Cloud computing continues to grow rapidly to the point where it is no longer viewed as a separate track in IT planning, but rather as an option whenever new applications or major enhancements are considered. Predictably, rapid growth extends to the Cloud provider market as well - major providers have expanded their capabilities and specialty providers are entering the market, with the latter catering to certain industries or focusing on particular functions, such as recovery. In such a rapidly changing environment, be sure to steer clear of the hype and the fear of missing market trends and plan your Cloud moves as carefully as you would for any other corporate investments.

Here are five “gotchas” to avoid if migration to Cloud computing services is on your horizon:

1. Not all Cloud providers are created equal

A true “Cloud” offering must support rapid elasticity and scalability capabilities that are self-serviced. You should expect this from the specialty Cloud providers just as you would from the major providers. Before considering any Cloud provider, have a clear sense of your goals and strategy for Cloud computing and a well-defined means of evaluating a potential Cloud provider.

2. Assuming you’ll save money

Cost-savings is often the first reason given for migrating applications to the Cloud. Unfortunately this is not always the case, in terms of the level of savings or the timeframe for realizing the savings. Be sure to assess each application carefully to determine how well suited it is for operation from the Cloud; address such criteria as the amount of work required to make the application “Cloud-ready” and the impact on the application’s integration points with other systems.

3. Losing track of resources

It’s important to keep your house of applications in order once you’ve started migrating to the Cloud. Provisioning resources often becomes easier but it may come with the price of under-utilizing or the outright-abandonment-of allocated resources. Be certain to establish best practices and maintain a strong Governance Model for Cloud operations in order to monitor and control how applications are utilizing both Cloud service units and in-house resources.

4. Not a simple lift-and-shift

It is rare to simply transfer an application “as is” to the Cloud. In many cases, it is necessary to enhance the application to be more compatible with such Cloud operating capabilities as scalability and metered consumption. Migrating to the Cloud requires a change in perspective and practices. To ensure successful, cost-effective migrations of applications to the Cloud, firms must first establish a set of clearly-defined strategies and architectural best practices.

5. Scaling in one direction

Although it seems intuitive that automated scaling out of an application to meet future demand is a major perk of Cloud computing, it is often the ability to scale-back utilization that achieves the more significant cost savings. Applications operating from the Cloud should be closely monitored to track and identify not only when they are stressed and near capacity, but also when resources are being under-utilized. The goal for each application should be to run just under capacity no matter what the load to maximize cost savings.