Managing the big ‘R’ in cloud migrations

By August 28, 2020 Powerlearnings

Compiled by Mitu Kumari Senior Executive, Marketing at Powerupcloud Technologies.

Cloud adoption, with migRation at the core, is possibly one of the biggest technology-based organizational changes undertaken. It has a profound impact on a business’s ability to innovate and fully transform the way they operate.

Moving the business applications and data to the cloud is a great strategic move that gives a competitive edge by reducing IT costs. It helps lighten the budget and promotes greater collaboration. It also has the added benefit of disaster risk management and supports continuity of business operations.

However, in spite of the obvious benefits, migRation to the cloud can be a daunting process; and needs to be done in the right way to ensure it supports business needs and delivers the value that it promises.

According to the seventh annual Cisco Global Cloud Index (2016-2021), which focuses on data centre virtualization and cloud computing, both consumer and business applications are contributing to the growing dominance of cloud services over the Internet.

Key highlights & projections of cloud computing:

  • The study forecasts global cloud data center traffic to reach 19.5 zettabytes (ZB) per year by 2021, up from 6.0 ZB per year in 2016.
  • Cloud data center traffic will represent 95 percent of total data center traffic by 2021, compared to 88 percent in 2016.
  • It is expected that by 2021 there will be 628 hyperscale data centers globally, compared to 338 in 2016, 1.9-fold growth or near doubling over the forecast period. 

The key to a successful cloud migRation is in the planning. Creating a migRation strategy is vital and involves identifying the potential options, understanding the interdependencies between applications, and deciding upon what layers of an application would benefit from migRation. Each of these steps provides more opportunities to take advantage of cloud-native features.

Having established a basic understanding of the importance of migRation, let’s try to understand the primary steps to be taken by  organizations and businesses to migrate applications to the cloud.

But, prior to that, an organisation/ business needs to analyze its current applications and systems.

What are the parameters to analyze in order to select the right migRation approach?

There are broadly two considerations – business and technology; for migrating an application to the cloud, which can also affect the choice of a migRation strategy. Using this knowledge, organizations can outline a plan on how they’ll approach migrating each of the applications in their portfolio and in what order.

The 3 main parameters for the business considerations are:

  • Business Fit: When the current application is not a suitable fit for business requirements.
  • Business Value: When the current application does not provide adequate value to the users in terms of information quality and support.
  • Agility: The existing application failing to keep up with the current pace, creating financial and operational risks in the future.

The 3 main parameters for the technical considerations are:

  • Cost: The total cost of ownership for maintenance of the application is higher than its business value. 
  • Complexity: Complexity within current application causes various problems which can be a major factor in maintainability and time, cost and risk of change.
  • Risk: With regards to older applications various level risk exists within the application tech stack or functionality. 

Before an organization begins moving to the cloud, it is vital that IT executives and business leaders take a step back and carefully craft a strategic plan for cloud migRation and application transformation.

Identifying issues in the application layer:

The underlying cause of the issue and its location must be identified within the application. The source of the issue can exist within 3 main aspects of software component: 

  •  Technology 
  • Functionality
  •  Architecture 

Functionality = Likely source for fit and value issues. 

Technology = Common Source for Cost, Complexity and Risk issues Architecture.

 Architecture = Contributor for both and has an impact on complexity and agility.

After having identified and confirmed the application layer issues, the next key step would be to choose the right and most suitable migRation strategy.

How do you choose a migRation strategy, the big ‘R’:

There are 6 primary approaches to choose the most suitable migRation strategy. They are listed and defined as below.

  1. Rehost
  2. Replatform
  3. Repurchase
  4. Refactor/Rearchitect
  5. Retire
  6. Retain

1. Rehosting (lift-and-shift)

The simplest path is the lift and shift, which works just how it sounds.  It’s about simply taking the existing data applications and redeploying them on the cloud servers. This is the most common path for companies new to cloud computing, who are not yet accustomed to a cloud environment & can benefit from the speed of deployment.

Gartner refers to this as rehosting, because it involves moving your stack to a new host without making extensive changes. This enables a rapid, cost-effective migRation, minimal disruption and quick ROI, minimizing the business disruption that could occur if the application was to be refactored.

 However, the lack of modification to your system also prevents you from harnessing certain cloud migRation benefits in the short term.

You shouldn’t treat lift and shift as the end of the migRation story. Very often, applications can be migrated with lift and shift and then, once in the cloud, re-architected to take advantage of the cloud computing platform.

When to choose Rehost approach for cloud migRation:

  • Avoiding expensive investments in hardware: For example, if setting up a data operation center is costing twice compared to the cloud, it is advisable to move the application to the cloud with minor or no modification.
  •  Some applications can be easily optimized once migrated to the cloud: For those applications, it is a good strategy to first move them to the cloud by adopting the rehost approach as it is and then optimize.
  •  In the case of commercially off-the-shelf applications: It is impossible to do code changes on those applications. In this case, it is a better idea to adopt rehost.
  •  MigRation of applications that need to keep running: For organizations choosing to move to the cloud and having some applications that just need to keep running without disruption or modification, rehost is a good

2. Re-platforming (lift-tinker-and-shift)

 This 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 making a commitment.

Re-platforming is really a variation of lift and shift, here you might make a few cloud (or other) optimizations in order to achieve some tangible benefit, you aren’t otherwise changing the core architecture of the application, but use cloud-based frameworks and tools that allow developers to take advantage of the cloud’s potential.

