6 steps for federal cloud migration success

Meeting the expectations of end users and agency leaders means ensuring applications perform at the same levels or better once they are operating in the cloud.

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More and more federal agencies are migrating workloads to the cloud as part of their modernization strategies. But in doing so many agencies are realizing just how much complexity and risk are associated with cloud transitions.

One of the biggest challenges an agency faces is meeting the expectations of the application's end users and agency owners. That means ensuring the application performs as good as it used to, or better, once it is operating in the cloud.

To accomplish this, I suggest federal IT teams take six steps. These are certainly not all of the steps needed to pull off a successful cloud migration, but these six will ensure that applications perform as well or better in the cloud as they did in their pre-cloud environments. The first three of these steps occur in the pre-cloud planning stage, while the last three occur after the migration has occurred.

1. Map the application to bring clarity to your application's architecture and all of its dependencies. This first step of premigration planning involves getting a full picture of all the functional components that comprise an application; understanding how those components interact with each other as well as with other applications and databases; and analyzing the technical stack that supports those components as they mobilize to execute specific business transactions.

Known as application mapping, this exercise presents to cloud migration planners a complete picture of the application and its many dependencies so they can make smarter decisions about what can be moved as is, what needs to be re-engineered for a cloud environment, and how to sequence the migration of those components to accommodate the application's many dependencies.

2. Identify and understand the key resource metrics associated with your application to ensure that the cloud resources assigned to it are right-sized. This involves understanding in precise terms how much memory and processing resources the application's components consume as they execute a particular task or transaction.

Even though the agency is transferring the responsibility of running the application to the cloud provider, it still must understand the peaks and valleys of that application's resource consumption in order to optimize those resources and determine appropriate service-level agreements.

3. Understand exactly how the application is used by end users, measure the user experience it delivers and how it contributes to specific business or mission objectives. Is all of the application's functionality used or only pieces of it? Knowing the precise usage metrics of an application and its components enables planners to better decide what to migrate, when and how.

4. Monitor the entire infrastructure stack supporting the application to gain a full view of application performance, regardless of whether the application is running in one cloud or across multiple clouds. This ensures that any issues that arise can be detected and acted upon quickly. Having deep visibility into the new cloud environment enables federal IT teams to know exactly where performance issues may exist and how they can better leverage their available cloud resources and capabilities.

5. Validate application functionality and performance to ensure it meets end-user expectations. This is where IT teams compare the pre-cloud and post-cloud performance baselines for the application to see if there are any deltas and, if so, determine exactly where and how big those performance gaps are. Such insights are critical to pinpointing performance shortfalls — and their root causes — early so they can be rectified before the application goes live into full production or at least before end-users become aware of them.

6. Provide a single source of truth from which all stakeholders across the agency enterprise can validate migration success. Applications deliver critical services and mission support, which means there are typically many stakeholders invested in its success. These include the application development team, IT operations, IT security, and the application owner, which is typically a program manager, administration executive or business manager.

Cloud migrations enjoy greater success when these various communities have a common frame of reference with which they can collaborate, troubleshoot and optimize. Focusing on the performance of specific application business transactions — such as a login, a search or an enrollment, for example — is an effective way to bridge those cross-functional conversations that are so critical to achieving a desired functionality that is secure, efficiently run and meaningful to the overall mission.

These steps will provide federal agencies the data, focus and process they need to ensure their cloud-destined applications continue to meet end-user and agency expectations after they have transitioned.