Cloud Migration: What to Consider When Switching Providers

March 15, 2017 by Michael Nuncic

Cloud computing has become more than just a technology trend. According to Forrester research, the global public cloud market will raise from $146 billion this year to $236 billion in 2020. Cloud computing offers many benefits to companies: The reducing need for hardware and software drastic.  In addition, costs for energy, employees, software licenses are scalable almost immediately after moving data or applications into the cloud. Most cloud providers offer all three kinds of services - Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Types of cloud variants: public, private, hybrid

There are three different kinds of cloud variants to choose from: Public cloud, Private cloud and Hybrid cloud. While the public cloud is a term for moving all data outside the company to cloud service provider platform, the company using cloud technology is responsible for private cloud management. To get the best of both strategies a lot of companies use the hybrid cloud approach.  They store some files or use some services over the internet of a public cloud service, while more business-critical data, applications and services are run inside the company on the private cloud. The challenge when running a hybrid cloud is the clear separation of the two processes in business-critical and non-risky workflows. This is only achievable when all available files and complete processing and obtain consistent classification as either business-critical or non-risky.

Providers use different technologies

Another aspect that private users, as well as companies, should be aware of is that cloud service providers mostly use different technologies . Even today almost every cloud service provider uses their own technology to offer their clients the data storing and accessing over the internet. Amazon Web Services, for example, utilize several technologies combining to their cloud services offer. EC2 – Amazon's Elastic Cloud Compute – is a service to run applications in the cloud on virtual servers and is based on either Linux or a Windows Server distribution. Amazon S3 is Amazon´s own file hosting service. The company doesn't publish any public details about its design or structure, but it's clear that it manages data by an object storage architecture.

Vendor lock-in challenge

There is one factor that should be seriously considered before deciding on a cloud service provider and before moving data, services, or applications into the cloud: The problem of the so-called “vendor lock-in."

Vendor lock-in means that a cloud service customer has to stick to a specific vendor because of the massive challenges that would occur if they were to migrate their data, services, or applications to a new cloud provider. This vendor lock-in is due to the fact that cloud service providers use so many different cloud platforms.

If you only use the cloud as a “live” secondary backup storage, you just need to change the destination to the new cloud provider and store the new backups on their cloud space. In addition, copying the older on-premises backups to the new provider is necessary.  Or if you only have the backups or data in the cloud (with the old cloud service provider) – which is not a good idea anyway – you could use several tools available on the market to migrate and transfer the data. But beware: most of these tools are only useful when you have not a huge amount of data for migration, otherwise you end up transferring data and files for days, months, or years.

Cloud Migration is complete... now what?

When the migration is complete and everything works fine, the old backup files on the existing cloud space of the former service provider are safe for deletion. But again, beware: A deletion should only occur when there are enough onsite copies of your backup to meet your retention policy. Besides that, you are ready to go.

While migrating data from one cloud service provider to another might not technically be a problem, it will be most likely – when the amount of data is huge – a timely and costly effort. The same goes for changing network services from one provider to another. The real challenge still remains: the migration of applications from one cloud service to another.

In many cases, the technologies that cloud providers are using are not the same and it is almost impossible to seamlessly migrate an application that should run on one cloud service provider´s platform technology to another cloud service. In most cases the application needs programming and customization again in order to meet the needs of the technology that the new provider is using. Since the usage of open source cloud platform technology like OpenStack is uncommon among cloud service providers, companies are forced to invest a lot of money into application development when they intend to use their custom built, business critical applications on a new cloud platform again.


With most cloud providers, the insertion of data and applications is an easy act, but switching applications to a new cloud platform causes further complications and is costly. Enterprises that are evaluating cloud solutions should give some more thoughts to a back out strategy when they evaluate cloud vendors. Companies should be aware of how complicated it could be if they would have to get out of the deal for any reason, including dissatisfaction, high costs, providers going out of business or changing strategy, poor performance and more. Companies should consider all of these factors as early as the beginning of their cloud endeavor.

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