Keep your cloud migration costs from going off the rails

By David Wright

While enterprises globally are embracing the many benefits of the cloud, managing the cost of cloud computing is an ongoing challenge. In fact, Gartner predicts that through 2024, 60 per cent of infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders will encounter public cloud cost overruns that negatively impact their on-premises budgets. 

Different types of cloud migrations require different activities, making it difficult for I&O leaders to identify the costs that apply to their situation. Furthermore, the scope and timing of many migration costs become clear only after the selection of specific migration approaches, so I&O leaders often struggle to build reliable estimates before the analysis phase of their project is complete. Finally, common cloud migration activities lack publicly available reference costs, and consulting prices vary widely, creating a challenge for I&O leaders looking to benchmark their estimates and negotiate cost-effective contracts.

With IT budgets already stretched thin in the wake of COVID-19, it is important that I&O leaders embarking on cloud migration projects take care to stay within their pre-determined project budgets. Here are six common mistakes that I&O leaders should be wary of that can cause cloud migration costs to go off the rails, and the steps they can take to budget appropriately for cloud migrations: 

6 mistakes for cloud migration graph

Mistake 1: The wrong team

The choice of a migration partner is a critical component of a cloud migration strategy. Yet, many I&O leaders select a migration partner based on familiarity or low pricing, rather than experience. Others try to save on partnership costs by giving the migration project to an internal team, even if they are not ready for it. Both choices often lead to mistakes and rework, increasing costs in the long run.

Mistake 2: The wrong emphasis

Under pressure to move quickly, I&O leaders often prioritize the “lift and shift” approach of moving workloads into the cloud without modifying them. For many on-premises applications, however, the best move for the business may be no move at all. 

The best move may be to rewrite and re-release an application in a cloud-native way, or even to replace it entirely with a SaaS-based alternative. Defaulting too quickly to a re-hosting approach and deferring the cost to modernize or replace critical applications can result in higher cloud operating costs after migration.

Mistake 3: Rushed application assessments

The most critical early phase in a cloud migration project is application assessment, as it helps to determine which cloud migration approach should be used for each application. Failing to fully assess the workloads to be migrated is a common mistake, resulting in incomplete specification of migration requirements and downstream scope creep. 

Mistake 4: Poor landing zone design

Failing to properly architect and implement the underlying cloud “landing zone” environments into which workloads are migrated can increase the costs of security and compliance. The landing zone setup should include designing account structures, federation to identity directories, virtual private cloud (VPC) networking, role-based access control (RBAC) roles and rule sets, and infrastructure for monitoring, security and configuration management. Ensure that the setup of these environments is considered well in advance of the migration and included in the scope of work. 

Mistake 5: Dependency bottlenecks

Often the result of an incomplete application assessment, is the discovery of dependency bottlenecks. Failing to discover and account for the interdependencies between on-premises systems being moved can lead to incorrect grouping and ordering of application migrations, network performance issues and cascading delays. This can cause migrations to take more time than initially allotted, increasing costs. I&O leaders must map dependencies as part of the application assessment process to ensure appropriate migration timelines. 

Mistake 6: Hidden indirect costs

When budgeting for a cloud migration, I&O leaders often fail to consider indirect project costs, such as those associated with transforming their organization to operate effectively in the public cloud or the residual (sunk) costs of vacated data center capacity. These costs are frequently unavoidable, but are important to consider as a part of the holistic cloud migration budget.

Transformation costs to watch for include the cost to re-skill existing teams, the cost to raise salaries to match market levels for cloud roles, changes to organizational structure and operating procedures, and the cost to adopt agile DevOps practices across the IT organization. Common residual costs from a cloud migration include losses in productivity due to vacated facilities and hardware, unused software licenses or unproductive staff. It can also involve the cost to run duplicate versions of the same system during a migration cutover period.


David Wright is a Senior Research Director at Gartner, Inc. where he focuses on public, private and hybrid cloud infrastructure. His coverage includes infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), on-premises software-defined data centers and edge computing. Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis on cloud strategies and infrastructure and operations trends at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conferences taking place December 6-8 in Las Vegas.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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