed on a subscription basis.

IaaS takes care of  PaaS takes care of SaaS takes care of
Storage Application Platform CRM
Virtualisation Database Business Management
CDN Development Security
Networking Integration Tools

Public, Private, or Hybrid?

Assuming you’ve chosen a cloud model, it’s time to choose the cloud type. There are three basic options:
Public: Your resources are entirely hosted by a cloud provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Private: You create your own private cloud using a platform like OpenStack or VMware’s vCloud.
Hybrid: Your resources are spread over both private and public platforms.
With its healthy mix of on-demand reliability, high availability, security, and reduced operations costs, hybrid cloud implementations can be attractive. Going hybrid can sometimes give you the best of both worlds.I’ll illustrate how hybrid can work through a hypothetical scenario.
Let’s imagine that your web app is quickly gaining popularity and users. In order to keep up with the growing demand, you need the underlying resource to scale up dynamically. During peak usage, you should be able to deploy maximum resources to serve requests, and when demand drops, you should ideally be able to simply drop unneeded resources to save costs. This is possible within a public cloud. But suppose the data your app gathers is highly confidential and can’t just be stored off-premise. This is where a hybrid solution can help. In this case, you can choose which components you want to live in the public cloud, and which will remain in your data center.
RightScale reported that enterprises are increasingly adopting a multi-cloud strategy (81%), and 51% plan to use hybrid clouds.
Advantages of Migrating to the Cloud

Assessing Applications for a Cloud Migration

Having chosen a cloud model and cloud type, the real struggle is about to begin. Now, it’s time to see if your applications are cloud-ready. Here are some factors that you will need to consider:

  • Application design complexity: Some traditional applications are so complicated and tightly coupled that customers might not be willing to rework it. However, the foremost requirement for any successful migration is that the app should follow a distributed architecture and should be scalable by design. Tools like PaaSLane and Cloudamize can help you assess your applications’ cloud-readiness. AWS’s Migration Hub service is a one-stop shop for everything you might need tool-wise to discover and assess your application’s readiness for cloud migration.
  • Integration complexity: Every application has its integration points, such as payment gateways, SMTP servers, web services, external storage, and third party vendors. It’s very important to analyze the impact your cloud migration will have on those dependencies. Sometimes you will experience unexpected connectivity or authentication challenges that you should identify and solve up front.The most critical (and tedious) task is to identify all of those integration points. Since older applications might be poorly documented and the developers familiar with the end-to-end functional and non-functional details may no longer be available, you might have to go through each module manually. The task gets complicated if you’re considering migrating hundreds of applications currently running in your data center.

    Many of these issues can be addressed through a combination of the familiarity your team has with the apps and an asset discovery tool (either open source or commercial). An asset discovery tool can help you identify entire server configurations within a network, along with connectivity details.

    For example, say that you have a data center within a network that is hosting around 100 applications. A discovery tool can give you the bird’s eye view of the entire system. It can also provide granular details that can be helpful for a general capacity management assessment.

    Some of the better-known asset discovery tools include BMC Atrium and HP DDMA. Cloudamize provides a tool that can perform automated discovery of applications and machines, and additionally perform automated application dependency mapping to discover dependencies between applications.

  • The host operating system: Once you have decided on a cloud migration, it’s important to know whether you will be able to deploy your applications on the same OS. Your applications may only run on a specific OS (or OS release). If it’s not compatible with your cloud provider, then you need to find a workable substitute OS, a different cloud provider, or simply give up the whole project.For instance, most cloud providers don’t provide 32-bit OS options and others might have unexpected subscription requirements. It’s best to do your research in advance.
  • The application database: A database is obviously a critical part of any application. Customers invest a great deal on database servers and, often, licenses. Moreover, given the complexity and sensitivity of your data, you just might not want to move it right now: migrating petabytes of data is no trivial undertaking.In either case, you should make sure that the migration methods you use are highly reliable and come with the possibility of roll backs to deal with any unexpected chaos. Most cloud providers offer their own migration services. Therefore, it’s very important to evaluate those services before pushing the “start” button.
  • Network: Most cloud environments don’t support multicasting, so if your application relies on multicast, then I would say “think twice.”

Cost Comparison

Aphelion like many cloud providers have pricing calculators that can help you to estimate the real costs you’ll face after a cloud migration vs. your current costs so you can decide which option is the best fit based on your current application workload profiles.

Proof of Concept

It’s always a great idea to build a small proof of concept (POC) before you actually migrate your workload to the cloud. I know such models won’t anticipate all possible issues, but it will give you greater clarity and understanding about the challenges you may face. Some of the things you should look for during your POC include:
• Performance comparisons with your existing application
• Complexity levels involved in migrating the application
• Network challenges that need to be worked out
• Reliability
• Cloud provider support evaluation
Addressing all the real-time challenges of a cloud migration cannot be captured in one post, but we have tried to address some common issues you should consider before you start the process. Contact us to see how we can help with your migration strategy.


Pros & Cons for Building a Hybrid Cloud for Your Enterprise

Published in Cloud

Over the last several years, the clouds have rolled in over enterprise IT. These clouds aren’t dark ones obscuring the sun, however; in fact they’ve made the enterprise computing horizon much brighter. Going from a relatively unheard-of concept ten years ago, the cloud has become a popular buzzword seizing hold of the collective conscious of CIOs and directors of IT at companies across industries, sizes, and revenues for its promise of organizational transformation.

