Cloud Migration Strategy Must-Do’s: Preparation, Migration, and Maintenance
“81% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure in the cloud, which made up 73% in 2018.” — IDG
The drivers for cloud migration may vary, from improved performance and ease of management to unlocking remote workforce, simplifying development, and accelerating the time-to-market.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits, risks, and different approaches to cloud migration. We’ll also examine the key factors to focus on at each stage of your own migration strategy, from preparation and planning to monitoring and support for your apps in the cloud.
What Is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is a complex process of moving apps, databases, and other business elements into a cloud infrastructure. The term generally describes on-premise-to-cloud migrations, but it can also sometimes refer to migrating between two clouds. Data migrations aren’t necessarily an all-or-nothing solution. Many businesses prefer a hybrid cloud model — a mixture of a private cloud, a public cloud, and/or a traditional on-premise data center.
Benefits of Cloud Migration
The promise of reduced costs
Migrating to the cloud provides a way for organizations to switch from CapEx (capital expenditures) to OpEx (operating expenditures). Many cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing models, meaning that businesses only pay for the resources they actually need, without having to buy expensive hardware or pay software license fees.
The cloud makes it easier for organizations to scale their operations up and down to meet the changing demand without having to add on-premise resources to the data center. Moreover, cloud services allow remote employees to collaborate from anywhere online.
Better end-user experiences
Cloud computing enables businesses to perform operations in the background while reducing the need for specific knowledge required to use products or services. The cloud also presents opportunities for continuous availability, backups, and disaster recovery, meaning that applications should be available and working even with critical incidents.
Oftentimes, the cloud offers a safer digital environment compared to on-premise data centers, although you’ll still need to follow all related regulations and take action to keep the data protected on your end.
With the numerous cloud migration benefits in mind, remember that moving to the cloud may be a labor-intensive and time-consuming task. More importantly, it’s an unforgiving process: any slip can turn the benefits of the cloud into risks and added costs. That’s exactly why we’re writing this post: to help you avoid situations where cloud migration would make your system slower and more expensive, or even not work at all.
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What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?
A cloud migration strategy is a framework describing how you’ll move your system, either wholly or partially, to the cloud. Migration-to-cloud strategies should analyze which business elements to migrate, what order, which tools to use, and which new functionality to add later on.
“It took time and effort to transform Netflix into a cloud-native company, but it put us in a much better position to continue to grow and become a global TV network.”Netflix
Having a robust strategy can be vital for your project’s success. This is often why businesses seek assistance from cloud migration companies with proven capabilities and expertise to deliver reliable custom cloud migration solutions.
Why You Should Have a Cloud Migration Strategy
Cloud migration is a complex process. The more complex the migration, the greater the risks of failure. Why do cloud migration projects fail so often? Let’s take a look at the hard facts:
A 2019 study by IHS Markit, which surveyed 350 enterprises around the globe, found that 74% of respondents had moved at least one application back from the cloud into their own infrastructure. The top drivers for this decision were performance and security issues (52%), followed by the temporary nature of cloud deployments (40%), and regulatory issues (21%).
A 2020 study by Accenture asked respondents to identify the greatest barriers to leveraging the advantages of the cloud. The four barriers mentioned most frequently were security and compliance risk (65%), the complexity of business and organizational change (55%), legacy infrastructure and/or application sprawl (44%), and lack of cloud skills with the organization (42%).
A 2017 research by Forrester Consulting showed that businesses often fail to migrate to the cloud without blowing their budgets.
- Fewer than 40% of survey respondents said that they managed to stay on budget while migrating and using the cloud;
- Almost 58% of respondents said they went over their cost estimates when running their infrastructures in the cloud;
- When asked what they’d do differently in their next migration, the top answers were increasing performance visibility; investing in tools; increasing education of costs, risks, and benefits; and spending more time on application assessment.
“We believe these conclusions echo what we’ve been hearing from customers for years — that cloud migration is a difficult, confusing process that must be approached in a holistic fashion. The successful organizations are the ones that take the time to plan, evaluate their options, and adopt continuous-learning feedback processes.”JOE KINSELLA, CLOUDHEALTH TECHNOLOGIES
The success of your cloud migration efforts lies in your ability to set clear goals and benchmarks, create a timeline, and anticipate potential challenges. In other words, you’ll need an all-embracing migration-to-cloud strategy.
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Cloud Migration Strategies
Here are some of the most popular strategies for system migration:
Rehosting is also referred to as a “lift-and-shift” approach within which a business “lifts” an existing system from its current environment and “shifts” it to a new cloud-based infrastructure.
Rehosting is a quick way to take a system to the cloud with little disruption to business operations, as there’s no change to the app’s architecture and little or no change to the app’s code.
Rehosting is only feasible if the destination cloud can support the application as-is. Migrating the app without addressing its existing challenges can lead to added costs and performance issues in the future.
Replatforming is a variant of the lift-and-shift migration. This approach involves making small changes to the app code to optimize it for the cloud.
