Cloud migration checklist: 8 steps to migration project success

Cloud migration can be a nightmare or as simple as changing a couple of settings. These 8 steps ensure you achieve the best result and avoid cloud migration problems.

So, you are designing a cloud migration project plan and want to know what it must include and what to avoid. Here is a brief cloud migration checklist based on IT Svit experience.

Cloud migration checklist: 8 steps to doing it right

Thus said, over the years we gathered significant experience with enabling the transition to the cloud and cloud migration for our customers. This cloud migration plan template covers 8 main steps to successful cloud migration:

  1. Audit the IT infrastructure in place to get a grip of what makes it tick
  2. Define the existing bottlenecks and inconsistencies, devise solutions for them
  3. Select the cloud analogs of the crucial system components and prepare the cloud migration plan template
  4. Redesign the infrastructure to take advantage of the cloud computing benefits and select the cloud migration strategy: public, private or multi-cloud deployment
  5. Accomplish a pilot to test the system performance in the field
  6. Apply any improvements based on the pilot feedback
  7. Move the production environments to the cloud
  8. Configure the CI/CD workflows, logging, alerting and monitoring solutions

This is how we follow this cloud migration checklist at IT Svit.

Audit the existing IT infrastructure

Long-standing businesses have problems with their legacy IT infrastructures. In the best-case scenario, the IT infrastructure is built according to a long-term strategy. In real life, however, most of the companies update their infrastructure according to the needs of the moment by the talents and tech at hand. As a result, the company has the legacy code and legacy infrastructure that works, but nobody knows how.

Our DevOps team begins the process of cloud transition with assessing the situation by interviewing the business stakeholders and in-house IT specialists to form a picture of the existing IT infrastructure. We explore the documentation and follow all the workflows and scenarios in use to familiarize with the system and form a complete picture of the existing performance issues and bottlenecks.

Such an audit can result in one of two approaches. If the code can work after lift-and-shift to a cloud infrastructure with little to none effort — this approach is quite viable. It ensures the transition time is minimized and the system works nearly exactly as before (just using the cloud infrastructure under the hood), so the learning curve is minimal. The issue with this approach, however, is that such a system cannot use all the advantages of cloud computing in full. For example, if the system was meant to be running on a cluster of dedicated servers, putting it on a Kubernetes cluster will not do any good.

The alternative is rebuilding the system from scratch using the cloud-based versions of the databases in use and replace all the legacy modules with cloud-native analogs. This route is longer and more costly, yet it uses all the benefits of the cloud and allows to redesign the legacy system to remove all the bottlenecks and ensure the infrastructure is future-proof.

Whichever variant the customer chooses, the IT outsourcing provider can deliver the expected results. The only major issue here is if the customer decides to omit the audit altogether. Such a decision can be the doom of the whole cloud migration project plan and we don’t recommend avoiding this stage for any use case.

Define the existing bottlenecks and inconsistencies, devise the solutions for them

The first part of the cloud migration project plan is to devise the solutions for the issues encountered. After the audit ends, the DevOps team has a clear picture of the existing bottlenecks and performance issues. Fixing these issues is one of the main cloud migration problems.

Sometimes, the cloud scalability, high-availability, and security provide the solutions on their own. Sometimes, the infrastructure must be redesigned from scratch to avoid the structural issues that have roots in an imperfect product architecture. If the drawbacks of the legacy infrastructure are not solved during the cloud migration, they will hamper the further growth of the company.

Select the cloud analogs, create the migration plan

When the IT outsourcing company designs the cloud migration plan template, it must include all the goals the customer wants to reach during the migration. The DevOps team must do the following

  • select and measure certain KPIs to help evaluate the efficiency of changes
  • establish the roadmap and milestones
  • provide the reasoning for all the actions
  • establish the cloud performance baselines
  • set the priority targets for the migration

Once the cloud migration plan template is ready, it’s time to select the cloud platform and modules you will use.

