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10 cloud migration process tips CIOs need to consider

Cloud migrations are never easy, especially for CIOs and IT leaders moving workloads to the cloud. To ensure your migration is a success, consider these 10 tips from cloud experts.

Enterprise IT leaders continue to migrate to the cloud in search of various benefits, but studies found that many still struggle to get the returns they expected when moving workloads during the cloud migration process.

According to technology consultants, researchers and experienced CIOs, one of the reasons is that organizations are still moving applications, capabilities and services to the cloud without first fully evaluating whether they'll work efficiently in the environment and without planning how best to modernize and optimize them.

To avoid a cloud migration failure, these experts are offering insights on how to move workloads from on premises to the cloud in ways that will ultimately deliver benefits to the enterprise. Just follow these 10 cloud migration process tips below.

1. Analyze the app

CIOs need to start by analyzing the application and asking key questions such as the following: Will it work in a virtualized environment? Does it offer PaaS, IaaS, cloud-native tools or containers? Is the application of a modular design? If not, how does that impact the cost of moving and running it into the cloud? What kind of automation can be applied to it and at what cost?

2. Understand where the application belongs

Before you begin the cloud migration process, ensure whether the application belongs in such an environment. Applications that aren't cloud-native, can't scale, don't support microservices and don't have automation and orchestration built in aren't good candidates for cloud deployments -- at least not without updates. "Just because cloud exists doesn't mean everything belongs there," said SilkRoad Technology Senior Vice President and CIO Asif Malik, who has 20-plus years of consulting experience that includes orchestrating infrastructure overhauls, cloud migrations, application rationalization and data center operations implementation.

3. Identify and evaluate the variables

Applications that aren't cloud-native, can't scale, don't support microservices and don't have automation and orchestration built in aren't good candidates for cloud deployments -- at least not without updates.

Hardly any application works in isolation; therefore, during the cloud migration process, IT needs to understand how an application that's slated to move to the cloud interacts with other systems and what it takes to support those interactions. Scott Buchholz, managing director at Deloitte Consulting LLP, who serves as the government and public services CTO and the national emerging technologies research director, said he advises enterprise leaders to study how an application operates to fully understand the associated network traffic and all its interdependencies. "It's not always obvious what the usage patterns are because they've evolved over time, so when you move things, you can end up with unintended consequences," he said.

4. Redesign, modernize the app before moving it to the cloud

Yugal Joshi, vice president of IT services at Everest Group, a management consulting company, said more organizations are marrying their cloud strategies with modernization efforts. "A lot of migration projects are also modernization projects," Joshi said.

5. Some lift-and-shift projects are fine

Consider lift-and-shift projects during the cloud migration process. "There are absolutely use cases where lift and shift makes sense," said Chris Hansen, executive director of cloud operation at SPR, a digital transformation agency that specializes in enterprise technology. However, Hansen warned that organizations shouldn't underestimate the work needed for lift-and-shift projects. Instead, they should have architects with prior experience on their teams moving such applications to the cloud to first confirm that a lift and shift will work and to ensure that the migration is well orchestrated.

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6. Pilot, test and move in phases

To help ensure business continuity and guard against disruptions from problematic migrations, IT teams should devise ways to try the application in the cloud before fully switching over to the new environment when possible. Malik suggested, for example, moving in phases or building a parallel cloud environment and testing a minimally viable product first to determine whether and how well the application will work.

7. Plan for interoperability, multi-cloud environments

Joshi said many IT leaders continue to think about cloud vendors in silos, which creates localized value. But he said what they need to think more about in the cloud migration process is interoperability and multi-cloud environments, which create enterprise value.

8. Address security, compliance and privacy concerns from the start

According to experts, security operations should be included in the cloud migration process from the get-go to ensure that those plans adequately incorporate all requirements. As Malik said: "Data integration and security and compliance can never be an afterthought."

9. Evaluate regularly after the migration

Enterprise leaders often don't fully examine their cloud deployments on an ongoing basis, thus possibly missing opportunities for improvements. For example, Joshi said a company could find that its cloud vendor merged or was acquired by another vendor after the initial deployment of an application -- a situation that could mean higher prices or service-level agreement adjustments that negatively impact the value the enterprise gets from the vendor's cloud environment. Therefore, CIOs need to routinely evaluate their cloud deployments to guard against scenarios that could change the value that was initially identified.

10. Build optimization into your plans

"Don't assume it's a one-and-done exercise," Buchholz said. Rather, expect unintended consequences following the initial migration that will need to be addressed to gain and eventually maximize the anticipated benefits of moving to the cloud. And then have a plan to identify and implement improvements to maximize those benefits.

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