What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving business applications and data from on-premise architecture to the cloud: a virtual pool of scalable compute, network and storage resources. It’s the key to growing your infrastructure.
What are the benefits of cloud migration?
Enterprises migrate to the cloud for many reasons, but generally when faced with the challenge of growing their IT infrastructure in the most cost-effective and secure way possible. Migrating to the cloud offers advantages like:
- Flexibility: No business offering experiences the same level of demand by the same number of users all the time. When your apps see fluctuations in traffic, cloud infrastructure allows you to scale up or down to meet demand so you use only the resources you need.
- Scalability: As your business grows, so will your databases, analytics, and other snowballing workloads. The cloud offers the ability to expand within existing (or with additional provisioned) infrastructure so applications have room to grow without impacting performance.
- Agility: Part of growth is remaining flexible enough to respond to rapid changes in technology resources. Cloud adoption provides this by drastically reducing the time it takes to procure new inventory and storage.
- Productivity: Your cloud provider can manage the complexities of your infrastructure so you can focus on productivity. What’s more, the simplicity and remote accessibility of most cloud solutions means your team is finally able tofocus on what matters — like growing your business.
- Security: By storing data centrally, the cloud offers more security than data centers. Most cloud providers also offer built-in features including security analytics, periodic updates, and cross-enterprise visibility.
- Profitability: The cloud follows a pay-per-use model. No need to pay for more than you need or to continually invest in updating, maintaining, training on, and making space for physical servers.
The best part? These benefits yield returns not just for the business, but customers, too, since they lay a foundation for enhanced performance and innovation in the long term.
Types of cloud migration strategies
Migrating to the cloud could be a smart investment for your business. But like many companies, you might be wondering where to start. Let’s hold off on planning your strategy for a moment and first go over your options.
Adapted from a strategic framework Gartner identified back in 2010, these options are now more widely known as “the six Rs of migration”:
1. Rehosting (or, lift-and-shift)
The simplest path is the lift and shift, which works just how it sounds: Take your application and drop it into your new hosting environment without modifying the app’s code or architecture. It’s also the most common path for companies new to cloud computing, who benefit from the speed of deployment without having to spend time or money on planning for expansion.
On the other hand, by migrating your existing architecture, you’re basically using the cloud as just another data center. And it’s much more than that. For some companies it pays to make better use of the cloud services available — for example, to add scalable functions to your app to improve the experience for a growing segment of users.
In that case, consider:
Known to some as the “lift-tinker-and-shift,” re-platforming involves making a few cloud optimizations without otherwise changing the core architecture of your apps. This, too, is a good strategy for organizations that aren’t ready for expansion or configuration, or those that want to build trust in the cloud before:
Re-factoring means a rebuild of your applications from scratch to leverage cloud-native capabilities you couldn’t otherwise, such as auto-scaling or serverless computing. A potential drawback: vendor lock-in as you’re re-building on a cloud infrastructure. And as you might expect, it’s the most time-consuming and expensive route. But it’s also the most future-proof for companies that want to take advantage of more advanced cloud features.
That covers the three most common approaches to migrating your existing infrastructure. In other cases, you might be better off:
This means completely replacing your existing applications with a new cloud-native, SaaS-based platform (for example, a homegrown CRM with Salesforce). The challenge is losing the familiarity of existing code and training your team on the new platform. But the benefit is avoiding development costs. Repurchasing is most cost-effective when moving from a highly customized legacy landscape or minimizing the number of services or apps you have to manage.
Or, once you’ve assessed the size and nature of your application portfolio, you might find cloud migration isn’t right for you — yet. It happens! At least for now, consider:
Did you find some applications are no longer useful? Simply turn them off. The resulting savings might serve to boost your business case for application migration when you are ready to make the move.
It might be that some (or all) of your applications should stay in house — for example, apps that manage internal processes or have special sensitivity to the organization. Don’t be afraid to revisit cloud computing at a later date. You should only migrate what makes sense to the business.