Redesign the infrastructure to use the cloud computing benefits

The next step is to redesign the infrastructure to take advantage of the cloud computing benefits and select the cloud migration strategy: public, private or multi-cloud deployment. There are quite a lot of Cloud Service Providers (CSPs): MS Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, DigitalOcean, etc. The optimal cloud infrastructure for your project will differ based on the project requirements, yet pretty much any infrastructure can be composed of the basic cloud services.

If you go for public cloud to use its scalability and high availability, all the IT infrastructure can be built using the corresponding public cloud modules as building blocks. This might result in the vendor lock-in situation, though, and is not advised.

A business can also opt for a private cloud, where it can use both the default cloud modules and third-party or open-source tools inside its private cloud network. This requires a bit more complicated setup but provides greater flexibility.

The optimal choice is the multi-cloud strategy, where the infrastructure is highly modular, based around open-source DevOps tools like Terraform and Kubernetes and allows building cloud-agnostic systems, where the CSP modules can be easily swapped should the need be.

For example, a business might need a system where the app data is stored at AWS S3, but processed by Google Big Query and some on-the-fly calculations are done through Azure Functions. When Terraform is the interim layer forming the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and Kubernetes cluster manages the Docker containers running the apps — everything is possible!

Accomplish a pilot to test the system performance in the field

The best test of new infrastructure is moving some minor systems there before migrating the mission-critical components. This will test the calculations, help checks the workloads and scaling, and will show any discrepancies that might be left unnoticed in the infrastructure design. If you decided to lift-and-shift some minor system components — this would be exactly the time to do it, before rushing to a full-scale migration of your production environments.

Apply any improvements based on the pilot feedback

The feedback from running the pilot migration must be used to fine-tune the resulting infrastructure before the migration of the mission-critical systems. For example, the pilot might show you need to implement auto-scaling groups instead of preconfigured Kubernetes clusters, or that the automated Terraform backup for database data is preferable to platform-specific features, or that a bastion host must be set up to provide secure access to the system.

Move the production environments to the cloud

Once everything is ready, the cloud components begin to run in parallel with the existing servers and the data is copied there. The databases can be 100% synchronized only with their cloud analogs, the code will still remain on GitHub, while the media content and scripts must be copied to the cloud. The CSPs allow setting the nameserver records to as low as 3 seconds, so once all the data is moved you can shut down the legacy infrastructure, and enjoy the seamless cloud migration for your workloads and applications.

Configure the CI/CD workflows, logging, alerting and monitoring solutions

Cloud architecture provides much better and in-depth logging, monitoring and alerting capacities. Lots of the workflows that were previously done manually can be now performed using Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) tools and practices.

The code development can be significantly sped up by automating most of the scenarios, so instead of asking the Ops engineers to manually provision and configure the environments for every operation, the developers can do it themselves through using preconfigured scripts and Terraform manifests. These manifests are stored on GitHub, describe the required state of the system in a declarative language and can be easily adjusted. This way, each new environment is easily created anew, instead of updating the setting of the existing machines.

Final thoughts on 8 steps of cloud migration checklist

To wrap it up, cloud migration is complex, yet quite doable. If the IT outsourcing provider you choose has some decent experience with performing cloud migrations, the process will be smooth and hassle-free. Vice versa, if the attempt will be performed by the in-house team without any previous experience, the project is bound to meet some cloud migration problems and might fail completely.

This is the reason for cloud migration being one of the most popular requests that Managed Services Providers like IT Svit handle all the time. We have ample experience with performing the IT infrastructure audit, designing the cloud migration plat template and performing the transition to the cloud for systems of varying complexity. This step allows the businesses to simplify their delivery workflows and improve the performance of their systems while spending less time and funds on running their infrastructure.

About Author

IT Svit is a Managed Services Provider with more than 14 years of expertise in delivering dedicated teams for software development and providing IT outsourcing for server administration.

For the last 5 years, we largely concentrated on growing our expertise with DevOps services, and now we are listed among top 5 IT outsourcing companies in Ukraine, top 10 MSPs worldwide and one of top 250 global IT industry leaders, according to technology consultancy agency Clutch from Washington, D.C. We are also among top-rated IT services providers on Upwork.

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