Q&A: Overcoming Cloud Migration Fears

What’s holding back some enterprises from enjoying the benefits of cloud computing?

Despite all the buzz about cloud computing, many IT shops are still reluctant to move even a single application to the cloud. What are the concerns, and what can be done to address and overcome these issues? For answers, we turned to Garima Thockchom, vice president of marketing at Gale Technologies, whose GaleForce software helps IT build cloud-like environments from an enterprise’s existing infrastructure.

Enterprise Strategies: Cloud computing has been attracting the attention of IT for some time. Is that momentum still strong or is it starting to wane?

Garima Thockchom: Cloud computing has considerable momentum among early adopters and pre-production environments, while many conservative organizations are still taking a “wait-and-see” approach to moving beyond pilot projects to embrace a full-fledged transition to the cloud.

Many enterprises have already seen huge benefits from moving existing infrastructure to the cloud and vendors are still working to improve technology capabilities within the cloud. Overall benefits currently received by cloud users include reduced CAPEX from fewer machines and licenses, through optimization of resource utilization (physical and/or virtual), and OPEX, through improving the ratio of people to equipment.

Some cloud solutions allow enterprises to set up, provision, and configure resources dynamically in complete end-to-end topologies at the physical, virtual, or application layer, improving IT agility and responsiveness. Plus, users are able to have instant self-service access to resources, thereby improving their workplace performance and productivity.

Are there one or two key factors dissuading enterprises from moving to the cloud?

Cloud computing has become a technology phenomenon that is talked, written, and blogged about every day, but many enterprises still face uncertainty at the idea of moving their important applications and data to the cloud and may feel like cloud is another trend that will die off as others have before. Enterprises still worry that moving their infrastructure to the cloud will affect performance and create security issues in a shared workload environment.

Additionally many of the new cloud computing technologies are quite expensive and the bill is too daunting for small companies already struggling in today’s economy. In an era where IT managers are forced to accomplish more with fewer resources, these challenges can be too much and the idea of staying out of the cloud hype wins.

How can enterprises overcome this feeling of intimidation?

Enterprises need to sift through so many confusing messages and choose a cloud solution tailored for their specific needs. Today there are three types of clouds: public, private, and hybrid. Hybrid clouds have risen in popularity because they can combine the benefits of public and private clouds, making it possible for enterprises to manage some resources in-house while others are stored externally.

An organization should factor in its specific requirements and objectives, along with budget and other priorities, to determine the most appropriate cloud environment for its purposes. Many IT mangers worry about losing control once data moves to the cloud, but some cloud technologies allow enterprises to receive better management assets in inventory, thus improving overall unitization and onsite control for IT.

Most enterprises also have legacy systems in place and will need to test their cloud environment and choose a cloud technology that is compatible with an array of existing technologies. By understanding its exact needs, an enterprise can ensure that every aspect of building, managing and deploying a cloud is tailored to fulfill those specific requirements.

As with outsourcing, enterprises are often worried about getting locked into specific vendor technologies and products. How can they avoid that?

Getting locked into vendor technology is a worry of many enterprises; companies want a reliable cloud solution but one that still offers flexibility, as data needs are constantly changing. In addition to choosing a technology that allows ample flexibility, enterprises should be sure that technology offers capabilities compatible with an array of devices from multiple compute, networking and storage vendors.

Organizations also should look for cloud products that easily integrate with the existing infrastructure to make the move to the cloud as seamless as possible, such as those that offer multiple browser and hypervisor support.

What backup/recovery services are needed for the cloud, and how should a company go about creating a backup or disaster recovery plan for their cloud data in the cloud?

Nothing is more upsetting than losing hours of work when a network goes down. To prevent this, enterprises should make sure to back up all files prior to putting them into the cloud. When choosing a cloud software provider, ask about their disaster recovery capabilities and devise a plan with them.

Some technology solutions have design and provisioning capabilities that enable organizations to develop redundant topologies and leverage virtualization to ensure mission-critical business applications are protected in the event of an unforeseen disaster.

What criteria should enterprises use to select a cloud provider? Is cost still the driving criterion?

Enterprises should pick a cloud provider that will work with them and tailor the cloud software platform to their needs. Although cost is still the main driving criterion to adopt cloud solutions, there are many other factors (such as security and application performance) that dictate the type of cloud solution adopted. There are many affordable solutions today that do not sacrifice security and performance capabilities.

There are other benefits that can be gained from adopting cloud solutions, such as a significantly reduced carbon footprint. By allowing users to only power what they need with intelligent, schedule-based power control, some cloud providers can reduce CAPEX and OPEX for the enterprise while offering instant elasticity, full IT control, and high performance.

Testing applications before moving them to the cloud is crucial. What are some of the commonly overlooked pitfalls, and what suggestions can you provide for properly but cost-effectively testing a cloud environment?

Moving applications to the cloud can present risks that require a change in how enterprises test software applications. Leading analysts agree that it is crucial to test applications on a small level prior to moving all existing infrastructure to the cloud, especially in a multi-tenancy environment.

When testing a cloud environment, many enterprises find they require aspects from both a private and public cloud. Hybrid clouds are the latest improvement to cloud computing allowing users the best of both the private and public cloud worlds; they are often useful for archiving and backup functions, allowing local data to be replicated to a public cloud; or to manage bursts in load where public resources are used to support temporary increases in application load.

Enterprises are rightly concerned about protecting data outside the confines of an enterprise's firewall in a public cloud. What are the security considerations for a private cloud? How can companies structure a private cloud to gain maximum security?

Security is one of the top issues that continue to prevent enterprises from moving to the cloud. Users want to be confident that their cloud provider is following standard security practices, which requires disclosure and inspection.

Many enterprises are embracing private clouds because they offer the utilization advantages of a shared environment while providing the assurance of direct control of the IT infrastructure running their applications -- admins like to have servers they can “hug.” However, security and management of private clouds, especially when multiple departments are involved, present a challenge. Security becomes more of an issue with public clouds, where there may be multiple companies sharing the same infrastructure.

There are software solutions that help enterprises segregate resources and even reserve and schedule them in advance within a shared private cloud environment for high-priority data and applications. This type of solution provides all the advantages of a cloud environment while ensuring that crucial data and applications get dedicated resources as and when they need, with the security levels that they require.

What products or services does Gale offer for cloud computing?

Gale Technologies’ latest product, the GaleForce Turnkey Cloud, was designed to help organizations leverage their existing infrastructure investment but gain the benefits of the cloud in a quick and seamless manner. Customers can convert their existing, static IT environment into a dynamic private or hybrid cloud in only two steps and as little as two weeks, without requiring expensive and complex hardware or tools. Companies can increase utilization of resources they already own, typically from under 10 percent to over 95 percent, and do more with less. GaleForce offers composite infrastructure automation and orchestration that allows provisioning of bare metal as well as virtual resources, enabling organizations to run their applications, virtualized or not, in the cloud.