10 Important Cloud Migration Case Studies You Need to Know

For most businesses considering cloud migration, the move is filled with promise and potential. Scalability, flexibility, reliability, cost-effectiveness, improved performance and disaster recovery, and simpler, faster deployment — what’s not to like? 

It’s important to understand that cloud platform benefits come alongside considerable challenges, including the need to improve availability and latency, auto-scale orchestration, manage tricky connections, scale the development process effectively, and address cloud security challenges. While advancements in virtualization and containerization (e.g., Docker, Kubernetes) are helping many businesses solve these challenges, cloud migration is no simple matter. 

That’s why, when considering your organization’s cloud migration strategy, it’s beneficial to look at case studies and examples from other companies’ cloud migration experiences. Why did they do it? How did they go about it? What happened? What benefits did they see, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing for these businesses? Most importantly, what lessons did they learn — and what can you learn from them? 

With that in mind, Distillery has put together 10 cloud migration case studies your business can learn from. While most of the case studies feature companies moving from on-premise, bare metal data centers to cloud, we also look at companies moving from cloud to cloud, cloud to multi-cloud, and even off the cloud. Armed with all these lessons, ideas, and strategies, you’ll feel readier than ever to make the cloud work for your business.

Challenges for Cloud Adoption: Is Your Organization Ready to Scale and Be Cloud-first?

We examine several of these case studies from a more technical perspective in our white paper on Top Challenges for Cloud Adoption in 2019. In this white paper, you’ll learn:

  • Why cloud platform development created scaling challenges for businesses
  • How scaling fits into the big picture of the Cloud Maturity Framework
  • Why advancements in virtualization and containerization have helped businesses solve these scaling challenges
  • How companies like Betabrand, Shopify, Spotify, Evernote, Waze, and others have solved these scaling challenges while continuing to innovate their businesses and provide value to users
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#1 Betabrand: Bare Metal to Cloud

Cloud Migration: Betabrand Logo

Betabrand (est. 2005) is a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced retail clothing e-commerce company that designs, manufactures, and releases limited-quantity products via its website. 

Migration Objective 

The company struggled with the maintenance difficulties and lack of scalability of the bare metal infrastructure supporting their operations. 

Planning for and adding capacity took too much time and added costs. They also needed the ability to better handle website traffic surges.

Migration Strategy and Results 

In anticipation of 2017’s Black Friday increased web traffic, Betabrand migrated to a Google Cloud infrastructure managed by Kubernetes (Google Kubernetes Engine, or GKE). They experienced no issues related to the migration, and Black Friday 2017 was a success. 

By Black Friday 2018, early load testing and auto-scaling cloud infrastructure helped them to handle peak loads with zero issues. The company hasn’t experienced a single outage since migrating to the cloud.

Key Takeaways

  • With advance planning, cloud migration can be a simple process. Betabrand’s 2017 on-premise to cloud migration proved smooth and simple. In advance of actual migration, they created multiple clusters in GKE and performed several test migrations, thereby identifying the right steps for a successful launch.
  • Cloud streamlines load testing. Betabrand was able to quickly create a replica of its production services that they could use in load testing. Tests revealed poorly performing code paths that would only be revealed by heavy loads. They were able to fix the issues before Black Friday. 
  • Cloud’s scalability is key to customer satisfaction. As a fast-growing e-commerce business, Betabrand realized they couldn’t afford the downtime or delays of bare metal. Their cloud infrastructure scales automatically, helping them avoid issues and keep customers happy. This factor alone underlines the strategic importance of cloud computing in business organizations like Betabrand. 

#2 Shopify: Cloud to Cloud

Cloud Migration: Shopify Logo

Shopify (est. 2006) provides a proprietary e-commerce software platform upon which businesses can build and run online stores and retail point-of-sale (POS) systems. 

Migration Objective 

Shopify wanted to ensure they were using the best tools possible to support the evolution needed to meet increasing customer demand. Though they’d always been a cloud-based organization, building and running their e-commerce cloud with their own data centers, they sought to capitalize on the container-based cloud benefits of immutable infrastructure to provide better support to their customers. Specifically, they wanted to ensure predictable, repeatable builds and deployments; simpler and more robust rollbacks; and elimination of configuration management drift. 

