Migrating the Data Center to the Cloud (or Back Again) – What Enterprises Need to Know

The past decade has seen the rise of the cloud. As enterprises re-evaluate the role of their on-premises or wholesale colocation data centers, many are decommissioning, consolidating, or migrating their existing infrastructure to new environments. 

Attracted by the promises of lower costs, increased flexibility, enhanced security, and the ability to scale resources as needed, enterprises are migrating applications and workloads away from the data center to a public, private, or hybrid cloud. 

Before making the switch, however, it’s important to take the time to understand how the cloud fits into the existing IT infrastructure and to develop a cloud migration strategy that aligns with the needs of the business. With so many moving parts, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong that set back the entire project. Without clearly defined milestones, schedules, dependencies, and processes, even a seemingly simple cloud-migration project can quickly become a significant challenge. 

This article is part of a series on data center decommissioning and migration. To learn more, download our recent white paper – 5 Things Enterprises Should Know When Decommissioning a Data Center. 

The Rapid Rise of the Cloud

Investment in cloud infrastructure is growing rapidly. A 2021 report found that worldwide cloud infrastructure spending grew to $191.7 billion in 2021, up 35 percent from $142 billion the year prior. This continued growth comes as cloud infrastructure spending surpassed data center spending for the first time in 2020. 

Three major cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud – dominate the cloud infrastructure market, combining to account for more than 61 percent of total cloud spending last year. 

According to a 2021 Cloud Report, 67 percent of respondents used a public cloud, while 45 percent used a private cloud and 55 percent used on-premises infrastructure. 

While there are many reasons companies migrate to the cloud, a 2021 Deloitte report found that more than half of IT leaders cited data security and protection as well as data modernization as top drivers. Interestingly, cost and performance improvements were a top driver for only 32 percent of respondents, reflecting a growing awareness that the cost of cloud infrastructure is not necessarily lower than the cost of an on-premises data center. 

Not Everything Is Suited to the Cloud

Despite the growth in cloud infrastructure, enterprises are finding that not everything should be moved to the cloud. A 2020 survey from the Uptime Institute found that 58 percent of respondents retained most of their workloads in corporate data centers, with lack of visibility into public clouds and the responsibility for uptime listed as the primary reasons to resist the transition. 

Similarly, some enterprises have started to repatriate specific workloads back from the cloud. Nearly half of enterprises have moved at least one workload away from the cloud, with 85 percent choosing to migrate back to their own data center. 

Among the most common reasons for migrating away from the cloud were cost, compliance, performance issues, and data ownership. For example, the scalability of the cloud means enterprises only have to pay for what they use. But this can lead to issues if poorly optimized applications suddenly require massive amounts of resources, resulting in unpredictable and costly bills that quickly offset the potential savings. 

The Importance of Planning Before Migrating to the Cloud

While the cloud is not suited to everything, it will undoubtedly play an important role as enterprises align their technology with their business requirements. A recent Gartner report found that 85 percent of infrastructure strategies will integrate a mix of on-premises, co-location, cloud, and edge delivery options by 2025. 

Getting the migration right the first time is critical to achieving long-term success. Mistakes made during the migration can result in lost time, additional costs, ongoing maintenance, and lasting performance issues. Not only can this disrupt future operations and hurt the customer experience, but it also drains critical IT resources and budgets that could be better used on other strategic initiatives. 

Migrating to the cloud requires specialized expertise and experience, but enterprises are facing a scarcity of IT talent with the skills needed to enable cloud computing. The shortage of talent has been further exasperated by the shift toward remote work over the past few years, with IT departments struggling to bring in the right people at the right time. 

A trusted IT services partner can help to develop a cloud migration strategy that meets the needs of the business and delivers the performance, flexibility, and security required for a successful project. By working with experts who have experience with complex cloud migration projects, enterprises can develop more accurate schedules and budgets, avoid the common pitfalls that result in delays and overruns, and mitigate the risk of performance issues down the road, all without hiring additional full-time employees.

Align Your Technology With the Needs of Your Business

Migrating applications and workloads from an on-premises or co-location data center to the cloud should achieve a clear business outcome and position the enterprise for future success. While there will be some things that should remain in-house, most organizations will arrive at a mix of technologies and environments that aligns with the needs of their business.

A trusted IT services partner can work alongside the IT department to identify key opportunities, develop an effective cloud migration strategy, and limit the risk of issues that disrupt the project. By partnering with experts who know and understand the full IT lifecycle, enterprises can reduce the burden on their IT staff and successfully migrate to the cloud. 

If you’d like to learn more about decommissioning and migrating the enterprise data center, download our recent white paper – 5 Things Enterprises Should Know When Decommissioning a Data Center.

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