How to Safely Migrate Mission-Critical Applications to the Cloud


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Many companies are considering cloud migration because it offers the best of both worlds in terms of cost and access to the latest innovations in technology.

The white paper "How to Safely Migrate Mission-Critical Applications to the Cloud" by SoftNAS covers:

-Migration to the Cloud Presents Challenges
-Alleviating Concerns over Moving to the Cloud
-Requirements When Migrating to the Cloud
-Available Cloud Technologies

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How to Safely Migrate Mission-Critical Applications to the Cloud

  1. 1. How to Safely Migrate Mission-Critical Applications to the Cloud
  2. 2. The concept of cloud computing has grown in popularity within the last 5 years due to the soaring costs of legacy IT systems. Many companies are considering cloud migration because it offers the best of both worlds in terms of cost and access to the latest innovations in technology. In addition to being cost effective and innovative, cloud infrastructure is also scalable, which means it can easily change as your business needs change without the exorbitant cost of adding IT infrastructure. Acquiring access to the latest IT infrastructure is one of the primary challenges that most enterprises face today mainly due to cost, return on investment (ROI), and total cost of ownership (TCO). And with the current state of the economy, legacy IT systems prevent most companies from capitalizing in the current economy and remaining competitive in today’s marketplace. MIGRATION TO THE CLOUD PRESENTS CHALLENGES Although migration to the cloud presents many challenges, companies still realize the benefits of the cloud and so proceed to identify the challenges so solutions can be determined. As companies contemplate migration to the cloud, one of the main concerns is company data and what happens to it when one decides to rewrite and rebuild web applications, virtualize IT, or migrate an entire company IT infrastructure to the cloud. The most common concern is security of company data. Other concerns include the following: • • • • • • • The most common concern is security of company data. access to data disaster recovery redundancy in the event of failure access to tech support Service Level Agreements (SLA) software licensing and ownership and many other questions and concerns associated with critical business activities These apprehensions are due mostly to the fact that, for years, company data has been stored in a data center on the company’s premises and on local servers where there is control over how the data is managed, stored, and recovered in the event of a disaster. 2
  3. 3. By migrating to the cloud, companies tend to view the relocation of data as relinquishing control over how the responsibility is handled even if one is simply consolidating servers, creating a virtualized environment, or moving an entire IT infrastructure to the cloud. Cloud migration poses many questions related to data security, compliance requirements, data location, data access, data backup and storage, and other issues which can affect productivity and revenue. As a result, business owners and IT managers who are aware of these issues are very hesitant to migrate to the cloud. Although these are valid concerns, they can also slow the process of cloud adoption and prevent the company from remaining competitive while others are overcoming these challenges and moving to the cloud. ALLEVIATING CONCERNS OVER MOVING DATA TO THE CLOUD Since migration to the cloud represents an economical way for companies to access the latest technologies without the expensive price tag, cloud migration presents a very compelling argument for companies to move their data center to the cloud. Many companies successfully migrate to the cloud while alleviating concerns over data. CIOs and other IT professionals do this by educating key executives on the process of cloud migration. Thanks to new technologies, companies have more control over their data than they realize. First, it is important to realize that managing data in the cloud is no different than managing it in one’s own company data center. Thanks to new technologies, companies have more control over their data than they realize without having to resort to legacy IT systems. Currently, most companies manage their data using two different types of technologies which include a Storage Area Network (SAN) and a Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance. A Storage Area Network (SAN) is a high-speed specialized network which connects a variety of storage devices with data servers associated with the storage devices. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a hard disk storage appliance which is a dedicated device with its own network address. NAS provides data storage for other devices on the network and is attached to a Local Area Network (LAN). Both SAN and NAS ensure that data integrity is maintained at all times. 3
  4. 4. Many of today’s cloud solutions address all types of data requirements regardless of the size of your business. Additionally, both technologies allow applications and data to be served rapidly since SAN and NAS do not compete for processor resources. The end result is a more productive business environment. As a company migrates to the cloud, the technologies described above do not change except for the cloud provider that operates the data center and the IT infrastructure. However, reputable cloud providers must meet data compliance requirements and standards which ensure the data is secure, easily accessible, properly backed up, and redundant (replicated) in the event of failure. Reputable cloud providers backup data offsite or to other secure servers and should offer the capability to fail over to another data center in the event that the cloud data center fails or goes offline. One also should have carefully planned contingencies in place before moving company data and applications to the cloud. DATA REQUIREMENTS WHEN MIGRATING TO THE CLOUD Cloud technologies have advanced significantly within the last few years providing companies with many more options for safely migrating to the cloud while maintaining control over company data. Many of today’s cloud solutions address all types of data requirements regardless of the size of the business. Some of the data requirements include: Basic Object Storage Basic object storage is the most common cloud technology. It can be used as block level storage such as Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), a storage volume that offers high availability and reliable storage which can easily be attached to any running instance. The block level storage volumes of EBS are independent from the running instance and allow one to pay only for what one uses. EBS is used for data that changes frequently and requires long term storage. It can be used with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which provides scalable computing capacity that eliminates the need to purchase expensive hardware. 4