Replatforming allows businesses to optimize their apps for cloud-native capabilities. Businesses can start small, test things out, and scale without investing many resources in the short term.
Businesses should take extra effort to prevent uncontrolled growth in the scope of the project, which can turn a replatforming project into a costly refactoring one.
With a technical migration approach, the app remains “as is,” while the OS and the database are upgraded to the cloud.
Technical migration allows businesses to leverage the cloud’s benefits without rewriting apps from scratch.
Migrating databases to the cloud entails spending significant time and cost to analyze, plan, and execute each step of the migration, with close attention to data integrity across databases.
Application migration involves transforming the application alongside the OS and the database. Generally, this approach uses one of the three following scenarios:
New system implementation
With new system implementation, the applications are either rebuilt to leverage the cloud or replaced with new off-the-shelf applications.
For businesses upgrading from a legacy infrastructure with complicated workflows and heavily customized code, implementing a new system can be the “fresh start” needed to eliminate problems with the previous architecture.
In contrast to modernizing old systems, the organization can choose a new suite of applications to go into, regardless of their current environment or vendor.
New system implementation is an expensive, time-consuming process. Businesses need to define every aspect of the new system, including which of the existing functions to keep and which new ones to add.
For large, complex projects, implementing a new system can take years of effort and require various specific skills and governance, sometimes up to fundamentally changing the way that a company operates. Moreover, should the company need to maintain access to the existing data, this may create an added task for data migration, presenting a new set of challenges.
This approach implies upgrading and reengineering each of the three individual layers: applications, databases, and the OS.
System conversion is an effective approach for organizations looking to bring their business processes to a new platform and add extensive new features while keeping their existing customizations.
The implementation’s success will depend on the organization’s ability to replicate its workflows, which requires thorough knowledge of the company’s current infrastructure.
This approach implies selective data migration to a new target system. This enables businesses to selectively redesign aspects of their systems while maintaining important customizations and solutions.
Consolidating application landscapes can significantly accelerate the transformation and reduce downtime compared to multiple projects. Selective data transformation provides a phased approach to migration, reducing the risk and effort of moving to the target system significantly.
One of the big challenges in landscape transformation is automating and optimizing transformation processes across many large infrastructure instances. This calls for a thorough analysis and testing of all data elements in the transformation.
Cloud Migration and Modernization Techniques
An important element of any migration strategy is to collect app portfolio data, understand the interdependencies in your IT stack, assess the technical complexity of the migration, and develop a detailed step-by-step plan for migrating each application. Below, we list the most popular approaches used in cloud migration:
- Encapsulation — leaving applications in their current environment, and connecting it to the new environment and access layers via the API.
- Rehosting — “as is” application migration to the cloud.
- Replatforming — moving apps to the cloud without major changes while making small modifications to use the available cloud services.
- Refactoring (Rearchitecting) — redesigning applications and rewriting significant portions of the code.
- Repurchasing — replacing an outdated legacy application or system with a cloud-based version.
- Retaining — not opting for migration or opting for a hybrid infrastructure with some workloads in the cloud and some on-premise.
- Retiring — identifying assets that can be turned off without compromising business value.
Every business journey is unique, and your project may include elements of different cloud migration techniques at various stages of its lifetime.
What to Include in Your Cloud Migration Strategy
Generally, cloud migration involves three major phases: pre-migration, migration, and post-migration.
Things to Do Before Cloud Migration
Consider the goals you want to achieve. Perform a comprehensive functional and technical assessment of your system and then create a step-by-step plan for your migration project. During this phase, you should carefully consider the resources, costs, timelines, and potential risks of cloud computing for the project. Each virtual machine incurs an ongoing cost to add to your budget.
Weigh your options strategically: sometimes, buying a new on-premise server may be a more cost-efficient solution than migrating and managing applications. Make allowance for the extra resources spent on training and reengineering activities involved in the migration.
Things to Do During Cloud Migration
Start with setting up a working development environment for your project. Ensure that all components, including third-party solutions, are compatible with the new environment. Make sure to thoroughly verify that your deployment is working as expected. If possible, run services in parallel for some time to make sure everything is working properly before you make the final move.
Monitoring the security and performance of your system is a must-do for any cloud migration process. Keep an eye out for any performance issues during the migration, when it’s easier to take a step back and make the necessary corrections. A simple “lift-and-shift” approach is rarely the end of the cloud migration journey.
Things to Do After Cloud Migration
Make sure that everything works as intended, with all the data in the right place and format. Ensure that the data is secure and protected. Remember that you’ll need to use and maintain your system flawlessly at all times. This will require you to train your IT team or hire professionals to support the infrastructure, monitor essential KPIs, and respond to issues promptly.
