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What's Involved in a Cloud-to-Cloud Migration?

When you hear the term "cloud migration," it's usually referring to a company moving their data and systems from their own internal architecture to the cloud. But what happens if a company is already in the cloud? What if they want to move to a new cloud platform? Migrate from one SaaS application to another? Separate their cloud investment into a multi cloud strategy?All of these examples are cloud-to-cloud migrations. And while it seems a lot easier to move around once you’re already in the cloud, it still takes expertise and experience to execute a project like this without unexpected speed bumps and false starts. Especially if you’re banking on the added benefits of a brand new platform (like security, automatic updates, scalability, device independence, etc.). While there are many excellent business cases for doing it, make sure you know what you're getting into before committing to a cloud platform.

Why Migrate Between Clouds?

When you conducted your first migration to the cloud, you had to make a choice as to which cloud platform you would use. Perhaps you selected one of the "big three": Google, Microsoft, or Amazon (AWS). Or maybe you went with one of the many alternative cloud providers.

At the time, your choice was made based on any number of business factors. Maybe cost was paramount. Or reliability. Or security. Or maybe you based it on some other feature or compatibility you required.

But as we all know, your business environment is always changing. And maybe those factors – that led you to choose one cloud platform over the others – have changed drastically enough that you're considering a new provider. Or maybe your business needs and priorities have changed to where you think a new platform (or additional platform) would be a better fit.

Let's say that several years ago you hired a cloud migration services provider who migrated your first systems to the AWS cloud platform. Your main reasons for doing so were reliability, risk mitigation (AWS was the standard at the time), and the thought that a public cloud structure would scale growth.

Since then, however, your company has grown more and more comfortable with Google's productivity tools like G Suite. You just participated in a Jamboard session with a client and you think it would be perfect for your remote workforce. Your main supply chain partners are on the Google platform and exploring integration capabilities there. You want to be part of those conversations. You start investigating the possibilities of a cloud-to-cloud migration so that you can take advantage of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

In this example, changing software usage and relationships with your partners might fuel the switch from one platform to another. But other factors, such as cost, security, and performance could just as easily apply.

Some situations where a cloud-to-cloud migration might occur are:

  • Improved performance with the new system
  • Additional tools and functionality that benefit your business
  • Better pricing to lower your costs
  • Richer APIs and better integration capabilities
  • Better service-level agreements and uptime
  • If your current platform is not keeping up with your needs or providing satisfactory service
  • Larger scalability to accommodate your business growth
  • Decrease your devops and deployment timelines

Depending on the size and complexity of your cloud operations, any one of these might be incentive enough to trigger your switch to a new platform. But whether or not you'll be able to is another story.

Why Cloud-to-Cloud Migrations Can Sometimes Be Difficult

In the cloud, it's all about the architecture.

Cloud platforms invest heavily in state-of-the-art architectures so that you don't have to. They can provide the hardware, operating systems, storage, and even some software. They also provide the updates and maintenance on all that architecture, saving you from the time, costs, and efforts of doing so yourself. And with all that investment comes a robustness and scalability that no in-house options could provide.

Unfortunately, this also creates problems when you need to migrate between clouds. Because each cloud platform is based on its own unique, proprietary architecture. And very little of it is compatible enough to port its applications to other clouds.

When you build a cloud-based application, your choice of cloud platform will predetermine things such as:

  • Operating system
  • Networking architecture
  • Virtual machine configuration
  • Database options
  • System management tools

And these are just a few of the areas where your choices are constrained by platform. Needless to say, you can't just pluck an application from one platform and expect it to run on another, and still expect to receive all the added benefits that probably made you decide to do the project in the first place. If you build an application for Microsoft Azure, you should run it on Microsoft Azure. If you change your mind and want to port it to Google App Engine instead, it’s best to anticipate some potentially heavy-duty re-architecting of the application code to get the full value of the platform.

Are Cloud-to-Cloud Migrations Worth the Trouble?

Just like your initial decision when you migrated into the cloud, you'll have to analyze the costs, assess the risks, and predict the rewards of a cloud-to-cloud migration. Does it make sense technically, operationally, and financially?

It's easy to look at the upfront efforts and say it's just not worth switching all that again. But when you're dealing with significant costs over time, creating synergies with business partners, or improving your overall reliability and performance... the sooner you make the switch, the easier it will be. Because with every application you add into your cloud repertoire, the more difficult a cloud-to-cloud migration will become.

We’ve invested an incredible amount of time to ensure our current and future clients have the resources and information they need to help make the correct decision when assessing the best cloud infrastructure for their business. It’s important to us that we’re always here when you need us.

Cloud colaboration

Originally published on February 14, 2018

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