Cloud Migration Best Practices for High Availability

In 2020 we have seen more enterprises migrating more of their mission-critical applications, ERPs and databases to the cloud. However, not all of these migrations have been smooth. I have personally witnessed cloud migration projects dramatically slowed and even stopped due to a lack of planning for application availability, the complexity of retrofitting ‘DIY High Availability’, misunderstanding related to what a ‘lift and shift’ entails and unexpected costs.

There are a number of best practices, cloud checklists, and other ways for organizations to prepare for the cloud. The following best practices should be factored into every migration strategy for high availability clustering for those who have either hit pause on their 2020 cloud migration, or plan to forge ahead in 2021.

Cloud Migration Best Practices

Gather the Requirements. Many organizations moving to the cloud think that the cloud is an on-premises architecture moved to the cloud. This misunderstanding in cloud migration often leads to stalls and delays when networking, storage, disk speeds, and system sizes for on-premises collide with the cloud reality. A smoother transition to cloud begins by gathering the real requirements for the infrastructure, governance and compliance, security, sizing, and related controls and resources.

Design and Document. In the design phase, the architecture of on-premises environments is mapped to the cloud environment that has been chosen for maximum availability and thoroughly documented. In this phase, as the architecture takes shape and you identify the strategy for IPs, load balancers, IOPS, and data availability. Teams need to look at how availability native to the cloud needs to be augmented with a robust application and infrastructure availability solution capable of automating complexities of the cloud. At SIOS, our experts in AWS and Azure clustering and availability work with customers to swap on-premises NFS for AWS EFS, Azure ANF, or a standalone NFS cluster tier. Additionally, a key part of the successful implementation in this phase will be documenting everything. Documentation is an often-neglected, but essential element of migration success.

Plan for High Availability. Achieving high availability in the cloud requires understanding the requirements, creating the design, and documenting a plan that lays out a strategy for achieving those requirements. A basic plan should include staffing, staff training, deploying a QA system testing, pre-production steps, deployment, post deployment validation, and on-going iterations. The best outcomes for cloud migration arise from a deliberate, planned process; not an ad hoc, break-fix approach.

Staff. How well is your team staffed for the cloud migration? Traditional help desk, client/server IT, or IT teams may not be enough for the cloud migration. If your team is new to the cloud, it may be time to consider adding more resources or professional services-based solutions. Migrating to the cloud can be taxing, tedious, and difficult without the proper insight, information, or training. Does your staff need to incorporate training related to the cloud environment? And while you are looking into training and professional services to assist your IT team, check with your vendor for training related to the availability solution. Many vendors provide flexible training for the HA solution and cloud training can be obtained with the cloud vendors or popular sites such as Udemy.

Deploy QA. The QA deployment phase is the phase in which the team executes the plans for deploying the actual systems into the cloud. Successful deployment teams validate their plans and strategy, understand the data migration process, uncover any missing dependencies, and prepare for the next step in the process, especially testing. When this step is skipped or skimped on, the once-promising migrations often stall or fail. When you reach the QA system deployment phase, your team will do the heavy lifting of the initial migration and configuration of the applications, databases, and critical data in the cloud.

Test Your High Availability. Testing in your QA environment is a critical step. These tests are not a waste of time; they are a time saver. Deploying environments in the cloud is often easier than deploying on-premises. Your QA environment can be scripted with tools like Ansible, deployed quickly as templates from the cloud marketplace or a cloned image, or deployed and built from cloud formation templates. Once deployed, disaster scenarios can be ironed out and optimized before a disaster, not in them. Test scenarios can be leveraged to identify overprovisioning, under-provisioning or bottlenecks with networking or disk speeds. A full test scenario can also be used as a part of an on-boarding strategy for new staff. Additionally, testing should be performed on snapshots and backups as well.

Deploy Production. When the testing phase completes, and your team has validated the test results, the next phase is to move from QA to pre-production, and from pre-production to go-live. The testing phase is the last phase of the heavy lifting involving final user acceptance testing, a final cutover and update of the production data, and then the users.

Review, Revise, and Repeat. A successful migration does not end once you reach the go-live phase, but continues through the lifecycle phases. In the post go-live phase of the cloud migration strategy, your team continues to review, revise, and repeat the steps from ‘Gather’ through ‘Deploy Production’. In fact, your team should repeat this process again and again, based on requirements specific to releases, application updates, security updates, related system maintenance, operating system versions, disaster recovery planning, as well as the requirements from your high availability vendor’s own best practices. The cloud platform is always evolving and adding new features, functionality, and updates that can enhance your existing HA solution and architecture. Reviewing, revising, and repeating the process will be a necessary step in successful onboarding.

In 2021 we’ll see more enterprises migrating more mission-critical applications, ERPs and databases to the cloud. A key major factor in their success will be utilizing cloud migration best practices to avoid delays and failures throughout the process. Understanding your business requirements and needs, documenting the design and plan, deploying in a QA environment with purpose built clustering solutions, and executing extensive testing before go-live will be essential. Contact SIOS Technology to understand how the SIOS Protection Suite can be included in your thoughtful cloud migration best practices.

Cassius leads the Customer Experience team at SIOS Technology responsible for customer success.

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