Best practices for migration to the cloud

Every week, I hear of a new education customer who’s moved some part of their IT provision onto a Windows Azure cloud service. Sometimes it’s been the move of a complete service – like cloud-based email or collaboration tools – and other times it’s a part of the core IT infrastructure that’s supporting a specific application or business system.

The reasons that there are some many education users moving to the cloud seem to mainly be:

  • Save capital costs – reduce the need for on site hardware saves on capital costs in terms of servers and other capital equipment (cooling etc)
  • Save running costs – the basis of only activating cloud services when you need them means that for systems which have peak demand periods, followed by quieter periods, means that there’s cost savings easily available (for example, assessment systems, learning management systems, recruitment and registration systems)
  • Save support costs – the cloud datacentres which allow you to migrate your education services to the cloud are fully managed, allowing you to move your application and data, without having the responsibility to manage the datacentre or the server systems
  • Roll out projects more quickly – I’ve heard from plenty of education customers (especially in the business side of the organisation, rather than within IT) that it typically takes six weeks to get a server setup for a project, whereas it can be done in hours in the cloud – and scaled in the same way. So you can start a small project, and scale it as demand grows, rather than having to build for a million users on day one

The conversation I’ve had with a few customers in education is not about the “Why?” of moving education services to the cloud, but the “How?”. What they want to know is how to practically plan and implement a cloud migration for a specific service, and what are the gotchas to be aware of. Until yesterday, I’d often refer them to other Windows Azure case studies, and recommend they have a chat with existing users here in Australia. But yesterday I came across a new set of resources that can help:

imageOur Patterns & Practices team, have just published the third volume of their Cloud Development series – ‘Building Hybrid Applications in the Cloud on Windows Azure’, which looks at applications spanning cloud and on-premise systems, and how to architect applications that exist partly in the cloud, and partly within your corporate network. The three volumes in the series are:

  • Volume 1, Moving Applications to the Cloud,provides an introduction to Windows Azure, discusses the cost model and application life cycle management for cloud-based applications, and describes how to migrate an existing ASP.NET application to the cloud.
  • Volume 2, Developing Applications for the Cloud, demonstrates how you can create from scratch a multi-tenant, Software as a Service application to run in the cloud by using the latest versions of the Windows Azure tools and the features of Windows Azure.
  • Volume 3, Building Hybrid Applications in the Cloud on Windows Azure, focuses on applications that span the cloud and on-premises boundary, where some parts run in Windows Azure, while other parts are located inside the corporate network. It also describes how you can integrate these kinds of applications with external partners.

The latest guide describes how a fictitious corporation named Trey Research migrated its on-premises Orders application to a hybrid application that interacts with external transport partners using many features and services available in Windows Azure and SQL Azure. It also includes a series of appendices that document the use cases and challenges typically encountered in hybrid applications, and provide guidance on the technologies for addressing these challenges. It does it in a clear structure (see below) that tackles the tricky questions up front, and then talks about how to architect the system to address them.

Building Hybrid Applications on Windows Azure

The Patterns & Practices team is responsible for delivering applied engineering guidance that helps software architects, developers, and their teams take full advantage of Microsoft’s platform technologies in their custom application development efforts. The documentation is primarily intended for architects, developers, and IT professionals who design, build, or operate hybrid applications that need to integrate cloud and on-premises.

Learn MoreLearn more about moving education services to the Cloud