7 Steps of a Successful Migration Process
- Evaluation. Assess the potential benefits, costs, and risks of cloud computing for your business;
- Planning. Decide on the cloud migration tools, skills, and techniques required to migrate to a cloud computing environment;
- Preparation. Get the environments and teams ready for data migration;
- Testing. Verify that everything works as intended, and set app performance benchmarks;
- Migration. Take the data to the cloud, and address any remaining issues;
- Launch. Help users settle with the new environment and assign resources to routine management and optimization tasks.
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How to Get Cloud Migration Strategy Right: Dos and Don’ts
Below, let’s take a close look at the most common mistakes in cloud migration, and share tips on how to avoid cloud migration pitfalls at each step of the process.
Don’t overlook business analysis. The very first question to answer in any cloud migration strategy is: “What value do we expect to achieve by moving to the cloud?”
Do take a good 360-degree look at your databases, code, servers, storage, and your team’s expertise to identify cloud solutions that will work best for your business-specific goals.
“Just picking up an application and moving it to the cloud sounds easy — but why are you doing that?”Dave Bartoletti, Forrester
Don’t neglect app analysis before migration. Not all applications are cloud-friendly. Some apps are better fit to work on-premise, while others are better suited to run on private or hybrid clouds than on a public cloud. Some may need minor tweaking, while others may require refactoring to adapt to the cloud environment.
Do take time to scrutinize your apps, infrastructures, integrations, app security, and compliance needs before making the migration decision.
Don’t underestimate cloud migration costs. The key factors affecting the cost of migration include data storage, processing capabilities, security, testing, and monitoring tools.
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Do consider the cost for all ongoing activities associated with the cloud, including the cost of reallocating your technical teams towards the migration.
Don’t forget about the relevant training. Oftentimes, migrating to the cloud means creating a completely new working environment for your teams. This applies to both IT and non-IT employees (such as HR, Finance, or Marketing).
Do make sure to conduct proper onboarding for all business units to help them get their bearings in the new environment.
Don’t just lift-and-shift without further optimization. The purpose of the cloud shouldn’t be all about presumably cheap storage. The real value of migration lies in cloud-native features — in particular, automatic scaling, performance management, and resource optimization, to name a few.
Do remember is that your software should be able to grow and evolve as your business grows. You should be able to make the necessary improvements and upgrades to ensure that the system stays up-to-date. You may need to plan any potential modifications and re-architecting activities in advance to take full advantage of your new cloud environment.
By following these best practices, we managed to accomplish a complex transition of the Webforms system to Microsoft Azure. The project was challenging from the jumpstart as some of the system elements weren’t compatible with the cloud environment. That’s why after building the cloud architecture, we paid great attention to rewrite the legacy components. Read the fullest case study from our experts to see the big picture of cloud migration.
Practical Advice from ModLogix
One of the biggest questions to ask yourself when building a migration strategy is whether you really need the cloud.
Our experience shows that on-premise solutions, despite their low scalability, tend to have higher speed and greater bandwidth capacity than virtual machines in the cloud. Moreover, many solutions require specific hardware, which calls for re-engineering work so that a solution can work in the cloud. This was the case with one of our clients, a platform that offers database and verification services for clinical trials. The move to the cloud took less than a month; however, improvements to the solution itself are still underway.
Second, take the time to find a reliable cloud migration service provider who can deliver reengineering services such as adapting the system, rewriting and expanding the code, and improving the architecture. Cloud migration still offers its share of speed bumps along the way. While each case is different, having a fair share of bumps in the past can help identify risks ahead of time and understand how to avoid them or solve problems that arise.
If your system uses third-party tools, see whether they’re compatible with the cloud. For example, one of our clients found that their fingerprint scanning tool’s provider used a different version of the product for recording data than our client for storing it, which resulted in the loss of some data records. It’s better to spot such issues before moving to the cloud. While you’re still working with test data, you can afford to lose it without negative consequences for your business.
The final point to remember is — never migrate everything at once. Companies often underestimate the project’s complexity and simply rehost the product to the cloud, only to see the entire solution fall apart. This can only be avoided with step-by-step cloud migration and integration processes.
At ModLogix, we start by creating a step-by-step plan for the project. We put the development environment in the cloud and use it to check the compatibility of products, upgrade them if needed, and add custom code. We populate the environment with test data and test the functionality and performance of all product components. During this time, the system is still running in the old environment, which allows us to avoid long downtime during rehosting. And it’s only after everything has started to work perfectly and all the risks have been taken care of that we proceed to moving the solution to the cloud.
Cloud migration promises many advantages — scalability, stability, and ease of business innovation are among them. At ModLogix, we know that software must serve the business. All the solutions we offer to our clients are reasonable and appropriate for their organization. If moving to the cloud is good value for money for your business, and you are ready to invest in it for strategic advantage, feel free to start the project with a reliable team of cloud migration experts and follow our tips for the best results.
If you have any questions, contact us to set up a free hour-long consultation with our team. Our developers have strong working experience with cloud migration projects. We’ll give you a straight-up overview of your project’s specifics, build a cloud architecture for an application, and offer cloud migration services according to your needs.
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