Migration Strategy and Results 

By building out their cloud with Google, building a “Shop Mover” database migration tool, and leveraging Docker containers and Kubernetes, Shopify has been able to transform its data center to better support customers’ online shops, meeting all their objectives. For Shopify customers, the increasingly scalable, resilient applications mean improved consistency, reliability, and version control.

Key Takeaways

  • Immutable infrastructure vastly improves deployments. Since cloud servers are never modified post-deployment, configuration drift — in which undocumented changes to servers can cause them to diverge from one another and from the originally deployed configuration — is minimized or eliminated. This means deployments are easier, simpler, and more consistent.
  • Scalability is central to meeting the changing needs of dynamic e-commerce businesses. Shopify is home to online shops like Kylie Cosmetics, which hosts flash sales that can sell out in 20 seconds. Shopify’s cloud-to-cloud migration helped its servers flex to meet fluctuating demand, ensuring that commerce isn’t slowed or disrupted.

#3 Spotify: Bare Metal to Cloud

Cloud Migration: Spotify Logo

Spotify (est. 2006) is a media services provider primarily focused on its audio-streaming platform, which lets users search for, listen to, and share music and podcasts.

Migration Objective 

Spotify’s leadership and engineering team agreed: The company’s massive in-house data centers were difficult to provision and maintain, and they didn’t directly serve the company’s goal of being the “best music service in the world.” They wanted to free up Spotify’s engineers to focus on innovation. They started planning for migration to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in 2015, hoping to minimize disruption to product development, and minimize the cost and complexity of hybrid operation. 

Migration Strategy and Results 

Spotify invested two years pre-migration in preparing, assigning a dedicated Spotify/Google cloud migration team to oversee the effort. Ultimately, they split the effort into two parts, services and data, which took a year apiece. For services migration, engineering teams moved services to the cloud in focused two-week sprints, pausing on product development. For data migration, teams were allowed to choose between “forklifting” or rewriting options to best fit their needs. Ultimately, Spotify’s on-premise to cloud migration succeeded in increasing scalability while freeing up developers to innovate. 

Key Takeaways

  • Gaining stakeholder buy-in is crucial. Spotify was careful to consult its engineers about the vision. Once they could see what their jobs looked like in the future, they were all-in advocates. 
  • Migration preparation shouldn’t be rushed. Spotify’s dedicated migration team took the time to investigate various cloud strategies and build out the use case demonstrating the benefits of cloud computing to the business. They carefully mapped all dependencies. They also worked with Google to identify and orchestrate the right cloud strategies and solutions. 
  • Focus and dedication pay huge dividends. Spotify’s dedicated migration team kept everything on track and in focus, making sure everyone involved was aware of past experience and lessons already learned. In addition, since engineering teams were fully focused on the migration effort, they were able to complete it more quickly, reducing the disruption to product development.

#4 Evernote: Bare Metal to Cloud

Cloud Migration: Evernote Logo

Evernote (est. 2008) is a collaborative, cross-platform note-taking and task management application that helps users capture, organize, and track ideas, tasks, and deadlines.

Migration Objective 

Evernote, which had maintained its own servers and network since inception, was feeling increasingly limited by its infrastructure. It was difficult to scale, and time-consuming and expensive to maintain. They wanted more flexibility, as well as to improve Evernote’s speed, reliability, security, and disaster recovery planning. To minimize service disruption, they hoped to conduct the on-premise to cloud migration as efficiently as possible. 

