The cloud has been getting a lot of press in the past few years—and with good reason. The elasticity and flexibility of resources are transformational for businesses. However, there are also drawbacks. For most enterprises, it’s a significant undertaking to migrate on-premises applications into a public cloud environment.
Modern applications today are rarely self-contained entities. Application dependencies occur when software components, applications and servers rely on one another to deliver a service. The typical enterprise manages hundreds, or even thousands, of interconnected components and services, forming a complex web of dependencies.
If an application is migrated to the public cloud without understanding the dependent services, severe performance degradation can occur with applications that are still on-premises. For example, moving an e-commerce shopping application to the public cloud but leaving a key database on-premises will result in consumers experiencing a slower response.
The Repatriation Problem
IDC research shows that fewer than 20% of enterprise applications have been moved from onsite data centers to the public cloud, not because companies do not see value in the cloud, but because the process of getting those applications to the cloud is complicated.
A survey of 350 cloud decision-makers in the United States and UK commissioned by Virtana and fielded by Arlington Research in November 2020 confirmed this. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents have already migrated 25% or more of their applications to public clouds, supporting the IDC finding.
Clearly, businesses recognize the value of the cloud. But another surprising result confirms that the migration process may be problematic. A whopping 72% of respondents said they have moved one or more applications from the public cloud back on-premises. Considering the time and effort cloud migrations require, this is a striking result. While there may be cases where repatriation is undertaken strategically to support evolving business needs, the reasons cited by respondents show most were rollbacks required because of unanticipated problems.
There Is No Single Reason Why
Almost half (41%) of respondents said they repatriated applications that should have stayed on-premises. The reality is that not all workloads are a good fit for the public cloud environment. You need a solid understanding of the various attributes of different workloads, such as data, back end, privacy and security requirements, to determine their inherent suitability for a public cloud environment.
Technical provisioning issues challenged 36% of respondents. The sheer number of configuration options available—combined with the variety of computing dimensions that you have to take into account—means there are a lot of puzzle pieces that have to fit together, or you could run into problems.
Almost one-third (29%) of respondents reported application performance degradation in the public cloud. The public cloud is a fundamentally different environment than an on-premises data center, and creating a hybrid environment further alters the nature of the infrastructure, so you cannot simply expect workloads to attain the same performance levels as you migrate them. And if performance slows to an unacceptable level, any benefits you gain by moving applications to the cloud are overshadowed.
Around one-fifth (21%) admitted that they selected the wrong public cloud provider. Cloud providers are not all the same, and picking the wrong one, for any reason, can be an expensive and disruptive mistake.
Finally, one-fifth (20%) of respondents repatriated applications because of unexpected costs in the public cloud. The public cloud’s pay-for-what-you-use model is appealing compared to the on-premises capex model, where you pay for capacity regardless of whether you use it. But there is a dark side; you have to pay for what you use in the cloud even when that usage is unexpected. Whether that is due to poor planning, an unanticipated surge or workload drifts over time, getting a nasty surprise in your end-of-month bill can put a big dent in your cloud budget.
Eliminate Repatriation With Better Planning and Observability
Any one of these reasons alone reflects a challenging setback to overcome. Unfortunately, many organizations run into more than one of these problems. In fact, one-third of respondents cited two or more of these reasons for repatriation, and 12% experienced three or more of these issues. This seems to indicate that organizations’ migration planning efforts are inadequate. It is not for lack of investment—78% of survey respondents said that even during the current challenging economic climate, they are continuing their migration to the public cloud at the same or an accelerated pace, signaling they believe public cloud deployments to be a strategic investment.
The real problem is a lack of precision in observability—of workload characteristics in the data center pre-migration and of workload utilization and performance in the public cloud post-migration. The better you understand your applications, in minute detail, within the context of the environments they are moving from and to—a ‘know before you go’ approach—the less likely you will have to hit the “undo” button on your public cloud migration.