Colocation Migration—How to On-Ramp to the Cloud Without Crashing

These tips can help you seamlessly transition to co-los and cloud-optimize workloads.

Gentlemen in datacenter with different application images floating around him.

Colocation can be the perfect digital on-ramp to the cloud. If you don’t “crash” on the way. Many companies will likely consider migrating to colocation facilities or adding co-los to their existing on-premises data center infrastructure to increase capacity, get workloads closer to users, and improve cloud enablement. The tricky part is moving infrastructure, applications, and data while minimizing disruptions to business operations. To ensure workload availability and maximize overall cloud readiness, companies should first be aware of a few key factors and best practices for successful migration.

Legacy Infrastructure: Throwing Good Money After Bad

Migrating to colocation facilities has grown in popularity as a digital transformation investment for enterprises, in part because co-los offer improved scalability, efficient edge/last-mile proximity to users, and access to more-advanced cooling and cloud-ready computing technologies. In fact, by 2030, the size of the global data center colocation industry is predicted to reach $155.4 billion. Organizations often relocate to colocation facilities to disentangle themselves from the day-to-day management of physical infrastructure in private data centers. Also, the total cost of ownership of legacy data center infrastructure increases over time, while the performance of older equipment declines. According to some reports, a large private data center typically costs between $10 million and $25 million to operate annually. Much of that money is spent on upgrades to hardware, software, power and cooling, networking, infrastructure and application maintenance, and IT staff.

The development of edge computing applications and the emergence of cutting-edge technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and particularly generative artificial intelligence (AI), is increasing the need for high-capacity, low-latency network environments to run them. In fact, some analysts are forecasting that colocation data centers will play a key role in delivering new AI tools to consumers and businesses. Over time, companies may realize that their aging, private data centers struggle to keep pace with increasing compute demands, and any capital expense (CapEx) they save by not migrating to co-los may be sacrificed due to the higher costs of owning and maintaining their legacy data center environment.

For many organizations, co-los are a worthwhile investment. However, the return on any investment depends on maximizing performance while minimizing risk. Proactive, real-time network and application performance management solutions should be deployed before, during, and after the migration to protect the availability of business services and prevent IT visibility gaps that could degrade employee productivity, erode customer satisfaction, and jeopardize revenue.

Building Cloud-Ready Frameworks With Legacy Components

The assessment of network requirements and the exploration of hybrid and multicloud deployment options are often the most important drivers of a company’s decision to invest in co-los and how the facilities are used. Multinational distributed organizations will often add colocation facilities to their existing private data center(s)—essentially expanding and “hybridizing” their enterprise IT environment outward from a centralized on-premises core. Colocation facilities are typically close to users, decreasing the number of hops between networks. This provides faster connectivity, more direct data transmission, and lower latency. Co-los are good intermediary cloud-service enablers because of their efficient low-latency peering, by which network operators exchange traffic and enable the flow of data packets through the internet to their respective networks.

Organizations may also choose to keep other parts of their legacy environments intact but move critical workloads to co-los. Global manufacturers, for example, will occasionally maintain their existing wide-area network (WAN) rather than switch to software-defined networking (SDN) or secure access service edge (SASE) models. Others will leverage a hybrid IT strategy and operate private data centers along with co-los for certain network resources, such as security. It’s not uncommon for some security-sensitive organizations to route all internet traffic to co-los over virtual private networks (VPNs) or use zero-trust applications such as Zscaler at the device level, and then pass that traffic on to appropriate data centers so users are granted access only to apps they need for a specific function.

No matter how complex your migration, expansion, and enterprise IT environment becomes, monitoring network activity for tracking and trending traffic and application utilization is essential for ensuring operational stability. Every component of a network can have a positive or negative impact on the speed with which you are sending and receiving data packets. Packet-based network and application performance management solutions are often used to ensure all workloads have been successfully migrated and services are operating as expected.

Modernization and Legacy Applications: If It Ain’t Broke Yet, Wait a Few Minutes

As companies grow and their computing needs evolve, they may choose to transition to cloud services gradually. Migrating to a colocation data center allows them to maintain ownership and control over their existing infrastructure while also exploring custom or public cloud solutions for specific workloads or applications. This approach enables a phased migration to cloud adoption while leveraging existing investments in software, hardware, and infrastructure.

Different workloads necessitate different deployment options. It is vital to have a clear understanding of the business criticality and dependencies of each application you are migrating. Not every application is “migration-ready.” Some workloads perform best in the cloud, some should only be on-premises, and others can benefit from a hybrid IT approach. If you try to launch certain applications ahead of others they depend on, you may negatively affect the performance and operation of mission-critical services.

The process of upgrading or rearchitecting legacy applications is an incredibly important discussion for companies to have with their network and migration teams to promote shared responsibility, enable more efficient troubleshooting, and ultimately allow them to quickly leverage new colocation environments as well as cloud-native technologies such as containers, microservices, serverless computing, and DevSecOps practices. By making their applications more flexible, scalable, and resilient, organizations can run them more efficiently—and build them more easily—so they can quickly capitalize on new cloud-based technologies and offer new features and services to customers.

Colocation migration presents an opportunity to improve network and application performance when precisely governed. Packet data is a reliable, widely used method for monitoring and ensuring network environments and application performance.

NETSCOUT’s scalable deep packet inspection (DPI) and patented Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI) technology converts raw network packets into a rich, unalterable source of real-time, layer 2-7 metadata of network and application performance. It is a highly effective solution for minimizing disruptions to your migration and maximizing the benefits of colocation data centers
 Learn how a multibillion-dollar global technology manufacturer used NETSCOUT nGenius Enterprise Performance Management solutions to ensure a successful migration to colocation data centers.