HIT Think

3 things every CIO should know before they migrate to the cloud

Register now

Enterprises are continuing to express their love for the cloud and that’s not surprising. Public cloud security has improved to the extent that enterprises are comfortable with the idea of offloading infrastructure management to other entities. Even highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, are tip-toeing in the direction of the public cloud — albeit with reservations, and with their less-sensitive data and workloads.

Whether or not the shift to the public cloud is feasible varies. It depends on regulatory constraints, geographical boundaries and business stance. However, today the barriers to cloud migration have more to do with process, time and cost than anything else. Many organizations don’t know the best way to get to the public cloud, or they don’t have the skills and dedicated resources available to move their applications there.

But still, in head offices everywhere, the refrain is the same: The cloud is the place to be to deliver more value faster and more efficiently. Shifting to the cloud isn’t just a matter of flipping a switch, however, and the cost savings won’t be automatic if you’re not acting advisedly. As a result, CIOs should keep these three concerns top of mind:

“Cloud-first” isn’t “cloud-aggressive”
Come to terms with the fact you won’t be fully powering down your data center as soon as you’d like. A move to the cloud is seismic, and it takes time. Even highly aggressive cloud strategies have learned this truth.

Many companies — even those with a stated cloud-first policy — have hybrid cloud models. This is because there are many points to consider and arguably, there’s something of a cultural shift that must also take place before your transfer to the public cloud is complete.

Your first order of business is to ensure all your new applications are cloud-native. Your existing applications, however, should be migrated opportunistically when it makes operational and business sense. You’ll make the shift when it’s appropriate, so as not to cause too much disturbance to the business. The culture shift should be taken seriously. Make sure you are communicating and listening to all stakeholders.

Target high ROI opportunities of cloud migration
Not all cloud migration activities will save you money. Simply rehosting an application (also known as “lifting and shifting”) the application won’t save much at all, if any. However, if you rebuild or replace the app, then you could retrieve some serious savings. Bear that in mind.

To save money, you must determine that your cloud spend is based on the needs and objectives of your applications and workloads. Go as cloud-native as possible when you can, but know this switch isn’t like buying a t-shirt: It’s much more complicated than buying something off the rack. A lot of applications can be technically fit for the cloud and a lot of them have a positive business impact, but not quite as many have fitness along both of those axes and can be migrated easily.

If you don’t slow down and consider where the opportunities are, you may end up not optimizing your department or saving any money at all. The cloud can definitely be cheaper than operating a data center, but not if you lack a cost-optimization process.

Optimize applications in the long term, but consider security the entire time
Don’t force anything. Instead, move on-premise applications to the cloud in a thoughtful and logical way. Other businesses have been here before, and decided to jam their apps into the cloud to only regret it later. They then spend significant time and money correctly their mistakes to get their cloud environment working right. Learn from their mistakes and be measured in your approach.

Data protection is a significant reason why you need to have this measured approach. As a rule of thumb, bring with you the same data protection principles you have on-premises now. Your guiding principles will be the same; only your tools will be different.

Hyperscale IaaS providers owe you nothing if data is lost; it says so right in the contract. They design their services to maintain data and its integrity, but they don’t address issues such as user errors or corruption from application actions. The provider’s storage services simply do what the app and users tell it to, even if that means destroying data.

The good news is that cloud providers are increasing the number of tools available to protect data against a wider variety of problems. Likewise, there will be more integration across services, both ones that already exist on-premises and ones that are born in the cloud, in terms of making it operationally easy to deal with data protection and backup.

Ultimately, think of it this way: Migrating to the public cloud is similar to buying a car. If you go down to the dealership, slap down some money and just ask for a car, you’ll probably end up with something more expensive than you like that doesn’t have the features you want. What you need to do is your research, your planning and then make some cost-conscious choices so that you know what you want and then actually get it.

(Data & Analytics Hub: Visit Gartner’s Data & Analytics Hub for complementary research and webinars.)

This story originally appeared in Information Management.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.