Virtualisation to the Cloud – are we there yet?


The journey from virtualisation to the cloud can be a long, winding road, or a superhighway. For organisations, it all depends on the travelling companion they choose.

Avoiding a misstep on the first step

Cloud solutions make many promises. The technology is reliable, it’s easy to use, and there are the economic benefits of using less hardware and paying for only what you use. It makes sense, then, to get to the cloud as quickly as possible.

A critical first step is being able to migrate applications or workloads while continuing to meet the organisation’s service level and governance requirements. “It’s vital that organisations get this right,” cautions Luke Foster, Director Product Management of Dimension Data’s ITaaS Business Unit. “If you don’t get off to a good start in cloud, you can end up on the wrong road.”

Spanning the distance

To overcome the many obstacles at this initial stage of the journey, Foster recommends a hybrid model that allows an organisation to use different solutions for different workloads. “An organisation may not want to move certain workloads to the cloud for reasons relating to functionality, risk, or cost. It’s also highly unlikely that they’ll migrate everything to the cloud in one step. So, as they make the transition, they’ll need a mix of public and private cloud, and physical servers to accommodate different workloads and applications,” he explains.

Just as important as being able to deploy this hybrid model, is the ability to integrate

on-premise workloads with those in the public and private cloud, says Peter Prowse, Dimension Data’s General Manager for Data Centre Solutions in Australia. “A truly integrated solution requires automation between these environments so that your applications perform as they should and you have the control you need.”  And according to Foster, that means going as far as defining how the cloud itself is built.  For example, does it use a similar hardware infrastructure that the organisation has run its applications on – hardware-based load balancing and firewalls, enterprise-level infrastructure, tiered storage? “You’ve got to make sure that you don’t have to start from scratch with your provider,” he advises.

Bringing the right cloud provider onto the team

For most organisations, the migration to the cloud is not a ‘do-it-yourself model.’ It’s vital to choose a cloud provider that not only offers the right infrastructure, but also has the skills to help you plan and execute the migration, and integrate on-premise and cloud workloads to ensure consistent performance. You may also want the flexibility of being able to migrate back to an on-premise data centre.

Before investing in a large data centre, use the cloud to test new markets

But, says Prowse, organisations must ensure they aren’t left stranded at their destination. “From the database through to the Web access layer, and everywhere in between, organisations must know that they can pick up a phone and talk to someone in the same country and be able to solve problems,” he says and points out that international organisations should ensure that their cloud provider offers a consistent service in all regions in which they operate before embarking on a mass migration.

“This global coverage is also important if you’re considering new markets,” notes Andy Lancaster, Dimension Data’s Sales Director – Cloud, in the UK. “A lot of clients who are testing new markets say to us if they’re going to fail, they want to fail fast and at minimal expense.  So, before investing in a large data centre, they use the cloud to test new markets. Of course, if they haven’t failed, they can continue using what they’ve built and expand the service to other locations.”

To capacity and beyond: the real cost of cloud

According to Prowse, public cloud can sometimes be seen as a Venus flytrap. “Easy to get in, hard to get out.” Once you’re up and running in the cloud, organisations must ensure they’re realising the promised benefits, which means looking at where and how they can increase the utilisation of the cloud environment.

And, says Foster, organisations must be able to use the application programming interface and the user interface in the same way, both programmatically and to obtain information about the environment. “A cloud service provider must have the reporting capability that allows an organisation to identify and interpret trends. In addition, they should also work with the organisation to right-size the environment.”

Lancaster agrees. “A lot of clients come to me with a spreadsheet and say, “This is what I’ve got today: this amount of disk space, this amount of CPU, this amount of memory.” And what I ask them is: “What are you actually using?”

Once you know the answer, says Lancaster, you can look at using automation to scale up and down as needed – for example, by automatically turning off a machine that nobody’s logged into for a few weeks, or that’s only used during the day when you’re running tests.

“By eliminating waste, organisation gain an accurate view of the cost of running their   applications in the cloud, as they’re used by the business or your customers. There may not be any shortcuts to the cloud and its promises of business value. But if the migration is a team effort that involves your cloud provider at every stage, you have a better chance of a safe, smooth ride to your destination,” he concludes.


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