Pros & Cons for Building a Hybrid Cloud for Your Enterprise

A large amount of enterprises have already built their own private cloud networks, hosting essential applications and providing anywhere, anytime access to mission critical data for employees scattered across the world. While it’s a large undertaking, in many cases the effort pays off, resulting in increased productivity and ease of access.

And there’s no shortage of companies that have built public cloud offerings to leverage this trend, with tech giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle all having entered into the market in the last few years, not to mention the thousands of smaller service providers offering more niche solutions for the organizations that need them. These services can be a cheaper alternative to building an internal private cloud infrastructure, or can provide a necessary extension of the limits of a private cloud, allowing for occasional bursts in computing power.

Many organizations have started to blend both private and public cloud offerings to create a hybrid cloud infrastructure. These hybrid clouds exploit the control and security of a private cloud, along with the flexibility and low cost of public cloud offerings. Together they form a powerful solution to meet the increased demands on IT from the rest of the organization.

Cloud computing has a seemingly endless list of reasons for why companies should adopt it: cost savings, improved security, enhanced agility, greater accessibility and flexibility, among many others. Implementing newer technology always poses risks and challenges that must be taken into account and built into the plan for rollout though. For that reason, we’ve put together this helpful guide with the best practices for building a hybrid cloud for your organization. Read on to learn more.

Benefits of Building a Hybrid Cloud

One of the foremost benefits of implementing a hybrid cloud approach is cost savings. Instead of having to spend the money and build infrastructure to withstand occasional bursts in system usage that only happen a small fraction of the time, organizations can leverage public cloud offerings to offload some of the heavy usage, and only have to pay for it when they need it. With less money spent on infrastructure, more funds can be devoted to other critical projects that help move the business forward, instead of holding it back.

Improved Security is another major benefit of hybrid clouds. While the perception that the cloud is insecure is a persistent one among members of traditional IT teams, TechTarget reports that users of service-provider environments actually suffer from less attacks than on-premise users do. The myth that cloud computing is less secure than traditional approaches can lend itself to the fact that having things stored off-premises feels less secure, however this is not the case. Cloud computing can offer increased security for organizations utilizing it.

Another major benefit of hybrid clouds is enhanced organizational agility. By leveraging the public cloud in times of heavy usage, the organization can experience fewer outages and less downtime. For developing and testing new applications, the hybrid cloud also offers an attractive option for hosting them–buying time until a decision is eventually made as to where to host it permanently.

With employees becoming increasingly mobile, greater accessibility to business-critical applications is a necessity for any 21st century enterprise. Gone are the days when employees only need to access their email when they’re at their desks, or only need to update a spreadsheet or access an application during business hours. Business happens 24/7 nowadays, and for companies to compete effectively, the cloud offers the advantage of anywhere, anytime access.

Although the benefits outweigh the negatives in most cases, building a hybrid cloud poses a number of challenges, and for this reason, it may not be the solution for every company.

Challenges of Building a Hybrid Cloud

It takes tools and skills to effectively operate a hybrid cloud solution. Not everyone has these skills, and it can cost a pretty penny to get them. If your organization has recently decided to make the move to the cloud, it might be necessary to look for outside talent that has the necessary skillset to accomplish it. Moreover, the team implementing the project will probably need additional training to learn the systems, and all of this costs money; bringing us to our next point…

Cost plays a major role in planning to execute a hybrid cloud strategy. While the public cloud can offer an attractive option for its flexibility and relatively low cost to operate, building a private enterprise cloud requires significant expenditure and can become expensive very quickly with all the physical hardware necessary. At the same time, heavy use of public cloud resources can rack up unexpectedly high usage bills that may not have been planned for. When outlining a budget for a hybrid cloud project, make sure to factor in all of these difficult-to-plan for costs.

Security is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days when they think of the cloud. While we’ve already seen that cloud computing is not inherently any less secure than traditional computing, and in fact faces fewer attacks, there are still considerations to take into account when building out a hybrid cloud. The proper precautions must be taken to ensure data is properly protected and that control is maintained by the right people. Additionally, depending on the industry, there may be certain regulatory requirements that prohibit data from being stored off-site, which would prevent the use of a public cloud entirely.

Data and application integration serves as a second challenge to take into account while building a hybrid cloud. Applications and data exist in a symbiotic relationship, with each one being useless without the other. Oftentimes they’re chained together. So when considering where to store each of them, it’s essential to ask whether the infrastructure they’re placed on matters. For example, if an application lives in a private cloud and it’s data lives in an on-prem data center, is the application built in order to access the data remotely? Technologies like copy data virtualization can decouple data from infrastructure and make this problem less of a headache.

Compatibility across infrastructure can prove itself to be a major issue when building a hybrid cloud. With dual levels of infrastructure, a private cloud that the company controls, and a public one that the company doesn’t, the chances are that they will be running different stacks. Can you manage both using the same tools, or will your team have to learn a new set in order to effectively oversee them?

Networking is another factor to consider in hybrid integration and there are a number of questions one must ask while designing the network around it. For instance, will very active applications be living in the cloud? It’s necessary to consider the bandwidth usage that this could take up on the network, and whether or not it could cause problems in bottlenecking other applications.

Like every IT project, building an enterprise hybrid cloud brings along many benefits and challenges. When properly accounted for during planning, organizations can minimize these difficulties and maximize the benefits they bring for the company.

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