  5. 5. Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) RAID is a technique for data backup and storage which has been used by companies for decades and is still used for cloud data centers. RAID technology allows one to aggregate multiple hard disks to create a Redundant Array of Independent Disks. If one disk fails, operations can continue. Plus, one can simply replace the drive and continue running data and applications. RAID basically provides data redundancy and the ability to recover from disk failures with no downtime or loss of data. Diversified Storage In addition to caching and SSD (Solid State Drive), diversified storage should be created using a variety of different types of drives to provide the optimum level of performance. This allows applications and databases to integrate well with a cloud environment. There is a robust selection of cloud technologies. Backup and Redundancy Another requirement is a sound data backup strategy to ensure data is properly backed up to enable one to recover it in the event of a disaster. Additionally, redundant backup is a “must have” to provide access to data on an alternative server or data center such as Amazon EC2 availability zones. This prevents prolonged outage which can result in compromised business productivity and loss of revenue. Once all of the company data requirements are identified, one can proceed to determine what types of cloud technologies will best serve a company. AVAILABLE CLOUD TECHNOLOGIES There is a robust selection of cloud technologies which address the requirements discussed above. Some of the technologies address all of the requirements and others only accommodate a few. One of the technologies which is widely used today is known as Scale-out clustering which is a new type of storage technology that addresses the storage challenges companies face with legacy IT systems. Scale-out clustering allows a company to expand storage resources in accordance with data center demands and changing business needs. 5
  6. 6. Other technologies include GlusterFS which is mounted on multiple servers for the purpose of sharing and redundancy, and Ceph, which is distributed storage that allocates data across multiple nodes in the cloud environment. There are some emerging cloud NAS technologies, like SoftNAS™ low maintenance cloud storage solutions and others, that are beginning to make the traditional capabilities we have been discussing readily available. The technologies aforementioned are a viable solution in terms of capability but they do not provide a comprehensive data integrity, performance, and management solution like Network Attached Storage (NAS) or a Storage Area Network (SAN). Clustered file systems rely on “file replication”, whereby each file is compared and replicated across many nodes. This works well for small-scale environments, but in practice it has not proven to scale effectively to hundreds of thousands of files. And when attempted with millions of files, the file replication design results in tremendous network and I/O overhead and cannot complete in a timely manner. These file replication systems also suffer from what’s called “split-brain”, where data can get out of sync across multiple nodes, causing erroneous application results and even crashes. “Block replication” provides a solution to these issues, and differs from file replication. Unlike file replication, block replication only transmits data blocks which have actually changed due to file system writes, which limits the amount of I/O and network traffic, allowing it to scale to efficiently handle many millions of files. However, there are some emerging cloud NAS technologies, like SoftNAS™ low maintenance cloud storage solutions and others, that are beginning to make the traditional capabilities we have been discussing readily available. Technologies such as RAID and those which are used for caching, storage management, performance, and deduplication are able to easily run in the cloud environment. They basically provide traditional data management and high performance data solutions which companies have been accustomed to using by being made available as virtual appliances in the cloud environment. 6
  7. 7. CONCLUSIONS This is a basic overview regarding some of the data requirements a company should be concerned about when migrating data and applications to the cloud. In addition to the concerns and solutions we discussed, give careful consideration to 1. Service Level Agreements (SLA) with the cloud vendor; 2. how the vendor’s infrastructure is backed up; and 3. whether or not there is replication or redundancy available at an offsite or secondary data center. Finally, one should make certain to implement the right IT infrastructure, such as SAN and NAS, which has the capability to ensure applications run efficiently. This prevents an inevitable failure from causing an extended outage, where recovery can be difficult and the business impacts can be significant. It also provides a way to recover quickly from a disaster or failure event, as opposed to enduring lengthy downtime which can significantly compromise daily business operations. One should make certain to implement the right IT infrastructure. 7
  8. 8. Rick Braddy Founder Chief Technology Officer SoftNAS, LLC Rick Braddy is an innovator, leader and visionary with more than 30 years of technology experience and a proven track record of taking on business and technology challenges and making high-stakes decisions. Rick is responsible for SoftNAS business and technology strategy, product development and e-commerce infrastructure. Rick also oversees online marketing, lead-generation and product launch strategy for the company. Rick is a serial entrepreneur and former CTO of Virtual-Q, a hosted virtual desktop company, former Chief Technology Officer of the CITRIX Systems XenApp and XenDesktop group, and former Group Architect with BMC Software. During his 6 years with CITRIX, Rick led the product management, architecture, business and technology strategy teams that helped the company grow from a $425 million, single product company into a leading, diversified, global enterprise software company with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. Throughout the 1980’s, he developed real-time process control, SCADA and manufacturing automation software, including the first Unix-based process control system. Rick is a United States Air Force veteran, with military experience in top-secret, cryptographic voice and data systems at NORAD/Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Today, Rick’s experience as both a Fortune 500 and start-up CTO, as well as a software and IT solutions architect, guides the team to develop and deliver the SoftNAS storage-as-a-service product line. Click Here To Download this White Paper Go to for more information. 8