Cloud migration is becoming increasingly commonplace in every sector of business. Still, you might not understand what cloud migration actually is, as well as the benefits that can come from it, and the variety of strategies that are available to help you achieve a successful cloud adoption. This blog will give you an overview of all these areas and provides you with what you need to get started with your company's cloud migration strategy.
So, what is cloud migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving an organization’s digital estate into the cloud. This means moving things like data, applications, or other IT processes away from its data centres into a cloud-based infrastructure, usually from cloud platform providers such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, etc. Cloud migration can be a lot of effort, but is often a rewarding choice, resulting in cost savings, flexibility, and many other benefits.
Cloud migration is an umbrella term as there are several types of cloud migration that a business may perform. Probably the most common form of cloud adoption to undertake is a transfer of data and applications from an on-premises data centre to a public cloud.
The cloud migration process
Before you even get started on moving to the cloud, you need to know what your roadmap looks like, and understand that this is going to be different for every type of business. If you don't have the right plan in place, you can really hurt your chances of fully reaping the rewards of the benefits of the cloud.
The following points need to be considered when creating your cloud adoption framework to ensure you understand the capabilities and tasks you require to move to the cloud.
Define a strategy
The first question you should be asking yourself in this situation is "Why am I moving to the cloud?" The answer should never be that you're doing it just because it's the current trend and everyone else is doing it, your organisation needs to do it for their benefit and that alone.
This is where you need to create a business case, which will identify what value the business will gain from adopting the cloud. The business case should be a way for you to get stakeholder buy-in and will allow you to develop specific and achievable goals to move your migration forward.
A quick way to create a business case for your cloud migration might be to use a cloud assessment tool such as AppScore Kickstart, which will quickly give you an overview of the costs of running your estate on the cloud, the compatibility of your servers as well as any cloud provider incentives your business might qualify for.
From these goals you can start to create a strategy, and determine which applications of the business should be moved to the cloud, whether you're going to opt for a private cloud, hybrid cloud or public cloud, as well as what infrastructure and resource you might need.
During this stage, you might need cloud expertise which may involve bringing in a consultancy or service provider. Or you could manage this yourself by identifying staff training needs and developing plans to upskill your teams. It is vital to make sure you have a knowledgeable resource at every stage of your cloud adoption to ensure its success.
Conduct discovery and assessment of your estate
To fully understand the work that needs to be undertaken for your migration, and to mitigate any risk by anticipating how some applications may or may not perform due to severe infrastructure changes, you need to conduct discovery and assessment of your current estate.
By doing this, you will be able to see which applications are ready to lift and shift to the cloud, what work might need to be done to get some data to the cloud, and which applications may be better staying in your data centre.
This step can be conducted manually or sped up considerably by using platforms such as the AppScore cloud migration platform. When using a migration tool such as AppScore, you will be able to save your business considerable time and manpower because it will automate a lot of the work. This means you will ultimately get to the cloud quicker.
However, you obviously need to make sure that this matches up with your agreed budget for your migration and fits in with your goals and expectations. Combining a platform like AppScore with freely available discovery tools such as Azure Migrate or AWS Migration Evaluator gets you a discovery and assessment capability that is typically the preserve of large Systems Integrators at a fraction of the cost.
The migration of applications and data in your estate
Time to get involved with some actual cloud computing! Provided that you have followed the steps above, this shouldn't be a painful experience for your organisation. You should have identified the applications which you are going to move over first and perhaps modernize later, and which are going to wait until a later date.
You should have an effective project team who are properly educated in cloud migration, and ideally, some cloud migration automation tools which will make this process quicker, easier, and more risk-free than if it were done manually.
Validate and modernize
This is the last step in your cloud adoption process. You need to make sure that all your applications are running as expected on the cloud before decommissioning legacy systems. This might mean that you are running two environments at the same time for a while, but this is key to ensure you don't cause any issues within your organisation if an application isn't functioning properly on the cloud.
This is also the stage where you might look at areas of cloud modernization in your cloud environment. For example, there may be applications that you have lifted and shifted and decided to modernize at a later date, this is the point at which you would return to look at this.
What are the types of cloud migration strategies?
More commonly known as Gartner's 6Rs cloud migration techniques. Your organisation needs to consider which of these six strategies best meets the needs of your cloud objective. The following is a brief summary of each strategy, as well as a quick explanation of the benefits and challenges to Gartner's 6Rs.
Rehosting (i.e., lift and shift migration):
This strategy is commonly known as a lift and shift approach strategy, where you 'lift' existing applications, and 'shift' them onto the cloud. This strategy is quite popular in the world of cloud migration due to its relatively minimal migration effort.
