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24 October 2019

How to prepare for cloud migration

It is often unclear where to start and how in practice transition to provider's cloud is carried out. #CloudМТS experts share their experience on how to prepare for cloud migration and conduct it so that it does not become a bane for the business.

It is often unclear where to start and how in practice transition to provider's cloud is carried out. #CloudМТS experts share their experience on how to prepare for cloud migration and conduct it so that it does not become a bane for the business.

Quick check: what is migration?

By migration we mean the transfer of company’s physical IT infrastructure or virtual infrastructure to the provider's cloud. Corporate data, IT systems and services, applications are transferred to the public cloud from company's stage. As a rule, company’s area of responsibility, in this case, is to manage systems, install and configure applications.

Step one: define the necessity of cloud migration

First of all, the transition to clouds is beneficial for large companies that need to be flexible and responsive to internal and external changes. Experience has shown, migration to cloud speeds up the time-to-market for new products at least up to 3 to 4 months. It also saves time by simplifying the procurement process and helps to exclude installation and set-up of physical equipment. Migration to the cloud allows you to focus on business development without additional expenditures on equipment and IT professionals that support it. For example, Gazprombank leasing department operates and builds car leasing services without a single server. The entire infrastructure is in the provider's cloud, where client services, business and office programs of branches across the country are transferred.

Usually, most of the tasks connected with technical implementation within migration process are carried out by the cloud provider. Although some CIO tasks still need to be managed by the business. Firstly, it is important to define business needs to be fulfilled by transition to the cloud: to increase the speed of corporate services, increase the reliability of the infrastructure or provide more flexible IT management? Will a basic set of virtual machines cover the needs or is there a need for additional services? For example, if a company stores and processes customer personal data, the provider, in this case, must have the infrastructure that meets legal requirements. It is worth making calculations to ensure the relevance of transition to provider's cloud before starting the migration process. Generally, a business saves about 25% monthly on IT services with the help of a service model.

Step two: select a provider

It is important to evaluate the possibilities of different providers for migration process. Big Russian providers offer customers a range of options: starting from classic IaaS and various cloud services based on it. For example, services such as antivirus, WAF from the cloud, defense against DDoS attacks, object storage, corporate mail service and disk. Additionally, you should always pay attention to the level of reliability and security of data centers where the provider’s cloud is located. As a rule, large players have their own data centers, built and certified in accordance with the high requirements of the global standard of the Uptime Institute. 
It is also important to know whether the data center is owned or leased by the provider. Technical support is one of the crucial parts that is worth checking. Russian customers that choose Western providers often have difficulties with their issues being processed and solved, consultations are provided only in a foreign language. Apart from domestic providers that specialize in the local market, speak the local language and quickly resolve emerging issues from customers. It is advisable to choose a provider that offers IT services, as an outsource options, in terms of infrastructure administration and project work connected with migration. Most providers have options that are called professional and managed services. Such competencies are available at #CloudMTS as well.

Step three: information systems auditing and determining the migration scheme

It is crucial to perform an audit of current IT infrastructure before planning to move to providers’ cloud. Firstly, it is required to make an inventory of existing IT services and servers, update the list of software and their current versions, and resources level of workload. At this stage, you already need to have an idea of what amount of computing power will be required in the cloud: the number of virtual processors (vCPU), the amount of RAM (vRAM), as well as determine the required performance of the disk system.

Often, for various reasons, companies experience difficulties with independent auditing. For example, due to heavy workload of the company or lack of expertise and knowledge. In this case, a cloud provider can perform an audit on its own.

«We are ready to help with this task. We make a basic check and compile recommendations for secure and professional cloud migration process,» — says Dmitry Sudarikov, lead architect in #CloudMTS cloud provider. It is common practice for a provider to organize point-to-point communication between clients and architects to solve important issues related to infrastructure and migration.

After the audit, you need to decide on the scheme and migration tools, as well as the appropriate type of cloud: public, private or hybrid (by the way, the most popular option is a hybrid cloud that allows you to leave some of the data within the company infrastructure). There are two migration schemes — full and partial. In case of full migration, the entire IT infrastructure of the company is transferred to the cloud. When a large company with a large number of IT systems decides to migrate, a project roadmap is created where the services transfer order is established. For example, a large mining company gradually migrated its corporate systems to the providers’ platform in Novosibirsk. Within a week, according to the migration plan, approximately 10 TB of data were transferred without stopping business processes.

Step Four: Migration process planning

After the information on all IT systems has been collected and updated, you need to build the target cloud architecture that a company plans to use. You should also plan the network connectivity of client infrastructure, that needs to be transferred, with the cloud. At this point, system backup should be taken into consideration. Provider company can be of use here with their expertise. According to experts, "backup as a service allows you to ensure the stable operation of the business and protect it from data loss." Another important point is conducting a test migration, which is necessary to assess the suitability of the selected cloud resources and their performance according to company's needs. The following step will be the VPN channel configuration between the company's stage and the provider's cloud. Sometimes it might be necessary to create network connection channels. It is also necessary to determine service interruption bearable period and check it with provider options and capabilities. It should be minimal. A perfect example can be — migration of a large amount of resources of one of the major Russian retailers. The task was to transfer company’s test environments from its own equipment (on-premise) to provider's platform based in Moscow.

«ПThe migration process was performed so not to interrupt the company’s business processes. Switching to the provider’s platform was carried out when there was minimal system load. The process speed depended on the communication channel bandwidth – between client and provider stages. In total, the retailer transferred 24 TB of data to our cloud. As planned, the migration took place on a day off. There was less than 10 minutes downtime, which absolutely did not affect company’s operations,» — comments Anton Kalinkin, head of the professional and managed services at #CloudMTS provider.

Step Five: perform migration correctly

Depending on the complexity of the migration and the availability of qualified specialists within the company, you need to decide: make the transition on your own or with the help of the provider. In cases when the company decides to cooperate with a large provider, the last one usually has a whole team of highly professional architects. For example, the joint team of architects from #CloudMTS and IT-GRAD (part of the MTS Group) prevented the shutdown of crucial IT systems of the largest Russian supplier of chemical raw materials – Ruskhimset. As a result, disk system performance was improved tenfold due to infrastructure migration to the IT-GRAD cloud.

With selected cloud computing architecture, migration and backup plan, you can proceed directly to migration process. Provider’s task, at this stage, is to prepare the cloud: allocate the necessary resources, build networks, configure VPNs, configure access for client administrators. Next, together with the client, a limited test migration is carried. This is to evaluate the accuracy of preparation stage. If the test is considered successful, then the planned migration can be started. Depending on the complexity of the transferred systems and the amount of data, the migration process can take from several minutes up to a month. After the migration has been successfully completed, the cloud infrastructure is launched in test mode and only then transferred to commercial operation.

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