An ideal cloud migration is directly associated with the benefits of resiliency, scalability, flexibility, and speed. But those terms have little meaning if they’re divorced from specific business outcomes. Since every business, its application portfolio, and how they hope to use them is different, the migration process becomes a very specific thing. The pandemic clarified that application access and a remote workforce now:
- Defined resiliency as uninterrupted application access anywhere
- Scalability meant that a changing remote workforce could access applications as their numbers grew or shrank
- Flexibility and speed meant that those applications and workloads had a lot of integration to enable frictionless work across different but related applications in real time.
All of this was true for internal business users and customer facing apps as well. Despite the pandemic, how to leverage the cloud has always been a major goal for your business. The bottom line is that every business is looking to define a cloud migration process that delivers tangible results. This has led to an expansion of cloud adoption where public cloud spending will exceed 45% of all enterprise IT spending by 2026, according to Gartner.
Cloud native has become the gold standard for making the most of the applications in the cloud, but not every application can reap those benefits. Businesses still must start with a migration process that helps them to determine:
- What applications they have
- How they might benefit from migration
- The amount of work and time that may entail to achieve business benefits
There are several migration processes steps all businesses will need to go through regardless of their desired outcomes. In fact, it is these processes that will help them determine what potential business outcomes they can achieve with each application in their portfolio.
Strategy and Portfolio Assessment
The first step in the migration process is to assess every application and map its dependencies to see the connections between workloads and other applications. This helps determine what applications are cloud ready and those that are not cloud compatible. Mapping and assessing each application’s compute, storage, networking and security architecture and application dependencies to ensure a smoother transition and reduction in downtime. It enables the business to determine:
- The chosen delivery model (public, private, or hybrid) that aligns with the business strategy
- The most suitable cloud computing model to deliver the best business outcome gains (PaaS, IaaS, SaaS)
Lift and shift have already proven to deliver the least benefit for most applications, but it’s important to first identify non-critical workloads that can leverage cloud elasticity with no refactoring (re-architecting the app). Identifying applications that are not suitable candidates for the initial move to the cloud because of the need for refactoring takes into consideration the application architecture as well. This would include some legacy applications, sensitive data, mission-critical applications, and workloads.
Optimization of the Workload
Optimization often requires splitting workloads into smaller workloads to use the cloud efficiently. The process splits the application’s core processing for deployment into a VM instance that is optimized for the specific task and load balanced elastically for fluctuating resource allocation needed for cost savings.
This optimization process enables you to take full advantage of the cloud, more so than a straight “lift and shift” process. By optimizing the specific workloads associated with the parts of an application being migrated to the cloud, it acts as if it were specifically built for the cloud without the massive time and effort that refactoring entails.
The replication phase involves building a replica of the on-premises application copy that is matched to a cloud provider instance. This enables you to switch from the on-premises workload to the cloud instance image during the “cutover” period. Here again, automation capabilities enable you to match the application’s data center infrastructure characteristics to the appropriate cloud compute, storage, network, and security architecture prior to migrating the workloads to the cloud.
Launch the Application in the Cloud
In this phase, infrastructure is provisioned in the cloud, and the replica is deployed in the cloud. This involves the copying of all data and configuration. For large databases, this can take an extensive amount of time. The replica must coexist without conflicting with the original app, including name-space changes (or isolated environments) and configurations, while ensuring the replica contains all the necessary elements.
Ensure the Application is Functional and Operable
By the time the team has moved the data to the cloud, on-premises data has changed, which requires additional synchronization. Once the workload has been successfully synced to the cloud instance, they can test the workload to get a sense of how the application will perform. If operations are not acceptable, the workload migration steps will need to be repeated.
Load testing ensures proper auto-scaling functionality and validates the new environment’s ability to handle the projected load while also identifying maximum connections before it fails. This also reveals average page load times, application performance and facilitates additional performance optimization.
Validate it with the Application Owners (users)
Once the workloads are migrated and live, and basic structural/functional testing has been performed, it’s time for end user functional testing to identify any user process errors that must be corrected. Testing is not complete until everything works perfectly, and all applications and operations are running seamlessly in the new environment.
Determine Cut-Over Time (when to stop using datacenter and start using in cloud)
Once the workload is replicated and the environment is verified through the cloud provider dashboards, you’re ready to identify the size of the cutover window. This will be determined by data change rate, workforce needs, number of users, and replicating from the other side. There must be a period where you freeze rights at the old site, let everything sync up, and start the front-end cut over.
Cutovers are normally scheduled during slow periods, at night or on weekends. Leading cloud service providers can provide an accurate timeframe for downtime duration so that cutovers can be scheduled at times that ensure minimal impact on your business operations.
High application availability needs may require a multi-stage cutover for large numbers of users that consists of carefully scheduled groups. This stage involves access provisioning via identity access management tools (IAM) for single sign-on (SSO), multi factor authentication (MFA). and other IAM tools based on user access. The in-house database must be well synchronized with the cloud database during the migration period.
Launch in the Cloud vs. Datacenter
Once the cutover is complete, decide how long you want to keep your legacy environment up. Leave yourself enough time to properly test drive your new cloud to ensure everything is working. Once you have verified that the workload is fully operational, the legacy environment can be removed.
Phase Away from Datacenter
Third-party migration appliances via provided standard APIs make it possible to sustain both the new and old environments in a way that the old environment can be removed after cutover. This way,you can control cutover timing to the new storage. Once a prescribed period of successful operation with the cloud environment has passed, the team can remove the appliance and the on-premises infrastructure can be decommissioned or repurposed. This usually happens during an annual scheduled maintenance window.
Taking the Long View of Application Migration
Application migration is an ongoing process happening in phases over many years. Some migrations will bring immediate business returns while others will require more in-depth planning and execution to deliver the massive benefits that will continue to pay off for the business far into the future.
Each additional migration wave should be part of your overall migration strategy that is backed by a partner skilled in all aspects of cloud migration. This enables you to have the expertise, the personnel, and the long-term consultative approach. Such a partner can help to adjust the strategy based on the real-world timetables of each successive migration and the different workloads and databases.
Some migration phases will be shorter due to the differences in the workloads while others will be more complex because of legacy applications and goals for containerization and microservices. A cloud migration partner like Techolution can help support your near term and long-term goal of cloud migration. They should all be part of a holistic approach to create an environment where it’s easy to spur product innovations and digital experiences for end users and customers.
Everything from the choice of cloud provider to each step of the migration process can be time and labor intensive in ways that require expertise across all major cloud providers, along with skills like AppDev and cloud environment development. At Techolution, our approach has been to be cloud agnostic to provide the best solution for each individual need. To learn more about how our cloud migration processes support your business outcomes, click here.