Don’t get stuck in a cloud. Plan for portability.

Cloud computing has become the go-to choice for many enterprises looking for functionality and resilience. But what happens if you want to move your cloud provider? Do you have the right tools to make the shift smoothly and without disrupting your business-critical applications?

Business resilience has moved to the top of the boardroom agenda, alongside reducing operational costs. With enterprises increasingly reliant on the cloud for business-critical applications, they are now questioning how hard it is to move from a cloud provider.

There are many reasons enterprises might want to reconsider their cloud provider. These include pricing, better scalability, increased security and lack of the right features that overlap with business needs. In the future, as part of resilience planning, enterprises working in what are seen as unsustainable markets will want to know that their cloud providers can continue to support them. In the future, data is likely to be more private and sovereign, subject to the laws and governance structures of the country in which it is collected.

All cloud providers are not equal. Although they may offer similar services, they won’t satisfy specific business needs in the same way. Processing and storage, for example, might be cost effective with one hyperscaler today but not tomorrow. This, in itself, creates a challenge. Every cloud platform is based on its own architecture, making migrations complex and meaning that applications will need to be re-written for a different platform in some cases.

The best possible cloud infrastructure design comes from an enterprise having a full appreciation of its applications and services and which cloud provider can handle them best. The application architecture should not provide a serious roadblock to any enterprise wanting to switch cloud providers. And this should include a practical emergency exit strategy.

Changing cloud platforms

The key is to design a cloud architecture that allows you to move platforms and applications efficiently. Put backup plans in place for core applications, and have an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your entire cloud estate.

Cloud migration does not have to be hugely complicated. However, it is important to point out that migrating servers, applications, and data between clouds requires detailed planning. Enterprises need to take into account both cost and risk.

It requires expertise and experience to ensure a smooth cloud migration from one cloud to another without failures. Trusted partners like Orange are there to help plan and carry out the nuts and bolts of the move securely and efficiently. Enterprises, however, should have a real understanding of the services and applications they use and what each cloud provider offers. Without this detail, it is challenging to determine which applications will run optimally in which clouds to provide the desired business outcomes.

In addition, Orange has built strong strategic partnerships with the hyperscalers, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS and Google Cloud Platform. This enables our trusted cloud services to meet the demands of customers along their cloud journey.

Application portability

It is true that multicloud strategies are reducing vendor dependency and will carry on doing so for two-thirds of organizations through 2024. However, this is mainly in routes other than application portability, according to Gartner.

Application portability is the ability to migrate applications between cloud platforms without making any changes and is one of the significant benefits of multicloud. In reality, enterprises move few applications once they are deployed, according to Gartner. Multicloud strategies typically end up focused on procurement, functionality and risk mitigation.

Role of containers

One approach to application portability is containers. Containers come with several benefits, including policy-based optimization and automation. The downside is that there is a shortage of containerization design skills and management, leading to infrastructure imperfections.

There is much talk of transparent multicloud portability around containers, but it requires strict discipline by developers. The issue is that developers can be fixed on working in an environment that isn’t as portable as first thought. Developers regularly make procurement decisions, and procurement is unaware they are being locked into a particular supplier. Therefore, it is healthy to have direct communication between developers and procurement to avoid what amounts to shadow IT.

As Gartner analyst Marco Meinardi has pointed out, Kubernetes containerized administration or not, application portability always comes with a price an enterprise must be willing to pay. He calls it the “portability tax” as it can be expensive and complex. Gartner advises that enterprises make their decisions application-by-application, deciding if they must be portable during their lifespans. Meinardi advises to only use Kubernetes for applications that are highly likely to switch infrastructure providers as it can add to management overheads.

The trend to migrate to native applications in the cloud, however, is speeding up. The biggest challenge is automating the management of clusters at scale. A high-performance management solution is paramount to getting the best out of containerization. To this end, Orange has developed a solution that embeds Kubernetes for both public and hybrid clouds.

Choosing the right partner

Working with the right partner is key to any enterprise’s cloud strategy in preventing vendor lock-in and providing the freedom to pick and choose the best cloud provider for the task at hand. Get the cloud infrastructure right from the start, and application migration will smoothly follow as cloud technology develops.

To find out more about all things cloud, download our e-book: Building a future-proofed multicloud strategy.

Simon Ranyard
Simon Ranyard

Simon Ranyard is Managing Director for the Nordic Region at Orange Business Services and is based in Stockholm, Sweden. With 20 years' experience in ICT in sales functions, Simon is driving a revenue growth plan by focusing on the innovative services that Orange can bring to its customers and on continuously improving the way we work with them.

In his spare time, Simon is a keen cricket fan and enjoys supporting youth development in the game.