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Cloud Migration

Cloud First Strategy: Challenges, Considerations, and Best Practices

What Is a Cloud First Strategy?

White House CIO Vivek Kundra coined the term “cloud-first”, referring to the practice of preferring the cloud as a first option for building programs and applications. A cloud-first strategy promotes building software directly in the cloud rather than building on-premises and migrating to the cloud. The goal is to help you create software faster and reduce the overhead associated with on-premises resources and cloud migration.

In this article:

Why Should a Cloud-First Approach be Considered?

Here are key advantages of a cloud-first approach:

  • Flexibility- build your systems piece by piece according to business needs.
  • Less overhead- a cloud-first strategy lowers or eliminates the overhead associated with equipment and maintenance costs incurred when using on-premises server solutions.
  • More resources- cloud vendors provide access to additional services, which typically require lower or no initial investment.
  • Cost-effective upgrades- cloud vendors offer various pricing options you can leverage to reduce the costs of upgrades on-demand.
  • Support- cloud service providers offer support for their services, provided by experts.
  • Quick release- working directly in the cloud can help you achieve a faster speed of delivery for repairs, improvements, and updates.
  • Collaboration- cloud services often provide collaboration tools that enable you to work remotely, using numerous device types to access tools, storage, and data from any location.

Related content: Read our guide to cloud transition

Cloud First Challenges and Considerations

Cloud-First Security Challenges

Many organizations continue to rely on legacy security protocols established in pre-cloud or sometimes pre-web times. These legacy systems are complex or sometimes impossible to implement successfully in the cloud.

There are steps your organization can adopt to ensure your cloud-first strategy prioritizes cloud security. Central to these strategies is a focused DevSecOps approach, uniting development securities and operations into a collaborative team to improve testing and efficiency and reduce time-to-market.

Here are steps you can adopt to secure critical data and resources when using a cloud-first approach:  

  • Foster organizational alignments- protecting cloud native applications should be the shared responsibility of all project teams and departments.
  • Secure the application lifecycle- build security into the integration and deployment stages using practice, including vulnerability remediation and code scanning. You should also automatically apply runtime management with integrations.   
  • Limit privileges- use a policy of least privilege of your most employees and users and only give access when necessary. This approach will reduce perimeter data leaks caused by human error.
  • Deploy runtime protection- next generation firewalls (NGFW) and web application firewalls (WAF) can help monitor request traffic and compare it to normal behavior to identify anomalies and block threats.

End-to-End Application Performance

In recent years, the cloud has been approaching the edge. Certain use cases demand stringent measures regarding application performance, making it difficult for cloud-based solutions to meet latency demands for some critical applications.

Storage-intensive applications responsible for processing hundreds of TBs of data every day are an example of performance limitations that affect the suitability of cloud-based solutions.

Vendor Lock-In

Even when organizations gain effective control over cloud deployments, there are hidden costs of vendor lock-in. Enterprise-grade commercial agreements with cloud providers are rigid and difficult to change over time, as an organization’s requirements change.

While the market is heading in a good direction, customer protections in cloud agreements are not comparable to those offered by other IT outsourcing contracts. Without good commercial protection, organizations can unknowingly give away future flexibility.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Even before the pandemic and the world’s mass adoption of remote infrastructure, cloud-based solutions demanded that the industry rethink traditional BC/DR approaches. Cloud providers typically provide data solutions stored and backed up in several locations.

However, cloud-based failover protection is not guaranteed. For example, global-scale cyber-attacks can affect multiple cloud data centers, and locations with a high concentration of cloud data centers can be severely impacted by natural disaster, which can cause ripple effects worldwide.

How to Adopt a Cloud-First Strategy Approach

Learn from Your Peers

A helpful step in creating a cloud-first strategy is learning from others’ experiences. Look towards organizations that have effectively navigated the cloud migration process. You can ask questions about how they achieve their goals and their long-term aims for their solution.

Build a Cloud-First Culture

The success of your organization’s cloud-first strategy depends on cooperation from the top down. To make this possible, you will need to initiate a culture shift to the cloud-first approach—emphasizing transparency. Tell your employees what you are planning on implementing and why. This approach can help them understand the importance of the change.

Don’t shy away from employees’ apprehensions from the onset. Be approachable so that employees can come to you with questions before, during, and after implementation. Also, it helps employees understand how cloud migration will make their roles simpler.

Many organizations approach a cloud-first culture shift through educational initiatives and employee engagement. For instance, an organization could create a cloud training program for technical and non-technical employees. Such a program could help employees understand how the technology works and the impact that it will have on their jobs.

Related content: Read our guide to the cloud journey

Create a Cloud-First Migration Roadmap

Like any major project, having a cloud migration plan is key. Create a roadmap specific to your organization that has all your solutions. Outline each step in your cloud migration approach.

Establish a migration path for each application you have, from your most recent applications to your legacy applications: select private, public or hybrid cloud deployment.

Related content: Read our guide to building a cloud roadmap

Cloud-First Strategy with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP capacity can scale into the petabytes, and it supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

In particular, Cloud Volumes ONTAP assists with lift and shift cloud migration.

Download our free eBook The NetApp Guide to Migrating Enterprise Workloads to the Cloud to learn more.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager