Cloud Migration Playbook

I’ve been spending some time considering the term “cloud migration”.  To me, migration connotes a large one-way traveling event, with varying degrees of preparation invested in the process.  When birds migrate, I don’t think they spend much time considering the process of flying south.  One day, a goose might think to himself, “Wow, it’s freezing out, and there’s nothing around to eat.” And without fanfare the migration begins. That’s fine for geese; they have an innate understanding of when, why and how to migrate.
Unfortunately, humans have very few innate skills, and we rely on learning to gain additional abilities.  Sometimes we learn through trial and error, other times we learn from others.  I’ve found that life generally goes much smoother when I learn from others, and rely on expertise and experience to guide me through complicated new territory.  And when tackling something new, with or without help from others, it’s imperative to plan for success.  Planning includes understanding where you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.  Part of that plan is identifying obstacles to your success and developing mitigation plans for each of them.  In football, they call that a playbook, and when migrating services to the cloud, it is important to have your own playbook.
Migrating services to the cloud is not an innate skill, but I’ve seen organizations treat it like that.  Sometimes there’s a triggering event that precipitates a sudden migration.  One company I know (let’s call them Hasty, Inc.) realized their file server farm was reaching end of warranty.  And like the goose that suddenly noticed the change in the weather, they said, “Hey, our servers are at end of life, let’s move storage to the cloud.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a goal to move your storage to the cloud, but since they did not have the innate skill of cloud migration, they decided to, like the goose, wing it.  Needless to say, things did not go well.
To make a long story short, they selected the first file storage, sync and share cloud provider they thought of. The solution they selected would have been fine for an individual consumer, but it had none on the features an enterprise solution must have.  I won’t name the cloud solution Hasty selected, because it was not the fault of the vendor’s product.  The use case for that product was clearly consumer oriented, it was not meant for an enterprise (or SMB) environment.  Hasty did not spend the time needed to plan their migration or even investigate the top 5 characteristics their enterprise cloud storage solution should have before they selected it. In other words, they did not have a playbook.
The great thing about a playbook is that once you develop one, you can use it over and over again, simply modifying it as the environment or requirements change.  The bad thing about a playbook is that it takes a lot of time, effort and experience to develop one.  In the case of migrating your services to the cloud, you may have to develop multiple playbooks depending on how many services you plan to migrate.  The problem with this process is that once you’ve developed the playbook and migrated the service, you’ll probably never use that playbook again.  You’ll tie up your IT resources in the research, analysis and development that’s required to build a playbook for your cloud migration, and there is an opportunity loss associated with this process. Your team will be focused on the steep learning curve involved with a one-time migration rather than more strategic business-aligned objectives.
The best way to make sure your playbook works is to measure the outcomes it facilitates.  When developing one yourself, you won’t be able to determine its success until the migration is complete, and by then, it may be too late.   This is where learning from others becomes the best option.  The safest and most efficient way to migrate services to the cloud is to work with a trusted partner who’s done the hard work needed to build a winning playbook.  Your partner should be able to show how their playbook facilitated the wins their clients have enjoyed by using it.  These successes are not measured simply by the fact that the company survived the migration, but that the goals for migrating in the first place were met or exceeded.
Your partner’s playbook should not only address the technical aspects of the migration, but they should ensure that all your goals, including performance, security, ROI, ease of management, and user adoption and engagement objectives are met.  And no matter how good their playbook may be, your partner must be agile enough to tailor it to your organization’s specific needs.
If you’re working on your migration plan and would like to take a peek at our cloud storage playbook, we discussed the top 5 concerns you should consider when migrating data storage to the cloud at our webinar, which you can view here.

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