Cloud migration process
There is no one-size-fits-all move to the cloud. The way you approach the above cloud migration strategies depends on a few things: your business model, the size and complexity of your current environment, and migration goals included. At this stage, you’ll want to rely on the expertise of your IT team — with the help of tools we cover below — to understand the ins and outs of your environment. Only then can you design a roadmap for which apps to migrate, how, and when.
But whether you move all your apps and services at once or (more commonly) take the hybrid approach of keeping some apps on-premise, most migrations follow the same basic steps.
1. Plan your migration
We can’t stress it enough: Cloud migration requires solid planning to be successful. Before getting started, get clear on your reasons for the move and which migration approach best supports them. Here’s where you might employ cloud migration tools to help inform your migration plan by:
- Providing full visibility into your on-premise environment, including all system dependencies
- Evaluating performance, server, and security requirements. Also consider what training your teams will need. In DevOps? With a certain cloud provider? It helps to assess where your organization falls on the cloud maturity curve
2. Choose your cloud environment
After evaluating your current application resource requirements, you’re ready to choose a cloud provider that meets your needs (and only those needs).
Popular platforms include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Each offers a number of different cloud models to adopt, whether public cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud, or multi-cloud. Unsure which you need? Build out, price out, and test a virtual workspace to see how things look in deployment.
3. Migrate your apps and data
Planned accurately, your actual app and data migration should go pretty smoothly.
Note you have three additional options for transferring local data center to the public cloud: an online transfer, using either public internet or over a private network, or a physical offline transfer whereby you upload local data onto an appliance to ship to the cloud provider. (The best approach depends on the amount and type of data you’re moving and speed at which to do it. Your provider can help you decide.)
4. Validate post-move success
Congratulations on the move! Of course, your work isn’t done until you can show the return on investment in your migration. Again, you’ll need the help of tools below.
Types of cloud migration tools
Cloud providers and third-party vendors alike offer a number of open source, cloud-based, and/or automated tools and services designed to:
1. Help prepare for cloud migration
2. Monitor and manage its progress
3. Validate post-migration success
Let’s run through a few essentials.
Application performance management (APM)
Bear in mind that while cloud vendors provide access to a rich set of metrics for responding to changes in your cloud environment, these metrics are not usually in the context of the overall application. You’ll need a separate monitoring solution for that level of visibility. Using a solution like AppDynamics APM, you can make real-time correlations between cloud service utilization, application performance, and end-user experience.
Business intelligence monitoring
This is the type of tool you’ll need to prove cloud migration benefits. Look for a tool like AppDynamics Business iQ, which can track business transactions, simulate the user experience during each phase of your migration project, optimize business performance accordingly, and compare pre- and post-move performance baselines from both a technical and business perspective to reveal the true impact on your bottom line.
Unified monitoring is an emerging capability that provides complete visibility into your entire application ecosystem — end user, application, database, infrastructure, and supporting components — running on-premises and in the cloud. With full insight into everything that matters end to end, you can more easily detect cloud migration issues that would usually lead to war-room calls.
Be sure to choose tools that integrate with your operating systems and platforms. The cloud monitoring capabilities you need down the line might even determine which cloud provider you opt for today.
Challenges of cloud migration
Without proper planning, you can’t make the most of the magic the cloud has to offer. But even the most well-thought-out migrations come with a certain degree of risk. Common pitfalls to watch out for include:
- Interoperability: It’s no easy feat to get your existing applications to communicate with newer cloud environments. To ensure they do, you might have to adapt your processes to those of your cloud provider.
- Resource availability: The migration process might require taking in-house servers temporarily offline. But downtime could be disastrous to application performance — thus customer loyalty — if not supported by a proper plan for disaster recovery.
- Data integrity: How will you keep your data secure while moving it to the cloud where you have less control? Is your sensitive data subject to compliance requirements like GDPR? These are real concerns, both during and after migration.
- Resource management: Not all IT professionals trust the cloud yet. If your team was used to managing physical servers, they might need educating on the new infrastructure or even reconfiguring to introduce new roles.
The larger or more complex your current infrastructure, the harder these challenges are to overcome. That’s why it’s imperative that your IT team takes on this exciting transformation armed with cloud migration services that can mitigate these risks — plus a sound strategy, room for growth, and an openness to change.