Most businesses either have already migrated part of their IT environment to the cloud, or are thinking about it. While the effort and complexity of any cloud migration should not be under-estimated, breaking down the migration into separately actionable steps can help. A successful cloud migration lies in setting business objectives and executing with fitting solutions in each step.
Unless your original IT footprint is simple and small, it may be unwarranted to migrate the complete IT infrastructure to the cloud. In fact, most companies should take the hybrid approach that cloud becomes part of the total IT environment. In the hybrid scenario, some IT components are “upgraded” to the cloud with better reliability and scalability. Decisions about what’s migrated to the cloud should be made according to the business objectives measuring the benefits cloud brings.
Let’s assume that your organization has an IT infrastructure including Microsoft Windows Servers and Active Directory Domain Services, geographically single or multi-site.
The following table shows the three main IT components that are targets of cloud migration – files, directory services, and compute, in that order of priority. The three levels are independent of each other and the order of migration depends on your business objectives. Due to the importance of data, file migration is recommended to be the first step of cloud migration.
Migrating files means using the cloud for primary storage, not cloud backup which is a common practice and is not true “migration”. Files are often the most guarded company properties and the cloud’s characteristics of high reliability and scalability make it a good place for storing files.
Morro Data offers hybrid cloud global file system with caching gateways that retain the familiar SMB user interface, while storing files in the cloud with multisite file sync and file lock. To PC users, there is no difference in user interface or workflow between accessing a traditional file server and accessing a caching gateway. Basically, the gateway functions as a NAS except that the hard disks are replaced with cloud object storage. Keeping the same SMB interface eliminates the need for end user re-training.
Migrating files constitutes copying files from the traditional server / NAS to a gateway and let the gateway do the cloud upload. Depending on the amount of data and the upload speed, this process usually takes days.
After the file servers are replaced with the cloud-centric cloud file system and files are safely stored in the cloud, the next target for migration should be the Windows Server-based directory service, i.e., Active Directory. Domain Services, being such a critical component of an IT environment, should be considered as a key component to migrate to the cloud for reasons of reliability and simplicity. By migrating the domain controller to the cloud, all sites can access the same controller and there is no need to sync domain controllers among all sites.
There are two ways to migrate the domain controller – hosted or managed. Hosted means deploying a Windows Server VM in the cloud as the domain controller and have every site connect to it. Microsoft Azure also provides the managed option called Azure AD Domain Services. AAD DS functions the same as your own hosted VM except for a monthly subscription fee one does not need to worry about server deployment and software updates. Read the related article – SMB Single-Sign-On with Azure AD Domain Services.
Virtual desktops are gaining traction since the pandemic hit. There are advantages such as deployment flexibility and business continuity. However, cost is a main consideration as the monthly subscription for a high-end virtual desktop seat with GPU can be well over $200.
Moreover, virtual desktop may be going against the grain of today’s rapid advancement of desktop technologies. Features such as multiple 4K resolution displays, high-capacity ultra-fast NVMe SSD storage, and Gigabit WiFi are already mainstream and present real productivity gains.
In deciding the location of the desktops, data latency is an important consideration for applications such as video and audio editing. Cloud virtual desktop is not going to work well for this type of applications. The IT architect needs to ask the question: Should the user go to the data (including the application UI), or should data be brought to the user? The latter will have minimal data latency. Caching gateways from Morro Data bring the cloud data to wherever the user is and minimize data latency.
I hope that this article has brought some structure to the unwieldy topic of cloud migration. With the many benefits of the cloud, cloud migration is only a matter of time for most organizations. I wish that, with an understanding of the different levels of cloud migration, you will have a successful project that is also a journey of learning and appreciation of new technologies.