While this and migRation has some cost associated, it is sometimes a significant savings when compared to the cost of rebuilding the existing legacy system. 

When to choose Re-platform approach for cloud migRation:

  •  Organizations willing to automate tasks that are essential to operations, but are not the business priorities. 
  • If for moving an application to cloud, the source environment is not supported, then a slight modification is required.
  •  Organizations looking to leverage more cloud benefits other than just moving the application to the cloud. 
  • Organizations that are sure that minor changes won’t affect the application functioning.

3. Re-purchase (Drop & Shop)

Repurchasing is another fast way to access cloud technologies. Software as a service (SaaS) can take existing data and applications and translate them into a comparable cloud-based product. This can help make significant progress with operations such as customer relationship management and content management. 

Repurchasing involves a licensing change where the on-premise version is being swapped for the same application but as a cloud service. Dropping on-premise applications and switching to the cloud can offer improved feature sets, without the complexities of rehosting the existing application. The approach is a common choice for legacy applications that are incompatible with the cloud. 

When to choose Re-purchase approach for cloud migRation:

  • Use this approach for legacy applications incompatible with the cloud: If you find existing applications that could benefit from the cloud but would be difficult to migrate using “lift and shift”, “drop and shop” could be a good option.
  • Many commercial off the shelf (COTS) applications are now available as Software as a Service (SaaS): Repurchasing, an excellent and fast way to access cloud-based SaaS that is tailored to your business needs by the cloud provider.

4. Re- architecting (Re-factoring)

This strategy calls for a complete overhaul of an application to adapt it to the cloud. It is valuable when you have a strong business need for cloud-native features, such as improved development agility, scalability or performance.

Highly customized applications that provide a key business differentiator should be re-architected to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. 

Re-architecting means a rebuild of your applications from scratch to leverage cloud-native capabilities you couldn’t otherwise, such as auto-scaling or serverless computing.  It is  the most future-proof for companies that want to take advantage of more advanced cloud features.

When to choose Re-architect approach for cloud migRation:

  • When restructuring of the code is required to take full advantage of cloud capability.
  • When there is a strong business need for adding features and performance to the application and that is not possible within the existing framework.
  • When an organization is looking to boost agility or improve business continuity, the re-architecting strategy is a better
  • When an organization is willing to move to a service-oriented architecture, this approach can be used.

5. Retire

In today’s data centers there are oftentimes several workloads that are no longer used but have been kept running.  This can have lots of causes, but in some cases, the best thing to do to a workload is to simply turn it off.

Care should be taken to ensure that the service is decommissioned in a fashion that is in line with your current procedure of retiring a platform, but oftentimes migRation is a great time to remove deprecated technology from your service catalog.

When to choose Retire approach as part of cloud migRation:

  •  In many cases, during a migRation project – identify applications that are redundant, and shutting them down can represent a cost-saving.
  •  There may already be existing plans to decommission the application or consolidate it with other applications.

6. Retain

In some cases when a server or IT service is still required and cannot be migrated to the cloud it makes the most sense to retain that server or service in its current position. This Retain methodology is used in a hybrid cloud deployment that uses some on-premises IT servers and services combined with cloud technologies to offer a seamless user experience.  

While it might at times make sense to retain a technology, doing so is only advisable in select circumstances.  The impact of retaining some technologies on-premises is usually an increased demand for hybrid connectivity.

When to choose Retain approach as part of cloud migRation:

  • The business is heavily invested in the on-premise application and may have currently active development projects.
  • Legacy operating systems and applications are not supported by cloud environments.
  • The application is working well-no business case for the cost and disruption of migRation.
  • For industries that must adhere to strict compliance regulations that require that data is on-premise.
  • For applications that require very high performance, the on-premise option may prove the better choice.

Managing the big R:

So in conclusion, which is the best approach to cloud migRation?

Different use-cases have different requirements, so there is no “one size, fits all”. Selecting one among the six migRation approaches is  finding the best that suits your specific needs. That said, there is a way to determine whether one of these three cloud migRation approaches will suit you better than the others.

While choosing an approach for cloud migRation, to improve the technology, architecture, & functionality of the IT infrastructure, one must always keep in consideration the cost and risk associated with the chosen approach.

Start by checking if the app can be moved to a cloud environment in its entirety while maintaining running costs and keeping operational efficiency in check. If the answer is yes, starting with a rehost is a good idea.

If rehosting is not an option or if cost-efficiency is at a level that needs to be improved, you can also consider replatforming as the approach to take. Remember that not all apps can be migrated this way, so you may end up having to find other solutions entirely.

For workloads that can easily be upgraded to newer versions, the repurchase model might allow a feature set upgrade as you move to the cloud.

The same can be said for refactoring. When there is a strong business need for refactoring to take full advantage of cloud capability, which is not possible with the existing applications. The time and resources to complete the full refactoring should be taken into consideration.

Some applications simply won’t be required anymore, so it is important to identify these prior to migrating to the cloud & retire, so that you do not end up paying for application infrastructure that is not delivering any business benefit.

Retain portions of your IT infrastructure, if there are some applications that are not ready to be migrated, would produce more benefit when kept On-prem or it was a recent upgrade.

One can certainly take (most of) the hassle out of moving to the cloud with the right cloud migRation strategy. You will be left with the exciting part: finding new resources to use, better flexibility to benefit from, and a more effective environment for your apps.

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