Migration Strategy and Results 

Starting in 2016, Evernote used an iterative approach: They built a strawman based on strategic decisions, tested its viability, and rapidly iterated. They then settled on a cloud migration strategy that used a phased cutover approach, enabling them to test parts of the migration before committing. They also added important levels of security by using GCP service accounts, achieving “encryption at rest,” and improving disaster recovery processes. Evernote successfully migrated 5 billion notes and 5 billion attachments to GCP in only 70 days. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cloud migration doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can migrate services in phases or waves grouped by service or user. Evernote’s phased cutover approach allowed for rollback points if things weren’t going to according to plan, reducing migration risk. 
  • Ensuring data security in the cloud may require extra steps. Cloud security challenges may require extra focus in your cloud migration effort. Evernote worked with Google to create the additional security layers their business required. GCP service accounts can be customized and configured to use built-in public/private key pairs managed and rotated daily by Google.
  • Cloud capabilities can improve disaster recovery planning. Evernote wanted to ensure that they would be better prepared to quickly recover customer data in the event of a disaster. Cloud’s reliable, redundant, and robust data backups help make this possible. 

#5 Etsy: Bare Metal to Cloud

Cloud Migration: Etsy Logo

Etsy (est. 2005) is a global e-commerce platform that allows sellers to build and run online stores selling handmade and vintage items and crafting supplies.

Migration Objective 

Etsy had maintained its own infrastructure from inception. In 2018, they decided to re-evaluate whether cloud was right for the company’s future. In particular, they sought to improve site performance, engineering efficiency, and UX. They also wanted to ensure long-term scalability and sustainability, as well as to spend less time maintaining infrastructure and more time executing strategy.

Migration Strategy and Results

Etsy undertook a detailed vendor selection process, ultimately identifying GCP as the right choice for their cloud migration strategy. Since they’d already been running their own Kubernetes cluster inside their data center, they already had a partial solution for deploying to GKE. They initially deployed in a hybrid environment (private data center and GKE), providing redundancy, reducing risk, and allowing them to perform A/B testing. They’re on target to complete the migration and achieve all objectives. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Business needs and technology fit should be periodically reassessed. While bare metal was the right choice for Etsy when it launched in 2005, improvements in infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) made cloud migration the right choice in 2018.
  • Detailed analysis can help businesses identify the right cloud solution for their needs. Etsy took a highly strategic approach to assessment that included requirements definition, RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) matrices, and architectural reviews. This helped them ensure that their cloud migration solution would genuinely help them achieve all their goals.
  • Hybrid deployment can be effective for reducing cloud migration risk. Dual deployment on their private data center and GKE was an important aspect of Etsy’s cloud migration strategy. 

#6 Waze: Cloud to Multi-cloud

Cloud Migration: Waze Logo

Waze (est. 2006; acquired by Google in 2013) is a GPS-enabled navigation application that uses real-time user location data and user-submitted reports to suggest optimized routes.

Migration Objective 

Though Waze moved to the cloud very early on, their fast growth quickly led to production issues that caused painful rollbacks, bottlenecks, and other complications. They needed to find a way to get faster feedback to users while mitigating or eliminating their production issues.  

Migration Strategy and Results 

Waze decided to run an active-active architecture across multiple cloud providers — GCP and Amazon Web Services (AWS) — to improve the resiliency of their production systems. This means they’re better-positioned to survive a DNS DDOS attack, or a regional or global failure. An open source continuous delivery platform called Spinnaker helps them deploy software changes while making rollbacks easy and reliable. Spinnaker makes it easy for Waze’s engineers to deploy across both cloud platforms, using a consistent conceptual model that doesn’t rely on detailed knowledge of either platform.  

Key Takeaways

  • Some business models may be a better fit for multiple clouds. Cloud strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Waze’s stability and reliability depends on avoiding downtime, deploying quick fixes to bugs, and ensuring the resiliency of their production systems. Running on two clouds at once helps make it all happen. 
  • Your engineers don’t necessarily have to be cloud experts to deploy effectively. Spinnaker streamlines multi-cloud deployment for Waze such that developers can focus on development, rather than on becoming cloud experts. 

Deploying software more frequently doesn’t have to mean reduced stability/reliability. Continuous delivery can get you to market faster, improving quality while reducing risk and cost.

#7 AdvancedMD: Bare Metal to Cloud

Cloud Migration: AdvancedMD Logo

AdvancedMD (est. 1999) is a software platform used by medical professionals to manage their practices, securely share information, and manage workflow, billing, and other tasks. 

