Changing Service Providers in the Cloud

Cloud computing has become more than just a technological trend. According to a study by Forrester Research, the international cloud market will rise from 146 billion dollars this year to 236 billion in 2020.

Cloud computing offers many benefits to companies: it drastically reduces the need for hardware and software, and energy costs, employees and software licenses can be reduced almost immediately after moving data or applications to the cloud.

Cloud Types

Most cloud providers offer three types of services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). There are also three different classes of cloud variants to choose from: public, private and hybrid.

While the public cloud is a term for moving all company data to a cloud service provider platform, the private cloud is managed entirely by the company using cloud technology. To get the best of both strategies, many companies use the hybrid cloud.

This involves storing some files (or using some services) on the Internet in a public cloud service while the most critical enterprise data, applications and services run internally in the company in the private cloud.

The delicate aspect of running a hybrid cloud is the clear separation of the two processes into critical or non-critical business workflows. This can only be achieved when all available and processed files are consistently classified as business-critical or non-critical.

Another aspect that both private users and companies should be aware of is that cloud service providers mostly use different technologies. Even today, almost all cloud service providers use their own technology to offer their customers data storage and Internet accessibility.

Amazon Web Services, for example, is based on several combined technologies that make up its cloud services offering. EC2 (Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute) is a service for running applications in the cloud on virtual servers based on a Linux or Windows Server distribution, while S3 is Amazon’s own file hosting service.

The company does not publish details about its design or structure, but it clearly manages data through an object storage architecture. For its cloud services for file servers, Amazon offers several APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that can, for example, link enterprise backup software products such as Commvault or Veritas NetBackup to S3.

Another great addition is Microsoft Azure, which uses several Windows Server and .Net technologies that make it difficult to run non-Windows applications. And with this we move on to the next challenge…

Permanence with a supplier

There is one factor that should be seriously considered before deciding on a cloud service provider and moving data, services or applications to the cloud: the problem known as “permanence with a provider”.

Staying with a provider means that the customer of a cloud service often has to rely on a particular provider because of the enormous difficulties involved in migrating data, services or applications to a new provider in the cloud. Staying with a provider is the result of the fact, described above, that cloud service providers use so many different cloud platforms.

If you only use the cloud as dynamic secondary backup storage, you just have to change the destination to the new service provider and store the new backups in their cloud space.

In addition, you must copy the old installed backups to the new provider. On the other hand, if you have only stored backups or data in the cloud (with the service provider in the old cloud, which is not a good idea, in any case), you can use various tools available on the market to migrate and transfer the data.

Keep in mind, however, that most of them are only useful when you don’t have to migrate large amounts of data, otherwise you will spend days, months or years transferring data!

Before deleting, wait

When the migration is finally complete and everything is working as it should, you can remove the old backup files from the existing cloud space of the previous service provider. But again, be careful: you should only start deletion if there are enough local copies of your backups that comply with your retention policy. Once you’ve taken care of that, you’re ready to start.

While migrating data from one cloud service provider to another doesn’t have to be technically a problem, it is most likely (when there is a large amount of data) to require effort in terms of dedication and cost. The same can be said of changing network services from one provider to another. The real challenge remains the same: the migration of applications from one cloud service to another.

In many cases, the technologies used by cloud providers are not the same to make it virtually impossible to seamlessly migrate an application that was customized to run on the platform technology of one cloud service provider to another.

In most cases the application must be reprogrammed and re-customized to meet the needs of the technology used by the new provider.

Since the use of open source cloud platform technologies such as OpenStack is not very common among cloud service providers, companies are forced to invest large sums of money in application development if they want to reuse their custom business-critical applications on a new cloud platform.

With most cloud providers, importing data and applications is a simple act, but switching applications to a new cloud platform is much more complicated and costly.
Enterprises evaluating cloud solutions should devote more attention to replenishment strategies when considering vendors.

Companies should be aware of how complicated it would be to cancel the contract for any reason such as dissatisfaction, high costs, the cloud service provider withdrawing from business or changing strategy, poor performance and many more. Ideally, companies should take all these factors into account from the start of their cloud project.