avoid cloud migration mistakes

8 common cloud migration mistakes

Whether you're a federal agency, local government IT department or a large enterprise, there are several categories of common cloud migration mistakes that span disciplines:  due diligence, technical features, security policy, deployment and testing, project management and implementation governance, among others. The following are common traps to avoid:

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1. Presuming clouds are alike. Assuming that all cloud providers are roughly the same, a particularly dangerous risk when migrating applications to an infrastructure-as-a-service environment. Although every cloud offers virtual machines and several types of raw storage, differences arise in feature details, billing models and higher-level application and network services.

2. Overcustomization. The flip side to stereotyping clouds is overly customizing an IaaS deployment and building a "snowflake" environment that can't be templated to bootstrap future migration projects. This often happens when the project is run by a single department, and the application team creates custom management processes, security policies and service configurations that aren't applicable to the broader organization.

3. Not enough customization. Conversely, not using native cloud services and instead running your own services on generic virtual machine instances is another common mistake. Although seemingly contradicting the customization argument above, even with the best provider some key advantages of the cloud can be missed by keeping things too simple.

This is an easy mistake to make because it seems like the best way to avoid cloud vendor lock-in is to build applications that can be quickly moved to other clouds. However, the result is spending an inordinate amount of up-front time reinventing the wheel while simultaneously ignoring one of the chief advantages of cloud infrastructure: high-value services that can be instantly created and consumed as needed without deployment or management overhead. Even when using generic services like AWS EC2, Elastic Block Storage and S3, some level of redesign will be required if applications move to another IaaS platform.

4. Insufficient documentation. Data integrity and incompleteness problems are often due to inadequate design and testing of data migration and replication systems and processes. Backup software and service providers are fond of touting surveys showing how few organizations have a disaster recovery plan and how many of those with a plan never test it. Despite their self-serving motives, there's truth in the fact that IT organizations are as prone to procrastination as anyone. A commitment to documenting details and validating results is crucial when migrating critical data to the cloud.

5. Inadequate testing. A corollary is inadequate testing in general. Whether it's application functionality, cloud administration and troubleshooting processes or security compliance, moving infrastructure to the cloud requires the same attention to implementation details as building a new data center.

6. Inconsistent security. Moving infrastructure to the cloud often leads to incomplete or inconsistent security policies that don't comport with established standards. All organizations have security requirements for user access and authorization, network traffic, system and application configuration, event logging and monitoring. These policies don't change and may in fact become more stringent when moving to the cloud.

7. Overlooking dependencies. When building hybrid cloud environments, two common mistakes are overlooking application dependencies on on-premise data and IT services and network connectivity problems with VPN configurations, routing and remote network security policy.

8. Tyranny of distance. It's easy to forget that virtual cloud resources are supplied by physical servers running in actual data centers. Although spinning up a dozen VMs and a terabyte SQL database in a matter of seconds seems like magic, the cloud can't defy physics. When deploying latency-sensitive applications, a common mistake is forgetting that distance and geography still matter. Applications moving a lot of data or managing client UIs will perform better if the cloud service has data centers or zones near your facilities.

About the Author

Kurt Marko is a technology consultant and writer based in Boise, Idaho.

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