Discover cloud migration, and how it can transition applications and data to the cloud for enhanced scalability, agility, and cost-efficiency.
Christina Harker, PhD
When we talk about cloud migration, we’re talking about the process of moving applications, data and other components from an on-premises set to a cloud-based environment. This includes moving things from local servers and physical hardware to some kind of cloud computing services supplied by third parties. Typically, people use large providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
But how did the idea of cloud migration get started? Let’s take a closer look into the history of cloud migration. We’ll also go through common reasons you might want to move your application to the cloud.
Whilst cloud migration is relatively new, its roots run deep into computing development. From the 60s to the 90s, virtualization—which lets you run multiple OSs on one physical machine—laid the groundwork for cloud computing in general. As early as the 60s, IBM introduced virtual machines in its mainframes. By the 90s, server virtualization came into existence with VMware.
From there, things accelerated. Initially, it was difficult to create the scope and breadth required for on-demand computing to take off. But Sun Microsystems offered on-demand services that were available to consumers remotely. They were the originals, the first to really get the ball rolling.
By the mid aughts, AWS had come into existence (2006), and remains the dominant force in the industry. They launched with EC2 and S3, which allowed users to rent virtual servers and store data in the cloud. At this point, the idea of cloud computing had come of age. Businesses began to see the opportunity in cloud adoption.
Heroku followed in 2007, along with Google App Engine (2008), following the need for PaaS’s that would allow users to control the interaction points between their apps and rented infrastructure more easily and more efficiently.
Because of AWS’s success, fast followers appeared in the form of Azure in 2010 and then GCP in 2011. As competition heated up, it became increasingly important to help users migrate their applications from their old vendor to their new vendor. This is when, arguably, cloud migration became an important part of the competitive landscape.
At the same time, there were also pain points for migrating to the cloud (things like containerization) and compliance obstacles when it came to data security and availability that meant some businesses simply couldn’t move entirely to the cloud. By the 2010s, hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures emerged as partial or total solutions for these problems.
These are not products, of course, but more flexible setups. Hybrid clouds combine both public and private cloud infrastructure to take advantage of both deployment methods' advantages. Multi-cloud approaches incorporate multiple cloud providers, so different aspects of a business can use the cloud provider they need, while also allowing the larger organization to avoid vendor lock-in.
Looking back, it seems inevitable that cloud migration would become important to businesses for a variety of reasons. Not least, being able to pursue business opportunities and better deals, as well as meeting regulatory requirements (GDPR encouraging data storage to be based in the EU, for example).
Over time, cloud migration has become more accessible, scalable, and cost-effective, leading to its widespread adoption across various industries. Today, cloud migration is a critical consideration for companies pursuing digital transformation, as it’s so often called. Successful migration can make or break the entire cloud proposition.
There are several reasons why organizations consider migrating to the cloud:
Scalability and flexibility: Cloud systems enable you to effortlessly scale up or down resources based on demand. This enables organizations to respond swiftly to changing demands and prevent over- or under-provisioning of infrastructure.
Cost efficiency: Cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing businesses to reduce capital expenditures on hardware and infrastructure. They just pay for the resources they use, possibly saving money.
Reliability and availability: Cloud service providers often deliver high levels of dependability and availability by utilizing redundant infrastructure and advanced disaster recovery systems. This helps to guarantee that programs and data remain available with as little downtime as possible.
Security: Cloud providers make significant investments in security measures such as data encryption, access limits, and frequent security audits. These environments can provide greater security than on-premises configurations in some situations, particularly for enterprises with minimal IT resources.
However, while cloud migration does offer numerous benefits, you have to approach the process with some caution and consider potential challenges:
Data security and privacy: Moving sensitive data to the cloud necessitates careful consideration of security and regulatory procedures. Organizations must evaluate the security procedures of the cloud provider and verify that adequate encryption and access restrictions are in place.
Network connectivity and performance: Cloud migration does rely on network connectivity. This means that organizations need to look at their network infrastructure to ensure it can handle the increased traffic. It has to provide low latency to avoid performance issues.
Application compatibility: Some applications will require modifications or redevelopment to work best in a cloud environment. This means that compatibility issues could arise when migrating legacy systems or applications that are tightly integrated with existing on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. This is a big can of worms you will likely want to avoid; on the other hand, you will probably need to address these legacy issues at some point.
Vendor lock-in: Shifting to a specific cloud provider may result in vendor lock-in. It’s the nature of the beast: choosing a single provider will make it hard to switch to an alternative provider in the future. You need to carefully evaluate provider options and consider adopting cloud-agnostic strategies whenever possible.
Data transfer and downtime: Depending on the volume of data being migrated, the initial transfer process can be time-consuming. It’s possible it could impact business operations. That’s why it’s important for organizations to plan for downtime and minimize disruption during the migration process.
You will need to thoroughly plan the migration strategy, conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, perform adequate testing, and involve relevant stakeholders throughout the process in order to minimize risks and ensure success as much as possible. Using experienced cloud consultants or specialists can also provide valuable guidance during the migration journey.