Migration Journey to Google Cloud: How to Approach?

In today’s era of rapid technological advancements, cloud migration has become a hot topic for businesses eager to innovate and streamline their operations. However, many companies struggle to navigate this process successfully or even know where to begin.

In this article, we’ll dive into the migration journey to Google Cloud, focusing on how to approach these projects from a governance standpoint — no tech jargon, just the essentials. We’ll also highlight the critical aspects to consider during migration. So, let’s get started! 😃

From Technology Disruptor to Business Necessity

Over the past decade, the pace of advancements in cloud technologies has been nothing short of mind-boggling. Keeping up with these developments can feel like a full-time job. Organizations are racing to understand how they can leverage these enhancements to their advantage. Yet, each organization has its own pace when it comes to adapting to new technologies, influenced by factors such as size and culture. But here’s the kicker: whether your organization is a trailblazer or a latecomer, cloud technology is on everyone’s agenda.

When assessing an organization’s cloud maturity, I like to draw a parallel to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As you might recall, Maslow’s theory suggests that individuals must satisfy a series of needs, starting from basic physiological needs up to self-actualization. Without meeting foundational needs, one cannot achieve higher-level fulfillment

Similarly, organizations embark on cloud migration projects to address basic needs like cost optimization and overcoming technical challenges. As they progress, they climb the pyramid, expanding their use cases, embracing innovation, and transforming their ways of working. Eventually, cloud technology shifts from being a mere facilitator to becoming a business necessity.

In 2023, Gartner highlighted a similar concept, as illustrated in Figure 1. According to Gartner’s November 2023 report, many organizations are still addressing these basic needs and find themselves at the lower levels of this pyramid. However, by 2028, Gartner forecasts that companies will likely advance through these stages, leveraging cloud technologies to drive innovation and transformation.

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

In our daily lives, we strive to reach a point where we can realize our full potential and form our “self.” Similarly, organizations aim to achieve their own potential. Just as self-realization is a journey rather than a fixed destination, the adoption of cloud technologies and the business processes built on them should be viewed as a continuous journey for organizations.

As Simon Sinek often emphasizes, business is not a finite game but an infinite one. Gartner’s report also reflects that cloud will eventually become a business necessity. Therefore, when approaching cloud migration, organizations should treat these projects not merely as technology transformations but as fundamental business transformations. In essence, this means that cloud migration is a journey for your business, not a final destination.

As it is represented in Figure 2, you might realize that cloud migration involves more than just technology; it encompasses people, processes, and the entire organization. The biggest challenge often lies in the organization’s ability to adapt and embrace change. Focusing on factors that can accelerate this adaptation is crucial for a successful migration.

So until now, we discussed that these projects are not just about technology and also shouldn’t be considered as a finite process which means it will be a continuous process. As we all know, the best approach to deal with this kind of complexity during the continuous journeys is the usage of iterative & incremental methodologies. I like to represent this continuous journey as it is represented in Figure 3. While considering the cloud migration, in each cycle iterate on the following activities:

  • Make Assessment of the workload that you consider to move cloud
  • Build the Foundation & Plan your migration strategy
  • Execute your migration strategy and validate the outputs
  • Optimize & Operate

Major Challenges

Without any challenge, a journey can become a boring one 😏 and of course, while moving your workloads to the cloud, you will encounter many technical and non-technical challenges.

According to Flexera’s 2024 State of the Cloud Report as it is represented in Figure 4, the top challenges companies face during cloud migration include assessing the impact on costs, technical feasibility, and ensuring readiness. Especially, understanding app dependencies seems to be the most crucial of these challenges, and for good reason. In the race to stay competitive, organizations often rush to adapt quickly. However, these rapid actions can create a “spaghetti design” in terms of architecture, leading to a tangled mess.

Because of these reasons, when organizations consider moving their workloads to the cloud, this becomes the most challenging activity. It requires enough courage to cut the Gordian knot and ensure a successful journey.

Navigating the Journey

So let’s assume that you had enough courage to progress in that area and also decided to benefit from Google Cloud Technologies. Google provides a framework which is called the Cloud Adoption framework that provides a structured approach to cloud migration, breaking processes down into the manageable phases. While these steps are often presented in a linear order, the process is typically iterative between each cycle. These steps are as follows;

  • Assess
  • Plan & Build Foundations
  • Migrate
  • Optimize

Step 1: Assess

The assessment phase aims to simplify the landscape and prioritize applications based on their complexity and business objectives. Applications are categorized as simple, medium, or complex and matched to different migration strategies: lift and shift, move and improve, or transform. This creates a clear path for each application. As an output of this assessment step, Figure 5 can be seen as an example;

Effective assessment involves data gathering and stakeholder interviews. Comprehensive information about the infrastructure, including hardware, software, dependencies, and usage patterns, is collected and analyzed. Interviews with stakeholders help understand the business context and user impact, informing decisions about migration strategies and application prioritization. The final output is a migration backlog, prioritizing applications based on effort and value.

Let’s assume you have formed your migration backlog. The next step is choosing your first mover. You might think, “How hard can it be?” But this is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make, as it sets the tone for the entire journey. When deciding on your first movers, consider the following:

  • Avoid business-critical workloads: Starting with a high-stakes application can be risky.
  • Steer clear of edge cases: These can complicate the process unnecessarily.
  • Build a knowledge base: Select a workload that will help develop and document best practices.
  • Leverage centrally managed workloads: These are easier to control and standardize.
  • Find a supportive app or line of business owner: Someone who is enthusiastic about spearheading new and innovative projects can be a game-changer.
  • Minimize dependencies: Choose a workload with fewer system and network-to-network dependencies.
  • Simplify data migration: Select a workload that requires minimal data migration.
  • Reduce compliance challenges: Early in the journey, it’s wise to pick workloads with minimal or no compliance issues.
  • Ensure a cutover window: The workload should afford some downtime for the migration.
  • Avoid complex third-party licenses: These can complicate and delay the migration.

