Cloud Migration: Who’s Up to the Challenge?

December 24, 2010 Off By David
Object Storage
Grazed from IT Business Edge.  Author: Arthur Cole.

It’s a given that next year will see a significant uptick in cloud computing – the start of what looks like a decade-long transition from static enterprise infrastructure to a more flexible, dynamic and global environment.

If some of the latest surveys are correct, more than three quarters of enterprises will be up on the cloud within five years, and not just with application test and development environments but real-world services handling ever more critical data.

For the CIO, then, it’s probably time to start figuring out how you will handle the massive data migration project that is coming your way.

On one level, the presence of virtualization (you do have a fairly mature virtual infrastructure by now, don’t you?) will certainly make things easier. But it by no means guarantees a stress-free migration.

One of the biggest problems will be security. How on earth will you be able to provide the same security on the cloud that has served so well behind the firewall for so long? According to VMware, one way is to integrate security directly onto the virtual application. As the company sees it, encapsulating security directly onto the app will help protect critical data no matter what the underlying infrastructure is. Part of this effort is found in the vShield system, which virtualizes security technologies like the firewall, the virtual private network and load balancing tools. But fully implementing this vision will also require a fair bit of cooperation from hardware and software development partners.

How great would it be, though, to simply transfer a virtual machine from local resources to the cloud? That’s the goal behind Amazon’s VM Import feature on its Web Services Platform. The system allows admins to import VM images to the cloud using standard EC2 APIs. All that is needed is for the VM to be in a stopped state, not just paused or suspended, and be free of any encrypted disk or image file formats. The company says a 10 GB image can be transferred in about two hours.

That’s fine as far as it goes, according to Network Computing editor Mike Fratto, but simply redirecting VMs to the Web won’t necessarily improve performance. For one thing, all the same limitations related to scale and accessibility are still there. And there are multiple network issues – things like addressability, service coordination and communication – that need to be worked out in order to develop a smooth-running environment.

Migration is where reality starts to intrude upon the cloud fantasy. As boosters tell it, the cloud is a shining environment on a hill where all things are possible and resource and capacity issues are in the past. But it will be a pretty steep hill to climb, with lots of chances to lose your footing and slide back down again.

And once you’ve reached the summit, don’t be surprised if the view isn’t all they said it would be.