Can you Model a Successful Cloud Migration Journey After a Relaxing Overseas Vacation?

By: Tom NiklFebruary 7, 2018

This may seem counter-intuitive. In fact, it may seem really counter-intuitive. But, as I started really thinking about how a cloud migration journey should go, it started to make a lot of sense. For the sake of this story, we’re going to imagine that you, our cloud migration project leader, is taking a vacation from New York to London. We’re going to outline what you’d have to do to accomplish this vacation and the parallels you’ll find in a cloud migration project.

Step 1: Pack Smart

How many times have you gone on a trip and upon arrival you realize that you either forgot to pack something really important or you packed way, way too much? It happens to me all the time. One of the best ways to avoid these issues is to make a packing list. Outline everything you’ll truly need while you’re on this trip and map it out. When you pack, cross things off the list as they go into your luggage. Anything that you won’t truly need, leave it off the list entirely. This will help you avoid overpacking but also forgetting something important.

This is analogous to the first phase of any cloud migration project: application landscape discovery. This is where you map out everything in your on-premises environment, neatly itemizing and organizing all of your resources and dependencies. This gives you a complete but clear view of what you’re dealing with so that you can properly decide what’s going to migrate into the public cloud. Like your vacation packing list, some applications aren’t worth the move, so they’ll stay on-prem or be shut down entirely. The rest are the ideal candidates for your cloud migration, and with the dependencies mapped out, you’ll have a properly ordered “packing list” for your on-prem journey into the cloud.

Step 2: Travel Arrangements

What’s the best way to get from New York to London? Well, you could swim across the Atlantic Ocean – it’s free, after all! But, you will have wasted months of time and are probably pretty worn out by the time you arrive in London. So, how about flights? You can take the cheapest option available which means you’ll be in the last row, in a middle seat, sandwiched between two screaming babies. You can’t recline, and you’re last to board and exit. And, by the time the drink cart comes around they’re out of booze. Ouch. Once again you saved some money, but you were miserable as a result. These all sound pretty dire, so it’s probably best to just spend the extra money on a normal ticket from New York to London, where you can pick your seat and actually relax a little bit on the way over.

The point I’m trying to make here is that just because something is free or cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the grand scheme of things. And, just because something costs more money doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderfully worthwhile investment. Because the adages “time is money” and “you get what you pay for” are 100% applicable to cloud migration projects. If you go with a free cloud migration tool, expect to spend 5-10x more time and labor using it, and prepare for 5-10x more headaches in the process as well. When it comes to cloud migrations, as with overseas travel, its always better to pay for a standard, non-stop fare than it is to gamble with the low-cost alternatives.

Step 3: Heading to the airport

You’ve been waiting months and your travel day is finally here. Finally, time for a vacation – but not before some other crucial decisions take place. First, how are you going to get to the airport? Well, you could take a shared shuttle – it’s about $35 but it’ll make a few stops along the way to pick up other folks. Or, you could take an Uber which is also about $35 but it’ll take you directly to the airport. I suspect most of us would pick the Uber: same price, less stops, faster time-to-airport.

Getting to the airport is a lot like pre-migration testing and validation. Before you migrate, you’ll need to validate in-cloud performance before officially migrating anything into the cloud. That’s why you’ll want a solution that makes it easy and seamless to test in the cloud before you migrate, not a tool that makes you take all sorts of unnecessary steps along the way.

Step 4: The Luggage Dilemma

When you get to the airport, you see the long, snaking line of folks waiting in line to check their bags. That’ll rack up some nice luggage check fees and add a 50% chance of your luggage not arriving with you in London. You’re glad that thanks to your clear, organized packing list from step one you were able to rely on your carry-on.

Checking luggage is a lot like cloud migration tools that rely on replication, or technologies that make you transfer all your data into the cloud before anything works. Like checking luggage, replication makes you wait in a long line before you ever see your luggage again (what if you need something during your flight?), and there is, unfortunately, a good chance that it gets lost along the way.

That is why it’s better to find a cloud migration solution that is more akin to carry-on bags, where you’re always in control of your application’s migration. By avoiding replication technologies, you can get your application running in the cloud quickly (which means you can access it at any time) and without worrying about something going wrong during the data migration. It’s the fastest, smoothest route for your applications (and luggage) to go from point A to B.

Step 5: Breezing Through Security

You’re now approaching security and you see another line snaking its way across the airport. You look down at your ticket which says, “TSA PRE-CHECK” and you’re already thankful that you paid the small fee to skip the normal security lines and breeze through the VIP line. After a few minutes you’re through security and off to grab a bite to eat before your flight takes off while everyone else stands idly by.

Getting through security is a lot like the application cutover you’ll experience once all of your data has migrated into the cloud. With replication-based tools (that we talked about earlier), this cutover is going to feel a lot like the normal security line. It’s going to take forever, there will be lots of waiting, and you might encounter unforeseen obstacles.

This is because with replication agents, you will need to outline a detailed process shutdown procedure on the server you’re migrating. You basically have to stop the application processes from running, without stopping the replication agent, so that the application can do a final cutover into the cloud. Honestly, it’s a mess, which is why it reminds me of an airport security line.

In contrast, a cloud migration solution which avoids replication and agents will feel more like the TSA Pre-check line, where you’ll wait just a few minutes and breeze through without any special procedures because you’ve already been pre-verified (by TSA). Without replication and agents, there are no complex application process shutdown procedures or anything of the sort. Once your application’s data is safely in the cloud, that’s it, you’re done. There is nothing to stop or quiesce. It’s just… done.

Bon Voyage!

Regardless of which choices you made along the way, you’ve now arrived safely in London! The question now is: how are you feeling? This is the start of your vacation after all, so you don’t want to start it off on the wrong foot. Are you frazzled from a long, arduous day of shared shuttles, airport lines, intrusive security personnel, and crammed middle seats in the back? Or, are you relaxed after an easy airport journey and flight? Hopefully, the latter.

And, with your cloud migration project, much like this vacation, you’ll face similar decisions throughout your journey. So, do you want a smooth cloud journey that yields a pleasant beginning in the cloud? Or, do you want obstacle after obstacle? If you groaned at the thought of any of these travel nightmares, then you’ll definitely want to make sure you avoid those travel-like obstacles in your cloud migration journey as well.

The good news is that it’s simple: pick a solution you can invest in that is purpose-built for cloud migration, which is enterprise-grade, and which will save you significant amounts of time, labor, complexity, and headaches. Yes, these solutions will cost more than the freebies… but as our travel analogy reveals, they are always worth the investment.

Tom Nikl
Tom Nikl
Tom has spent twelve years leading product management and product marketing at technology companies large and small who focus on virtualization and cloud technologies. He currently blogs primarily about cloud migration, with an emphasis on overcoming challenges that companies face getting to the cloud and how to solve them. Prior to enterprise, Tom received a B.S. in Computer Science from San Jose State University. Outside of work he is an unabashed fan of Disney Theme Parks and delicious junk food.