How to tally up the true cost of a cloud server migration tool

Hybrid IT is more than the existence of physical, virtual, and cloud servers in parallel silos. Although some people are promoting the idea of "bimodal" operations, where there is little overlap between systems of record and systems of innovation, the real world can be far more complex.

A mainframe, for example, may hold the data that a mobile app needs to support banking or airline transactions. And a server that runs on-premises today may soon run in the public cloud and, later in its lifecycle, return to a private cloud due to changing regulations. In this context, hybrid IT must be defined by flexibility.

The push to hybrid IT often leads to a decision to migrate servers from on-premises platforms to services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, to take advantage of the flexibility, scale, and cost savings that the cloud offers. The migration effort can introduce significant risks, though, including configuration errors that introduce security vulnerabilities, loss of data, or missed dependencies that unintentionally break other services.

Project managers and project architects leading a cloud migration project should consider a server-migration tool to help them rapidly adopt cloud technologies in a way that doesn't disrupt current operations. When trying to determine which is the right tool, there is a temptation to go with the one that meets all the requirements and has the lowest licensing cost.

But the total cost of cloud server migration must be measured. Additional costs that can exceed the cost of the tool licenses should be considered prior to selecting a solution.

The Journey to Hybrid Cloud: A Design and Transformation Guide

Measuring the total costs of a server-migration tool

The calculation of the cost of a migration solution must take the following into account:

  • The cost of learning how to use the tool.

  • The cost of migration infrastructure and processes.
  • The cost of manual labor.
  • The cost of service disruptions.
  • The cost of missing your project's deadline.
  • The cost of purchasing licenses.

While the cost of purchasing licenses is self-explanatory, the other items require careful consideration, since they exceed the licensing cost for almost every migration project.

The cost of learning how to use the tool

This includes the cost of training, certifications, and product evaluations. But the cost calculation can be more complex than just considering the cost of training staff how to use one tool.

Many migration solutions support only one target cloud platform well. If your migration project contains multiple target platforms, then choosing a migration tool that supports all your target platforms will reduce the cost of the learning curve dramatically. Future migration project needs should be considered as well, since you may later decide to migrate from one cloud platform to another or to migrate additional legacy servers as organizational needs change.

The cost of migration planning and processes

Getting a migration right requires planning the steps, developing processes, and testing the migrated resources. This takes more time and resources than most people expect, since it's often necessary to coordinate across a multitude of teams, all of which have higher-priority projects.

You can keep this cost to a minimum by using a single migration tool for different target platforms. Redesigning processes and test procedures consumes precious time and increases the risk of human error and unexpected issues.

The cost of manual labor

The highest cost of labor is incurred by organizations that elect not to use a migration tool at all, and must therefore manually rebuild the servers on the target platform. This cost is usually too high for this to be a realistic scenario at enterprise scale.

When considering migration tools, it's important to know that each supports a different degree of automation. A free platform tool may require extensive work to enable the target server to run properly in its new target environment. This can take up to two hours of extra manual work per migration.

Licensed migration tools offer a higher degree of automation and scale, and typically reduce to minutes the amount of manual work per migration.

The cost of service disruptions

Service disruption must be kept to a minimum, since it leads to missed business opportunities and aggravated users. Depending on the migration approach, business services may be unavailable for several hours or just a few minutes. Migration tools that work with imaging usually require a long service outage, because the image needs to be converted and then transmitted to the target platform.

One way to avoid this is to use a migration tool that does not rely on imaging but rather streams blocks or files from the source server to the target server while the source server is up and running. When using such tools, service disruption is only needed for the final delta synchronization and cutover, which is kept to an absolute minimum via scheduled incremental replications.

The cost of missing your project's deadline

Migration projects that are not delivered on time can result in significant extra costs:

  • Any additional labor that's needed to finish the project.
  • The loss of benefits from the new platform when it cannot be used within the targeted time frame (delayed time to value).
  • The need for extra infrastructure during the longer transition.
  • Potential penalties that have to be paid.

There's a reputation cost as well that can't be measured in dollars but can affect your organization and your personal brand.

Take full advantage of hybrid IT

Project managers and project architects who wish to finish migration project on time and within budget should look for a migration tool that includes planning, scheduling, and visualization components that streamline the execution of large-scale cloud and data center migration projects. Ultimately, this helps project managers create realistic project plans, empowers project architects to better understand environmental challenges, and enables migration specialists to execute migrations on time, with more automation, and with less room for human error.

True hybrid IT means having the flexibility to take advantage of the best option currently available to run your workload. Don't let the unforeseen costs of migration prevent your organization from gaining the advantages of a hybrid environment.

The Journey to Hybrid Cloud: A Design and Transformation Guide
Topics: IT Ops