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Improve Cloud Migration Success by Selecting the Right Strategy

November 16, 2022 No Comments

by Sathish Krishnan

According to Forrester’s “The State of the Cloud in the US, 2022” report, 64 percent of U.S. infrastructure decision makers at enterprise organizations said modernization is a top IT priority over the next 12 months. While the conversation usually focuses on setting a cloud migration strategy for the organization, that’s the wrong emphasis. There’s no single cloud migration strategy applicable to all a company’s applications, data, and digital resources. That’s because there are seven possible cloud migration strategies that range wildly in potential costs, risks, and benefits to the organization. To minimize the migration risk and allocate the IT budget responsibly, it’s crucial for IT decision makers to understand all seven.

Start with an assessment

Before anything is migrated, organizations must conduct a general assessment on their readiness to move resources to the cloud. The assessment needs to examine the company’s level of expertise, available resources, and budget for cloud migration projects. Digging deeper, it is important for cross-disciplinary teams to assess the business case for migrating each specific IT asset. This asset-level evaluation details the desired business outcome from a migration to the cloud and gauges the business need, value, and risk of migrating or not migrating. With this information, the team can select the best cloud migration strategy that suits the company’s specific circumstances.

The cloud migration strategy selection process for any given asset (or set of assets) occurs in the context of what strategies are chosen for other assets. Since time and resources are limited, prioritization affects whether and how an asset will be moved to the cloud and how long it can remain at the current location. The initial strategy may be only a weigh station as the team waits for resources, budget, and time when a more sophisticated cloud migration strategy can be executed on that asset.

The seven “R”s of cloud migration strategies

Limited budgets and personnel resources, plus shifting business needs, require consideration of multiple migration options. These seven cloud migration strategies increase in sophistication, reduce costs, and ensure potential return on investment.

1. Retire: Here, applications and hardware are decommissioned or archived since they no longer have any business value or are running in an unsupported operating system.

 2. Retain: In this case, the asset remains where it is, for now. This strategy suits mission critical or high value applications and assets that are too high-risk to move to the cloud without detailed planning. For example, mainframes often require careful assessment and planning before migrating to the cloud due to the high volume of transactions run on them. The applications and infrastructure may also need to stay where they are due to security, compliance, or data residency requirements.

3. Rehost: This is a “lift & shift” strategy used to move applications or machines from an existing platform to the cloud without making any changes to them. It is a low- risk, low-cost strategy that avoids potential issues like compatibility, long cut over windows, or performance disruption. In this phase, the machines and applications are not optimized for cloud technologies. Instead, cloud optimization occurs after more resources are migrated and it becomes easier to integrate cloud services to manage workloads. Examples of this strategy include migrating the Active Directory running on a Windows Server 2016 (on-prem or data center) to 2016 Windows Server in Cloud or an Interactive Voice Response System with vendor constraints locking it into specific versions to an equivalent compute instance in the cloud.

4. Relocate: This is another low-cost, low-risk strategy for moving the servers, including a mass migration of servers and data at the same time. They can be on-prem servers moving to a cloud version of the platform or moving from one cloud platform to another, such as relocating servers from a VMware software-defined data center to VMWare Cloud or moving the data in Google BigQuery from a location in the United States to Asia-Northeast1(Tokyo). Relocation is a valuable strategy when there is a regional shift in operations or customer base. In this case, it makes sense to move data and applications closer to the business’s new center to maintain or improve performance. This option is a fast way to migrate without impacting the application’s overall architecture.

5. Repurchase: Also called “drop & shop,” this strategy works when the organization wants to replace an on-premises application with a software as a service (SaaS) version. The SaaS option may be from the same vendor, but it doesn’t need to be. The point is that a SaaS version of that business function is available and provides greater business value than the existing application. The advantage could be through new features and performance or financial as the SaaS license structure is more flexible than traditional licenses, or it could be both.

6. Re-platform: Think of this strategy as “lift & shift, then tinker.” In contrast to rehosting (lift & shift), re-platforming involves changing the environment by introducing cloud optimizations to the application. By changing the environment, this strategy introduces a bit more risk, which is why it’s a good option when there’s a solid business case for optimizing the application. The move could be to improve security or performance, or the motivation could be to reduce costs and overhead by moving it to a fully managed container platform or serverless service. An application that’s been rehosted will often get re-platformed once time and resources are available. Organizations re-platform applications when they leverage the End-of Support-Migration Program for Windows server to migrate the applications to the latest, supported version of windows servers on cloud platforms.

7. Refactor or re-architect: A refactor strategy involves a complete re-architecting of the asset in its new environment and is used when the goal is to take full advantage of cloud-native features to improve agility, performance, and scalability. This is a full cloud optimization strategy often fueled by business objectives to improve and accelerate product development and release schedules or to provide a speedier, richer customer experience. This isn’t a day one strategy, but generally applied to high value applications that were already rehosted or re-platformed. A company might migrate and replicate VSAM Files of CICS and batch on mainframes to a No-SQL database in the cloud. Mainframes can be re-architected to set up controller daemons and publishers to stream VSAM Files to Managed Kafka instances

Cloud migration is a long-haul journey

Advanced cloud technologies provide opportunities for improved data analysis and governance, more reliable and flexible disaster recovery, and faster innovation. The ultimate goal for most businesses is to take full advantage of the agility, scalability, and sustainability that a cloud architecture offers. As larger proportion of an organization’s IT environment becomes cloud native, the pressure grows to migrate existing IT applications and architecture to the cloud too. The most effective way to mitigate risk and move existing resources to the cloud responsibly is by selecting the right migration strategy.

About the Author:

Sathish Krishnan is a senior cloud architect for Amazon Web Services with more than 12 years of experience in digital transformation, focusing on infrastructure, security, and machine learning. He can be reached at sathishkrish450@gmail.com.

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