The story of information technology (IT) can easily be divided into two parts, the pre-cloud era and the post-cloud era. Cloud has brought in numerous advantages for enterprises of all sizes and verticals. The momentum has continued – and even strengthened – during a tough pandemic year too.

As per a survey from O’Reilly, ‘cloud Adoption in 2020’, organizations plan to migrate most of their applications to the cloud and this is expected to happen at a considerable pace within the next year. Almost 88% of respondents currently use some type of cloud infrastructure. There were 45% of organizations that expect to transfer three quarters or more of their applications to the cloud over the next 12 months. In fact, 21% of organizations are hosting all of their applications in the cloud, 39% are using a combination of public and private cloud deployments in a hybrid-cloud alternative, and 54% are using multiple cloud services.

However, in Nomura’s survey – which is a biannual CIO survey – it was seen that 46% of the 50 CIOs expected the COVID-19 pandemic to hurt their firms’ IT outlays. And then there is the unexpected hole in the happy and sunny rise of cloud in the industry. That is better known as “cloud repatriation”.

An IHS Markit study has unravelled that 74% have moved a cloud-based app back to on-premise after failing to achieve the anticipated benefits. The IHS Markit 2019 study ‘The Bi-Directional cloud Highway: User Attitudes about Securing Hybrid- and Multi-cloud Environments’, found two main drivers for this trend – performance and security, each selected by 52% of respondents. 

In an IDG survey, it was noticed that 54% applications currently running in the cloud were existing ones migrated there from on-prem infrastructure. As to the ones purpose-built for cloud, the number was 46%. So there are bound to be gaps between those applications that are transported from one context to another and those applications that are built natively – for cloud. About 27% organizations already have moved, or plan to move, apps/workloads from the cloud back to on-premise systems.

On one hand, there is some hesitation regarding moving critical applications from on-premise environments to cloud models. On the other hand, there are enterprises who take the trouble of plugging into cloud but recoil and step back when they run into – often avoidable – problems. As always, hitting the ‘undo’ button on any technology can sometimes cause more issues and costs than hitting the ‘enter’ key.

So why are some enterprises hitting the reverse gear? What is keeping them from squeezing out the most benefits of a cloud investment? The devil, here, is again in the details. This one is called ‘migration’.

Migration – Easier imagined than done

Yes, migration of workloads and applications from existing environments to cloud setups is a complex exercise. It involves a lot of planning, documentation, data clarity, and strategy. But it is also during this process that organizations make the most mistakes. Here is an overview of some of the common missteps and how to correct them: 

  1. Inefficient workload provisioning: If the team – whether it is the enterprise or the vendor, or both – is unable to plan which workloads go where, then it can lead to a lot of issues. These decisions have to be based on priorities – some applications need more data control by the enterprise, some need an on-premise scenario for compliance, and some deliver better uptime when on cloud. The data storage, processing, downtime, and latency aspects determine which applications should be migrated to cloud.
  2. Big Bang vs. Incremental: If you want to forklift your entire legacy setup and copy-paste it to cloud, it may not be that easy. You need a proper plan detailing what functionalities are important and how would accountability work. Sometimes, a phased approach and very specific SLAs are better ways to ensure nothing goes wrong.
  3. Security Loopholes: Good cloud performance comes at a cost. And security is often a major cost here. That’s why enterprises need end-to-end visibility on their cloud deployments. For instance, in the IHS Markit study, 40% had moved back into their own infrastructure because these cloud set-ups were “planned temporary” deployments. But this back and forth can lead to a lot of vulnerabilities too. It has been spotted that 41% move forward with the deployment because they feel security breach events are unlikely and 18% do so because they feel the aftermath is manageable. Security areas cannot be left to luck or risk – no matter how fancy the cloud project sounds.
  4. Complexity and Economics: Always calculate how much does a cloud migration actually cost – this should cover areas like skills, extra technology components, software, etc. so that you do not end up in a dead-end due to poor planning. Many cloud applications cannot work unless you hire or train adequate talent for these new technologies. Thus it is essential to clearly mapping the resources, skills, and time needed to achieve the transition.
  5. Application DNA: There is a high ‘cloud-native’ propensity in successful cloud migrations. Many such applications are built from the ground-up for a cloud era. They use microservices, modular architectures, DevOps, and open source tools. They usually have a cloud-first mind-set instead of a cloud-also mind-set. Just hauling legacy applications – in the wild hope that they will somehow, miraculously, work in a new scenario – will not help.

Above all, make sure that you pick the right partner to guide you with all cloud imperatives. You need an expert that can deliver smooth and secure migrations, and with enough industry expertise so that you also gain from the mistakes others have made. This is where careful planning, good legacy integration, and the right change management strategy will count a lot.

Plan and collaborate with the right partners before you take the leap

Deloitte outlines in its latest report, “Pre-pandemic, cloud migration was already often complex. Even a single application could be tied to multiple business processes, affecting vendors, balance sheets, and regulatory compliance, and different stakeholders could have different motives and expectations from the migration.”

So, to take care of conflicting goals, chaos, broken dependencies and time-overruns would be all the more challenging in a post-pandemic world. Just deciding to adopt cloud will not suffice. Apart from the money and CXO approvals, one would also need the right preparation for moving to cloud. Having a good blueprint of what moves, when, where, and why – that is what will differentiate real cloud beneficiaries from other organizations. The benefits of agility, resilience, cost-effectiveness, and scalability are definitely the big reasons that drive cloud investments but they hinge a lot on the successful completion of cloud migrations.

Cloud migrations can seem easy but they can be full of hassles of all types – from costs, to skills, to workload planning to performance to security to resistance to change. It is easy to miss out some key parts in the rush of migration. It is quite likely that you will discover some problems way after they have blown out of proportion and taken deep roots. The best way then is to have a well-mapped out plan with a proactive visibility on what can go wrong and how to create measures to resolve those issues in advance. That will help to ensure a migration strategy that is smooth and devoid of any last-minute surprises, or worse, any hidden pitfalls.

It would help to have the expertise and guidance of an industry veteran here – so that you can look before you leap.