What is cloud migration? Strategies and tools

There is no doubt: cloud migration has come of age. In a recent survey of technology decision-makers conducted by IDG, 73 percent of organizations have at least one application — or a portion of their computing infrastructure — already in the cloud; and more than one third of respondents said that the IT department feels pressure to migrate 100 percent to the cloud. Today, it is common to see legacy, on-premises systems being supplemented or replaced by cloud applications and cloud data warehouses.

What is cloud migration?

Cloud migration is the process of moving computing resources — such as data and applications — into a cloud computing environment. In most cases, resources are moved from an on-premises data center to a cloud provider.

To remain competitive, organizations rely on data analytics and business intelligence; however, for many businesses, the amount of data now available to analyze is too big to handle in-house without budget-breaking investments. Fortunately, cloud computing is designed to handle big data, and it provides benefits such as cost savings, scalability, improved productivity, and improved security, all while making more data immediately available for insights and rapid decision-making.

Why businesses are migrating to the cloud

Reasons why businesses are moving to the cloud include: reduced costs, increased efficiency, and deeper insights.

As businesses become more data-driven, they are challenged to capture, understand, and use their data for faster decision making and to improve processes. The idea that "knowledge is power" has evolved to "data is money."

Hidden within existing enterprise data are insights on customer behavior, spending, and revenue. Additionally, modern data analysis and business intelligence involves integrating data from external sources, and the cloud makes it easy and affordable to combine data of different types and sources into a data warehouse for a more comprehensive birds-eye view of operations.

With a cloud data warehouse, no amount of data is too big to handle. Companies can scale up data storage and computing without massive upfront investments in hardware, applications, and personnel to maintain the systems.

Cloud migration: Five competitive advantages

Many companies crave the improved efficiency and lower cost that helps improve cash flow and boost profitability. Other decision-makers cite improved speed of IT service delivery and flexibility to anticipate, or react to, changing market conditions. Here are five competitive advantages that drive cloud migration.

1. Cost savings

With an on-premises data warehouse, an organization must continually purchase, upgrade, and maintain expensive hardware and software, and have personnel to support it. The cloud offers world-class infrastructure on a subscription-based pay-as-you-go model that's cash flow friendly. In most cases, software updates and security enhancements are automatic and included in the subscription.

2. Scalability

While it may take days or weeks to spin up a new on-premises server, the cloud offers fast, affordable scalability, which is perfect for growing businesses and companies with fluctuating bandwidth demands. There's no need to over-purchase hardware "just in case" or to handle periodic peak loads. Need more power? Get it within minutes. Need to scale back? Change the subscription with a few mouse clicks.

3. Speed, agility, and productivity

According to Amazon Web Services, productivity can improve 30-50 percent after a cloud migration. Productivity thrives by not having to wait for or maintain physical infrastructure. And, there's a whole world of resources, applications, and tools at your fingertips. Software evaluation is faster, and new applications are up and running quickly.

4. Security

Security is a big concern for cloud migrations; however, a move to the cloud comes with a team of security experts. Economies of scale allow cloud providers to offer better security more efficiently than conventional in-house resources, even at a level the CIA can appreciate, having purchased $600 million of cloud services from Amazon Web Services.

Data security is more than keeping hackers at bay or preventing data loss due to a disaster or equipment failure. When users access applications and data from the cloud, nothing needs to be stored locally. A lost laptop doesn't have to mean lost data or lost time. Cloud data can be accessed from any device. And if a laptop with sensitive data is lost or stolen, cloud-based tools can remotely wipe it.

5. Resilience and redundancy

Disaster recovery can be expensive and complex for any business. Small businesses struggle to allocate the resources for bulletproof security, and large corporations spend enormous amounts on second physical data centers.

The cloud is ideal for both situations because cloud data centers are designed for resilience and redundancy. If a cloud server goes down, another one comes up to take its place. The process is automated and instant.

Real disaster recovery in the cloud is affordable enough for most small businesses with mission-critical applications and data, and larger companies can forego the expense of a physical backup site.

What type of cloud is best for your business?

There’s no single way to move data to the cloud, but an organization must consider the type of cloud that best suits the business requirements: public, private, or hybrid.

In some cases, it may be more than one of those. According to the same IDG survey, 42 percent of organizations are using multi-cloud. The top two benefits of a multi-cloud strategy are increased cloud options (59%) and easier and faster disaster recovery (40%).

Public cloud

The most common cloud environment is public cloud. Servers, storage, software, and other resources are owned and operated by a third party and are delivered over the Internet. Talend works with several leading cloud providers, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Cloudera Altus.

In a public environment, an organization shares the same computing resources with other companies, often called "cloud tenants." Like an apartment building, tenants share the same building and the owner handles the maintenance and capital spending.

Public cloud offers the advantage of lower cost because there's no need to purchase servers or software. Companies pay only for the service they use. It also offers nearly unlimited scalability with a plethora of on-demand resources. And, using the public cloud doesn't necessarily require technical expertise. Functionality is web-based using intuitive interfaces, and end-users can run queries using analytics or business intelligence programs

Common uses for public cloud include web-based email, office applications, and data storage. Public cloud is also handy for developing and testing new applications.

Private cloud

For companies with proprietary software, or software purchased to run on in-house servers, or special security needs, the private cloud is more practical.

A private cloud is more like owning a house. The owner has complete freedom (and responsibility) to configure and customize as needed. While the cloud provider handles the maintenance, the organization supplies the software and technical expertise to configure and run the private cloud, similar to an on-site data center. While there's more responsibility, there's also more control.

Unlike the shared public model that runs on the Internet, private cloud runs on the company's private network. All of the hardware and software are dedicated to the particular organization.

For companies in regulated industries — such as healthcare and financial services — private cloud provides the required security and compliance, because the cloud and software are supplied, hosted, and maintained on-site.

Hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud combines the best of both worlds. Organizations get the cost and flexibility advantages of public cloud and the control of private cloud. For example, high-volume computing like email and office applications can run in the public cloud. Low-volume computing involving sensitive, business-critical operations like financial reporting can run in the private cloud. Data can be shared across both platforms as needed.

Cloud migration challenges

In general, cloud migration challenges include: concern about vendor lock-in, security concerns, and data integration challenges. Indeed, migrating to the cloud means moving historical data into a new environment, which requires technical expertise to map data from the old system to match the cloud provider's data formats. This may include complexities in converting data to match the new format.

However, according to the same IDG survey, many (42%) respondents address these concerns by working with multiple cloud providers, with or without hybrid (cloud and on-premise) deployment, and they are beginning to manage these cloud migrations holistically rather than as individual instances.

The future of cloud computing

It's becoming a cloud-first world as more businesses embrace the competitive advantages of analyzing data in the cloud. As more workloads shift to the cloud, businesses are challenged to find the best way to migrate with minimal business disruptions. The complexities of successfully extracting, transforming, and loading data into a new cloud environment require sophisticated, easy to use tools to support the process.

Talend Data Fabric is a suite of data management apps that includes powerful tools to make cloud migrations successful. It provides access all of Talend's solutions and capabilities from a single interface, providing consistency and control for all of your enterprise data. Try Talend Data Fabric today to begin your successful cloud migration process.

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