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The devil is in the data: Mitigating cloud migration risks

28 Nov 2019

Article by New Relic strategic architecture senior director Lee Atchison

Tech leaders in Australia and New Zealand are embracing cloud migration and the shift to digital transformation.

New Relic’s recent global survey included 125 Australian IT leaders who shared that 30% had completed their digital transformation, and close to 65% were in varying stages of completion.

Using the cloud as a critical business driver can be greatly beneficial, but it’s important to be aware of the risks that migration can cause and take steps to mitigate these risks well before migration begins.

Moving data is one of the most challenging parts of a migration, and where the data is stored mid-migration can have a huge impact on the performance of the applications - and ultimately, one’s business.

With these pitfalls in mind, here are some tips on mitigating risks for your migration.

Plan ahead to avoid latency and data corruption

Moving data and applications simultaneously is necessary in order to keep performance operating at an optimal rate.

Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead to create an understanding of the best way to migrate data that’s relative to an organisation’s services.

This is a complicated issue, and often requires the insights from a migration architect to get right.

During the transfer process, the data being transferred must be kept intact, in sync, and self-consistent between the on-prem copy and the cloud-based copy until the transfer is complete.

This tight correlation is difficult but not impossible to achieve.

But the alternative to maintaining the tight correlation is accepting application downtime during the migration, something which many businesses cannot afford.

Choosing a data transfer strategy that meets the availability expectations of your customers and is cost and feature effectively for you and your business is critical.

When working with extremely large volumes of data, the actual initial data transfer itself can also be risky.

Often it is advisable to use tools for offline data copy and transfer–such as AWS Snowball. But it’s important to remember that these sorts of offline transfer tools this won’t assist with application data usage synchronisation issues nor alternatively the need for application downtime.

They just provide a mechanism to assist the reliable raw transfer of the data itself.

Complete the migration quickly

Swift and determined execution of any cloud migration is critical, and it’s vital not to stop a migration until the process has ended.

A common bad practise that I often witness is to see a customer stop a migration when they are only partially complete.

While this may be tempting as migration cost and complexity mounts, this action results in the worst of all worlds, none of the advantages of the migration and all of the disadvantages of being in-progress.

Minimising the amount of time that the migration is in-progress will result in fewer chances of migration-related issues and gets you to the advantages of the migration faster and less expensively with the least impact on your customers.

Create visibility

The golden rule of data migration is to ensure there’s visibility across application performance before, during and after migration.

Without this, problems might only be discovered after it’s too late.

Combatting this can be done by maintaining application availability, keeping data safe and secure, and learning to understand how an application will respond during the various steps in the migration process well before it commences.

In spite of the investment of millions of dollars for cloud initiatives, New Relic’s survey showed that almost 95% of Australian IT decision-makers said they felt they were in the dark and without a 360 degree, transparent view of digital transformation projects currently underway across their business.

More than half of the respondents went on to say that while they understood the benefits of being in the cloud, they had no idea of how much their monthly cloud bill would be.

Every migration requires forward planning in order to mitigate risks.

There are a huge number of migration options that suit a variety of different businesses, with each of these involving varying risks for an organisation.

It’s important to know what these risks are and how to manage them from day one (of migration), all while remembering that moving to the cloud will be highly beneficial to any organisation.