The main benefit of this R is the speed of accomplishment. This speed largely comes from a lack of architectural refactoring that is required, and a lot of the migration can also be automated easily.
However, there are of course drawbacks to choosing a rehost strategy. By using this approach, you are unable to realise the cloud's full potential, as your applications will not be developed in a cloud-native way. Your applications will still be coupled to an operating system unlike a cloud-native application and these types of migration can be more difficult to scale.
Unlike rehosting, re-platforming has the ability to lead to cloud optimization due to the adoption of some cloud platforms whilst keeping the core architecture of applications the same. Replatforming is commonly used when database backends of applications are replaced with PaaS database solutions of a cloud provider.
This strategy is most suitable for organizations that want to take advantage of the cloud with improved scalability, cost and performance but are unable to re-architect their applications.
The cons of this strategy can involve potential vendor lock-in.
Repurchasing involves moving applications into a new and cloud-native product such as a SaaS platform which provides the same or very similar capabilities as the previous application.
Some of the efforts in migrating using this strategy can be relieved from SaaS replacements offering options to quickly migrate automatically or with very little manual work, or other providers offering analysis tools so that your business is able to understand what the migration effort looks like.
However, be wary as this might not always be the case, particularly if you have chosen a different vendor than your on-premises products, or if maintenance of applications in your current data centres has been neglected.
Refactoring (also known as rearchitecting) means that your organisation will be rebuilding your applications from the start. This strategy is normally applicable for those businesses that need to leverage cloud capabilities which aren't available to be used in their current environment (e.g., serverless computing).
This strategy is usually the most expensive out of all the Rs. By using this strategy, however, you have the opportunity to break down business processes and make your business more agile. By also building your applications to be cloud-native, they will be a lot more future-proof than those that have been lifted and shifted.
This strategy involves assessing your application estate for cloud readiness. Once you have done this task you may find that some of your applications are no longer of use to your organisation, in which case you may choose to simply turn them off, i.e., retire them.
By retiring unused and unnecessary applications, you can save your business money which can then be used in other applications which are ready for cloud migration.
Retaining means that you aren't going to migrate an application at this time as it does not currently make sense to do so. This may be due to security and compliance reasons, the benefits of migrating this application do not outweigh the cost or the time that will be invested, or a variety of other reasons. Don't migrate things for the sake of it, only migrate what makes sense for your business.
You should however always make sure it is part of your plan to revisit any applications that you have retained. Just because it doesn't make sense to migrate them right now, doesn't mean it won't make sense in the future.
Benefits of adopting the cloud
So, now you understand what the process of getting to the cloud looks like, and what different strategies you have available to you. But what are the benefits of adopting the cloud?
The rewards of a successful cloud migration can be measured in scalability, security, and even lower costs. Here are some of the major benefits you could take advantage of if you choose to migrate to the cloud.
Once you're on the cloud, you won't have to worry about the cost of keeping a physical data centre with servers running (or at least a minimised cost if you're running a hybrid cloud). A third-party vendor will likely manage your servers for you which will cut out large capital expenditure costs.
Agility and Scalability:
According to a recent EY-NASSCOM survey, transformation and growth are the top drivers of cloud adoption. Having cloud-based services in your organisation not only allows you to automatically scale capacity to growing demand but can also allow your teams to collaborate on any issues and update needs your applications may have. This means your business is more agile and scalable and can give you a real competitive edge.
One of the most important benefits emerging from migrating to the cloud is disaster recovery. Disaster recovery is relevant for every business from a start-up to the biggest corporations. The cloud helps you implement backup and recovery that cost less and take less time than if your estate were in a data centre.
The cloud offers much greater levels of security than your data centre could. It does this by storing your apps and data centrally. This can vary slightly depending on if you go for a private, hybrid or public cloud, but works by keeping unwanted traffic away from the information you need to be protected.
Finally, but certainly not least, being on the cloud can help your company reduce its carbon footprint. Reducing the environmental impact your business has could be reason enough for you to decide to move to the cloud, and due to how server capacity scales up and down to fit your cloud needs, being on the cloud definitely uses less energy and resources than having your applications off the cloud.
Risks of being on the cloud
There are of course some risks associated with being on the cloud, but the main ones can be mitigated if you plan ahead and fully understand what your top priorities and issues may be concerning your data and applications being on the cloud, I go into this in a lot more depth here.
As you can see from this cloud migration strategy overview, you have a lot of different areas to consider before you begin the process of moving your organization to the cloud. Whilst this can seem like a lot of work, being thorough in your planning and throughout your project can allow you to fully reap the benefits of being on the cloud.
If you think you might benefit from some expert advice on adopting the cloud, AppScore can help you. You can find out how by visiting the product page, or by contacting one of our cloud migration and adoption experts.