04 Oct 2012

Cloud migration: changing providers

When you’ve put your data in the cloud, what happens if you want to get it out again? There are a number of reasons you might want to do this, such as changing cloud providers, or moving specific services back into the organisation.

The question is, how can you make sure you don’t get locked in? The situation depends on a number of factors, and in particular, what kind of cloud solution you’re using. Let’s take a look at the three main types, and the issues in migrating from each

1. SaaS (Software as a Service)

With Software as a Service, your data is homed on someone else’s applications, removing much of the overhead that would be associated with managing the applications yourself. Depending on the application, it may be relatively easy to get your data out, but less easy to guarantee the exact same functionality with a different provider or get your old data imported easily.

If you can find another SaaS provider that offers the same application in the backend, you may have an easier ride.

2. PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Platform as a Service is perhaps the most complex when it comes to migration. With PaaS, your applications are built on an existing software stack or platform, such as Windows Azure. It may be very difficult to port the data from your applications to a different platform.

Choosing an open source platform can be a benefit here, as you can migrate applications more easily to another provider or even bring them in house.

3. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Generally, wth Infrastructure as a Service, the servers you use are maintained by the Cloud Service Provider at the infrastructure level, and by yourself at the Operating System level and above. You can’t always just pick up and easily move your virtual servers from one provider to another, however, as providers may differ in their mechanisms for doing this – and when you can export your virtual machines, there may be substantial costs involved to do so.

Ultimately, the issue is that currently, cloud services have not reached maturity in terms of easy portability between providers. Cloud services just aren’t hot-swappable, and there is no simple “cookie cutter” solution.

This is why when choosing your provider, you need to ensure that they are someone you are confident partnering with, and who will be around for the long haul. You should also establish potential migration processes before signing up with them and get an upfront understanding of the potential costs involved.

Have you needed to change providers? How complex did you find migrating your data?