Remember, starting your journey with an early win will build confidence in the migration process for your team and all the stakeholders involved.

Step 2: Plan

Okay, you assessed your situation, determined complexity, business value & effort details, and created your migration workload. It is now time to plan your waves like the one that is represented in Figure 6, in the light of criterias that are mentioned above.

  • Wave 1: High business value, low effort to implement.
  • Wave 2: High business value, high effort to implement.
  • Wave 3: Low business value, low effort to implement.
  • Wave 4: Low business value, high effort to implement.

This phased approach starts with applications that provide quick wins, gaining momentum and building faith in the success of migration.

In the meantime, you can initiate your foundation building activities. Strong cloud foundations, or the “landing zone,” are crucial for a smooth migration journey. This involves automating key elements like identity and access management, networking configurations, instrumentation, and cost control (activity details can be found in Figure 7). Google’s Cloud Foundations Toolkit provides pre-configured templates and best practices to build these foundations efficiently.

Step 3: Migrate

Assessments & plans are made, now it is time for the execution. After these discovery and planning activities, each application follows a different migration path, requiring a flexible strategy. The migration process is managed using an agile backlog or pipeline. Two primary frameworks are employed: the migration factory and the change factory. Figure 8 represents this as follows like a decision tree.

The migration factory focuses on quick wins and minimal changes, while the change factory involves refactoring or rewriting applications using cloud-native tools and technologies. Based on the dependency relationship or your workloads, migration activities of workloads under these categories can be run in parallel with careful planning. If you have a sufficiently large team, consider dividing them into two separate groups to facilitate this process. Typically, the Migration Factory team will handle the initial workloads and may then proceed with workloads from the Change Factory.

Step 4: Optimize

Congratulations ! You migrated your first workload to Google Cloud, but is that all? Once the migration of first workloads has been completed, your journey will continue by accelerating. Post-migration activities are as important as the rest. Yes during the migration you have faced many challenges but it is now time to think about optimization.

Post-migration, the focus shifts to optimizing the cloud environment for better ROI. This involves rightsizing applications, leveraging Google’s GCE Custom Machine Types, and utilizing automatic sustained use discounts. Google Cloud offers financial governance and cost control mechanisms tailored to business needs, helping optimize usage and minimize costs. Very at the beginning of your journey, rather than directly focusing on building a Cloud FinOps team, you can benefit from Google Cloud’s built-in reports to keep track of your consumption, trends & forecasts. Besides that, Google Cloud console will provide you basic yet smart insights about how to reduce your costs. But it would be wise to think about building a FinOps framework for your organization as your journey gets accelerated as you evolve in the cloud.

Cloud FinOps encompasses several key components but it can be divided into 3 phases as it is represented in Figure 9. These are:

  • INFORM: Establishing governance and policies to manage cloud spend by determining processes & accountables in your organization. During this step, of course you will determine your KPIs and measurement techniques as an output of process development.
  • OPTIMIZE: Once you have your process — responsibles — KPIs in hand, it is time now for the implement these on your cloud platform and take action for optimization activities.
  • OPERATE: This is not a one time job, as your maturity level increases on Google Cloud, complexity of your operations will increase and it would be better to have a team who are monitoring your performance & spendings on cloud.

High Level Migration Project Timeline

Overall migration project timeline varies, but generally, based on your organization’s pace. However, as we already mentioned, we are dividing activities into steps and for each step we can basically say that, Assessment phase takes 2–8 weeks, Planning takes 2–6 weeks, foundation building takes 2–8 weeks, and execution can take months to years, depending on the scope and size of your organization (See figure 10 for the representation of it).

Choosing the Right Partner

Selecting the right partner is crucial for a successful migration. Look for partners;

  • Specialized in Google Cloud Migration with experience in the Google Cloud Adoption Framework. If you would like to learn more about, visit https://cloud.google.com/find-a-partner/ website and choose “Cloud Migration — Services” specialization while searching.
  • Ensure that, after the migration project, Partner has capability to provide support service and / or even managed services for your cloud environment if needed.
  • A partner with expertise in governance, not just about technology, is essential for navigating the complexities of cloud migration.

Conclusion

Embarking on a cloud migration journey is more than just a technical shift — it’s a strategic transformation that can unlock the full potential of Google Cloud, driving your business toward new heights of innovation and efficiency. With the right partner and a thoughtful, flexible approach, you can navigate the complexities of this journey and emerge stronger, more agile, and better equipped to meet the demands of the future.

Remember, this isn’t a one-time project but a continuous journey of growth and optimization. Every step, from initial migration to ongoing optimization, presents opportunities to refine your processes, reduce costs, and enhance your competitive edge. As you progress, stay committed to learning, adapting, and evolving. With Google Cloud’s robust tools and your proactive strategies, your organization can turn the challenges of cloud migration into a powerful catalyst for success.

So, gear up, take the plunge, and let the journey to Google Cloud transform not just your IT infrastructure, but your entire business landscape. The future is in the cloud, and with the right approach, your business can soar above the competition.

Author: Çağlar Kara, Chief Operating Officer, Oredata

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