There has been an overwhelming amount of time and money invested into cloud computing in recent years. Not only has the technology had nearly a decade to mature and become less of a niche solution, but businesses are increasingly understanding how to properly operate most cloud platforms and reap their benefits. This growing investment in cloud technology has allowed the industry to rapidly innovate and create new services faster than most areas of IT. In fact, Gartner® predicts that public cloud services will grow an additional 18% by the end of 2017, bringing the projected market to $246.8 billion.
Still, 35% of IT professionals surveyed as part of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of Hybrid IT Organization said they had migrated workloads out of the cloud and back on-premises in the last 12 months. In other words, the cloud is certainly tempting for IT departments, but it’s not for everything. To best ensure a business is receiving the anticipated benefits of the cloud — greater cost efficiency, performance, agility, scalability, etc. — now and in the future, IT professionals must leverage insights from current applications in the cloud to accurately and strategically forecast future migration.
Using Today’s Information for Tomorrow’s Migration
To start, while many organizations are experiencing many benefits from cloud computing, IT departments must be realistic about the advantages they expect. For example, cost-efficiency, a key driver for many cloud deployment initiatives, can’t be considered a guaranteed benefit. The cloud is inexpensive to get started, but the meter is running all the time, and costs can accumulate, especially as cloud services providers (CSPs) continue to roll out additional, more specialized (and expensive) services.
IT departments might also realize unexpected or unplanned benefits from the cloud, such as the fact it can be more secure than they had originally anticipated, or that the true value of the cloud lies in its agility and not cost-savings. They may even realize that the cloud is helping them better serve their organizations’ business needs outside of cost efficiency. These insights should be filed away and leveraged when it comes time to consider migrating other workloads to the cloud.
Along the same lines, once IT departments are integrated and comfortable in the cloud, they often assume they no longer need to worry about forecasting data center capacity or think about infrastructure management. Instead, they can focus on current applications and workloads to make them run more efficiently in the cloud.
Contrary to popular belief, shifting workloads to what amounts to someone else’s infrastructure doesn’t mean IT professionals can wash their hands of traditional oversight and walk away. IT professionals still need to plan and prepare for things like the possibility of network downtime or a data breach. Applications — even in the cloud — require active monitoring and architecting to appropriately prepare for future needs.
It’s also worth noting that despite the rush to the cloud, the vast majority of IT departments will continue to host a significant number of workloads on-premises. And these workloads require not only the standard attention and maintenance, but also optimization. The cloud is making IT departments more aware of the relationship between performance, resource utilization, and cost.
Industry research shows that most IT departments underutilize their infrastructure at a rate of 40% or more. Cloud computing has made it easy to provision infrastructure with one click, both in the cloud and in virtualized data centers, resulting in overprovisioned, abandoned, and zombie VMs and resources.
It’s interesting to consider that what we consider on-premises is most often virtualized resources in a colocation environment. In other words, the cloud and on-premises worlds are converging and IT will have more options, and more decisions to make, about what goes to a public cloud and what stays in-house.
Why Monitoring Matters, Especially in the Cloud
This should come as no surprise, but monitoring must be a requirement for all IT departments whether they are operating on-premises or in the cloud — or, more likely, both. Regardless of location, for any application to be successful, IT professionals need to understand the performance and consumption profile of the application and how it will be impacted by changes, such as migration to the cloud or changes in provisioning.
Understanding the resource consumption and performance profile of a workload allows IT departments to understand how to adjust provisioning as the usage of a workload goes up or down. Resource and performance profiles are useful in migrating workloads to the cloud, and they inform IT professionals on which resources are necessary, as CSPs now offer a plethora of services and each added service increases cost.
For example, moving a standard Microsoft® SharePoint® workload to Amazon Web Services™ (AWS®) requires deciding which type of instance to use (from dozens of choices), how much memory and CPU to provision, and what kind of storage to use. Every decision has implications on performance, scalability, and cost.
These things cannot be selected at random. By closely monitoring applications before migration, IT professionals can arm themselves with the right insights to select the best services that match the need of their business before moving anything to the cloud, and validate proper performance once the move is complete, and beyond.
Clouds Ahead: Best Practices for Forecasting
IT departments can leverage insights from current cloud and on-premises workload deployments to drive deeper into the cloud with an effective cloud migration strategy. To do so, IT professionals should consider the following best practices:
Leverage Application Performance Monitoring
IT professionals need to determine what the key performance indicators are to monitor for each application, starting with end-user experience. A comprehensive monitoring tool that provides visibility into the on-premises systems, as well as those in the cloud, should be implemented to help establish baseline performance metrics that make it easier to identify whether a workload belongs “on the ground” or in the cloud.
Know the Application Requirements
To best achieve success with applications that have been migrated to the cloud, knowing what each application’s requirements are is key. In choosing a monitoring system, it’s important to consider that the architecture of an application is more important than where it is hosted: a traditional three-tier application should be monitored on the cloud in pretty much the same way it’s monitored on-premises. Finally, IT professionals must have a fundamental understanding of which application components need to be optimized in order to improve performance, scalability, agility, or availability depending on which CSP they are working with.
Remember That the Cloud is Not Free
IT departments must come to terms with the fact that just because an application is in the cloud, it doesn’t mean it will be saving money or achieving a greater return on investment (ROI).
Understanding the proper resourcing of applications, driven by monitoring, will help IT departments reach ROI faster. Thorough due diligence with respect to cloud provider security and compliance certifications, conversations with management to discuss future growth plans, and an eye on critical skill development, IT professionals can help their organization drive deeper into the cloud.
Build a Roadmap
With so many CSPs and associated services now available, it can be extremely tempting to migrate workloads to the cloud, regardless of whether it makes good business sense or not. Not everything belongs in the cloud and that’s okay. Creating a resource and performance profile for all applications and workloads can help inform this decision. When an application is getting ready to be migrated to the cloud, IT professionals need to pay close attention to application inventories and what the application requirements are to best optimize once it is on the cloud.
Driving deeper into the cloud can deliver many much-needed benefits for organization, but IT professionals need to keep in mind that the line between on-premises and cloud technologies are blurring. IT departments should have a coherent strategy across applications hosted in the cloud and those on-premises, using a logical set of guidelines, processes, and monitoring tools. When IT professionals adopt monitoring as a discipline, they will have a greater rate of success in the cloud and will be able to better serve their organization. IT professionals should be conscious that the cloud is not for everything, and should then build a set of criteria and a strategy that produces a road map of what is to be moved to the cloud and what needs to stay at home. By embracing these concepts, IT departments will be better prepared for the hybrid IT reality of today.