Cloud Migration Strategy: The Timing is Always Right

Published on: March 27, 2020
Marquess Lewis, Chief Technical Officer

The Cloud is here to stay, and many organizations already have applications or websites in the Cloud, or at least some SaaS subscriptions. As the features and services available from cloud providers have increased, the decision making around how to move forward and enhance your current offerings or even just get started in the Cloud can seem challenging. It is easy in this situation to get stuck in analysis paralysis. In addition to the growing learning curve and potential size of any cloud migration effort, there are plenty of experts, consultants, and vendors advocating for a variety of approaches: “You have to have a cloud migration strategy first” or “Lift and shift is the wrong way to approach the Cloud.” Whether you already have applications in the Cloud or are just getting started, now is a good time to take inventory of your efforts and align to your organization’s mission.

There are a lot of good reasons for migrating to the Cloud. Institutions and EdTech companies both benefit from the Cloud’s on-demand scalability, flexibility, and reliability. They also appreciate the Cloud cost savings resulting from reduced hardware and infrastructure. As the suite of cloud services has expanded, institutions find that they can take advantage of built-in tools to analyze user-driven data to gain valuable insights on student retention and student learning outcomes. Taking a close look at the Cloud’s potential and how it aligns with the mission of your organization makes sense, no matter where you are in your cloud migration journey.

But when it comes to getting stuff done, action tends to come first, with strategy lagging behind.  A couple of years ago, I attended a Cloud session at a conference (I think it was Internet2) with perhaps 100 people in the room. The facilitators asked, “who has a cloud migration strategy?” - perhaps 10 people raised their hands. Then they asked, “who has stuff running in the Cloud?” and just about everyone raised their hands.  Who said, “tactics eats strategy for breakfast?” OK, maybe it was really culture that does the eating, per Peter Drucker, but the point is that the need to “get stuff done,” tactics, or necessity, often wins out over strategy.

That’s the point of this blog post - to let you know that there is no “right” decision point for choosing a cloud application migration strategy - it’s OK to have started without a strategy or be stuck on where to start. There may be organizations around that are similar to yours - facing an end-of-life’ed product, or dealing with aging hardware that has rising maintenance contract costs and risk, or having a particular scaling problem that is hard to solve within your compute footprint, or a dealing with a mandate from the top that a big CAPEX investment is off the table, or trying to implement a disaster recovery environment - but none are exactly like you. And no one strategy for cloud migration is right for everyone.

Cloud Migration - Key Terms graphicSo, start where you are.  If you have a big mandate and the resources in-house or with a partner to develop a complete cloud migration strategy and a roadmap, that’s a great position to be in.  If you just need to try something low risk to explore the benefits of the Cloud, or you really need the advantage of dynamic resourcing for a nasty compute problem, or you’re in the position of taking advantage of a managed database service to increase capacity and reduce cost, those are all perfectly valid reasons to start your cloud migration.  Your first step might be a hybrid cloud solution with some applications in the Cloud and others on-premises. We have clients that are all over the map regarding how they started, yet they are successfully meeting their goals around cost, reliability/availability, security, or scale.  

Whether you’re just starting out or have made a few tactical moves, it’s a good time to take a step back and ask “what have we learned, what’s working and what isn’t?”  This is a valid point in your evolution to take advantage of some of the tools and methodologies that are available for planning and assessing cloud migration. In the next blog post in this series, we’ll introduce some of these tools and give you tips that can help you start, maintain, or mature your efforts in moving to and taking advantage of the Cloud.

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Hybrid cloud deployment can be a great first step in your cloud journey, and may prove to be your best long-term solution. Learn more about the possibilities and benefits by downloading this hybrid cloud migration strategy guide eBook: Building Your Hybrid Cloud Strategy.

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Marquess Lewis photo

Marquess Lewis

Chief Technical Officer

Marquess Lewis fills numerous roles at Unicon, with involvement in learning systems architecture for various clients, in Operations, IT Security, and architecture for Unicon's hosted offerings, and as a member of the Unicon executive team. Marquess has over 20 years of experience in complex systems development and operations, delivering SaaS platforms and services supporting millions of customers. A majority of Marquess's experience is in the Higher Ed and K-12 markets where he has worked with US and global customers.