Migration Objective 

AdvancedMD was being spun off from its parent company, ADP; to operate independently, it had to move all its data out of ADP’s data center. Since they handle highly sensitive, protected patient data that must remain available to practitioners at a moment’s notice, security and availability were top priorities. They sought an affordable, easy-to-manage, and easy-to-deploy solution that would scale to fit their customers’ changing needs while keeping patient data secure and available.

Migration Strategy and Results 

AdvancedMD’s on-premise to cloud migration would avoid the need to hire in-house storage experts, save them and their customers money, ensure availability, and let them quickly flex capacity to accommodate fluctuating needs. It also offered the simplicity and security they needed. Since AdvancedMD was already running NetApp storage arrays in its data center, it was easy to use NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP to move their data to AWS. ONTAP also provides the enterprise-level data protection and encryption they require.

Key Takeaways

  • Again, ensuring data security in the cloud may require extra steps. Though cloud has improved or mitigated some security concerns (e.g., vulnerable OS dependencies, long-lived compromised servers), hackers have turned their focus to the vulnerabilities that remain. Thus, your cloud migration strategy may need extra layers of controls (e.g., permissions, policies, encryption) to address these cloud security challenges.
  • When service costs are a concern, cloud’s flexibility may help. AdvancedMD customers are small to mid-sized budget-conscious businesses. Since cloud auto-scales, AdvancedMD never pays for more cloud infrastructure than they’re actually using. That helps them keep customer pricing affordable.

#8 Dropbox: Cloud to Hybrid

Cloud Migration: Dropbox Logo

Dropbox (est. 2007) is a file hosting service that provides cloud storage and file synchronization solutions for customers.

Migration Objective 

Dropbox had developed its business by using the cloud — specifically, Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) — to house data while keeping metadata housed on-premise. Over time, they began to fear they’d become overly dependent on Amazon: not only were costs increasing as their storage needs grew, but Amazon was also planning a similar service offering, Amazon WorkDocs. Dropbox decided to take back their storage to help them reduce costs, increase control, and maintain their competitive edge. 

Migration Strategy and Results 

While the task of moving all that data to an in-house infrastructure was daunting, the company decided it was worth it — at least in the US (Dropbox assessed that in Europe, AWS is still the best fit). Dropbox designed in-house and built a massive network of new-breed machines orchestrated by software built with an entirely new programming language, moving about 90% of its files back to its own servers. Dropbox’s expanded in-house capabilities have enabled them to offer Project Infinite, which provides desktop users with universal compatibility and unlimited real-time data access.

Key Takeaways

  • On-premise infrastructure may still be right for some businesses. Since Dropbox’s core product relies on fast, reliable data access and storage, they need to ensure consistently high performance at a sustainable cost. Going in-house required a huge investment, but improved performance and reduced costs may serve them better in the long run. Once Dropbox understood that big picture, they had to recalculate the strategic importance of cloud computing to their organization.  
  • Size matters. As Wired lays out in its article detailing the move, cloud businesses are not charities. There’s always going to be margin somewhere. If a business is big enough — like Dropbox — it may make sense to take on the difficulties of building a massive in-house network. But it’s a huge risk for businesses that aren’t big enough, or whose growth may stall.

#9 GitLab: Cloud to Cloud

Cloud Migration: GitLab Logo

GitLab (est. 2011) is an open core company that provides a single application supporting the entire DevOps life cycle for more than 100,000 organizations. 

Migration Objective 

GitLab’s core application enables software development teams to collaborate on projects in real time, avoiding both handoffs and delays. GitLab wanted to improve performance and reliability, accelerating development while making it as seamless, efficient, and error-free as possible. While they acknowledged that Microsoft Azure had been a great cloud provider, they strongly believed that GCP’s Kubernetes was the future, calling it “a technology that makes reliability at massive scale possible.” 

Migration Strategy and Results 

In 2018, GitLab migrated from Azure to GCP so that GitLab could run as a cloud-native application on GKE. They used their own Geo product to migrate the data, initially mirroring the data between Azure and GCP. Post-migration, GitLab reported improved performance (including fewer latency spikes) and a 61% improvement in availability.   

Key Takeaways

  • Containers are seen by many as the future of DevOps. GitLab was explicit that they view Kubernetes as the future. Indeed, containers provide notable benefits, including a smaller footprint, predictability, and the ability to scale up and down in real time. For GitLab’s users, the company’s cloud-to-cloud migration makes it easier to get started with using Kubernetes for DevOps.
  • Improved stability and availability can be a big benefit of cloud migration. In GitLab’s case, mean-time between outage events pre-migration was 1.3 days. Excluding the first day post-migration, they’re up to 12 days between outage events. Pre-migration, they averaged 32 minutes of downtime weekly; post-migration, they’re down to 5. 

#10 Cordant Group: Bare Metal to Hybrid

Cloud Migration: Cordant Group Logo

The Cordant Group (est. 1957) is a global social enterprise that provides a range of services and solutions, including recruitment, security, cleaning, health care, and technical electrical.

Migration Objective 

Over the years, the Cordant Group had grown tremendously, requiring an extensive IT infrastructure to support their vast range of services. While they’d previously focused on capital expenses, they’d shifted to looking at OpEx, or operational expenses — which meant cloud’s “pay as you go” model made increasing sense. It was also crucial to ensure ease of use and robust data backups.

Migration Strategy and Results 

They began by moving to a virtual private cloud on AWS, but found that the restriction to use Windows DFS for file server resource management was creating access problems. NetApp Cloud ONTAP, a software storage appliance that runs on AWS server and storage resources, solved the issue. File and storage management is easier than ever, and backups are robust, which means that important data restores quickly. The solution also monitors resource costs over time, enabling more accurate planning that drives additional cost savings. 

Key Takeaways

  • Business and user needs drive cloud needs. That’s why cloud strategies will absolutely vary based on a company’s unique needs. The Cordant Group needed to revisit its cloud computing strategy when users were unable to quickly access the files they needed. In addition, with such a diverse user group, ease of use had to be a top priority.
  • Cloud ROI ultimately depends on how your business measures ROI. The strategic importance of cloud computing in business organizations is specific to each organization. Cloud became the right answer for the Cordant Group when OpEx became the company’s dominant lens. 

Which Cloud Migration Strategy Is Right for You?

As these 10 diverse case studies show, cloud strategies are not one-size-fits all. Choosing the right cloud migration strategy for your business depends on several factors, including your:

  • Goals. What business results do you want to achieve as a result of the migration? How does your business measure ROI? What problems are you trying to solve via your cloud migration strategy? 
  • Business model. What is your current state? What are your core products/services and user needs, and how are they impacted by how and where data is stored? What are your development and deployment needs, issues, and constraints? What are your organization’s cost drivers? How is your business impacted by lack of stability or availability? Can you afford downtime? 
  • Security needs. What are your requirements regarding data privacy, confidentiality, encryption, identity and access management, and regulatory compliance? Which cloud security challenges pose potential problems for your business?
  • Scaling needs. Do your needs and usage fluctuate? Do you expect to grow or shrink? 
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity needs. What are your needs and capabilities in this area? How might your business be impacted in the event of a major disaster — or even a minor service interruption? 
  • Technical expertise. What expertise do you need to run and innovate your core business? What expertise do you have in-house? Are you allocating your in-house expertise to the right efforts? 
  • Team focus and capacity. How much time and focus can your team dedicate to the cloud migration effort? 
  • Timeline. What business needs constrain your timeline? What core business activities must remain uninterrupted? How much time can you allow for planning and testing your cloud migration strategy? 

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. These questions are only a starting point. But getting started — with planning, better understanding your goals and drivers, and assessing potential technology fit — is the most important step of any cloud migration process. We hope these 10 case studies have helped to get you thinking in the right direction. 

While the challenges of cloud migration are considerable, the right guidance, planning, and tools can lead you to the cloud strategies and solutions that will work best for your business. So don’t delay: Take that first step to helping your business reap the potential advantages and benefits of cloud computing. 

Ready to take the next step on your cloud journey? As a Certified Google Cloud Technology Partner, Distillery is here to help. Download our white paper on top challenges for cloud adoption to get tactical and strategic about using cloud to transform your business.  


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