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Cloud Migration Strategies: How to Get It Right

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SaaS adoption continues to accelerate, with many companies opting to move their internal applications from on-premises data centers to public cloud environments. 

In fact, Gartner reports that the cloud will be responsible for roughly 11% of spending growth within the enterprise software segment in 2022 as companies focus on upgrading their software stacks to hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) models. The cloud is also on pace to be twice the size of the non-cloud market by 2025.

But while moving an application to the cloud may seem simple from the outset, it can be difficult to execute. Organizations often struggle to transition from traditional on-prem application architectures because they lack the planning and guidance necessary to navigate challenges and make strategic decisions.

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As such, it’s critical to have a comprehensive strategy in place before leaping into the cloud. Continue reading for a complete breakdown of why you need a cloud migration strategy and what you can do to ensure a successful transition to the cloud.

What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

A cloud migration strategy is an operational plan that companies establish to transition legacy applications and their data to public cloud environments — like Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure. 

The strategy should account for all aspects of cloud migration, including testing and releasing. 

Why Should I Use a Cloud Migration Strategy?

Cloud migration is not something that you want to take lightly — especially when it involves core applications that are central to your business’s main operations. 

Companies often face many challenges when migrating to the public cloud. For example, cloud sprawl can occur when a business loses track of its instances, storage locations, and providers. Going over budget, a lack of internal expertise and security vulnerabilities are all additional threats that your business may encounter along the way. 

By forming a cloud migration strategy, you can anticipate issues before they occur. A robust cloud migration strategy can reduce risk and increase your chances of successful cloud migration with minimal interruptions. 

How to Develop a Cloud Migration Strategy

Now that you have a better idea of what a cloud strategy is and why you need one, let’s take a look at specific steps you can take to develop a strategy of your own.

Companies generally tend to differ when forming cloud migration strategies. After all, no two organizations are alike. Even so, there are common steps that you will need to go through during this process.

1. Assess Your Environment 

Jumping from legacy applications to the cloud will introduce a completely new set of demands as well as opportunities for your engineering team. Oftentimes, companies will charge into a cloud migration and then realize they lack the resources to pull it off. This can lead to project delays and cause projects to lose momentum.

To prevent this from happening, one of the first things you should do is assess your engineering department to understand its available resources. Consider the department’s capacity to handle change and take on shifting roles and responsibilities. Additional training may be necessary to help employees navigate the cloud market.

2. Appoint a Migration Architect 

A cloud migration can involve numerous teams and individuals, including executive decision-makers, IT managers, developers, consultants, and vendors. This can lead to conflicts and confusion — unless you take proper precautions. 

As with any large-scale project, it can help to establish a single migration architect to oversee operations and take responsibility for it. This individual will be responsible for approving key decisions, maintaining a budget, and ensuring the project adheres to your organization’s policies and expectations. 

As a tip, it’s worth having a second person in command who can step in and keep the project moving. That way, in the event the chief architect leaves the organization or takes on another role, your migration will still be on track.

3. Determine Your Cloud Model

One of the most important decisions you will have to make is whether you want to use a single provider or multiple providers. Most enterprises now use multiple cloud providers and allocate workloads strategically to minimize costs and maximize performance. But there are pros and cons to the multi-cloud approach, and it isn’t for every company.

Going through a single provider is generally easier for developers and managers, largely because it will come with a single system to learn and manage. But this can also lead to vendor lock-in, especially as you continue to iterate your application and form a security strategy. 

Conversely, working with multiple providers will allow you to access competitive pricing and strengthen risk management. However, a hybrid model is much more complex than a single cloud. For this reason, it requires careful orchestration and subject matter expertise. 

Have your cloud team weigh the pros and cons of single and multi-cloud early on in the process and determine what’s best for your organization. Keep in mind you can always start with a single cloud provider and scale your operations to other services down the road.

4. Consider Your Performance Metrics

After you determine a cloud model and pick a provider, you can turn your focus to key performance indicators (KPIs). Chances are likely you will have to adjust your current approach and modernize your KPI list for the cloud. 

When building your cloud KPI checklist, you can break it down into multiple categories including costs, labor, operational performance, business value, and agility. Some common examples include energy costs, budget variance, compliance, and service availability. 

These KPIs will most likely change over time as your cloud usage increases. This is where it helps to have a single cloud dashboard where your team can monitor progress on a historical and real-time basis.

5. Prioritize Workloads for Migration 

The next step is to consider how you want to migrate your application to the cloud. You can either do this all at once or in stages. It largely depends on the scope and complexity of your application and your team’s bandwidth. 

During this process, it’s a good idea to outline your dependencies and determine what you can move and how it will impact performance. Create application maps and link the services that they connect to so that you can avoid impacting the application during the migration. 

6. Migrate Your Data

Data is the lifeblood of any enterprise application. That being the case, it’s critical to exercise caution when moving it from an on-prem environment to the cloud. Data is a fundamental component of application workflows. If you aren’t careful, it can become lost, corrupted, or exposed during a migration.

As such, it’s very important to be strategic about how and where you move your data. Your migration strategies should also closely align with your specific use cases and network resources. 

Most cloud providers offer cloud data migration services that you can use to transfer data efficiently and securely. Consult with your cloud providers and ask about any tools they might offer. 

7. Form an Identity Access Management (IAM) Strategy

Migrating an application into the public cloud can pose a significant risk due to the higher number of human and non-human identities that will be able to access your information and services. Non-human identities may include things like serverless functions and service principles. 

To strengthen your security posture, you will want to have a robust IAM strategy in place. This will make it possible for managers to track identity changes when they occur and prevent identities from going rogue and silently taking on additional permissions. 

The 7 Rs of Application Modernization

On the whole, there are several strategies you can use to migrate applications and data into the cloud. Gartner’s “5 Rs for Migrating Applications to the Cloud ” remains a popular model for companies today. AWS also offers an updated list of cloud migration strategies with two additional steps baked in.

Here’s an overview of each strategy, according to the AWS framework for cloud migration.

1. Refactor 

Refactoring involves rewriting certain parts of your application to make the application suitable for a public cloud environment. For example, your application may use older databases. You may need to update them with modern services to ensure operational stability. Refactoring usually makes sense when you need to add new functions to an application, modernize it, and eliminate vulnerabilities.

2. Replatform 

Replatforming involves moving an application to the cloud and adding a new optimization mechanism. In this case, you might transfer an application but change the underlying database to one that is a better fit for your cloud environment. 

3. Repurchase 

Repurchasing — also known as drop and shop — occurs when you switch from one product to another. For example, you might abandon a traditional software license for a SaaS subscription model.

4. Rehost 

Rehosting, or lift and shift, is arguably the simplest form of migration. During this process, you make minimal changes to your architecture and simply move the application to a cloud environment. 

Lift and shift may seem like a great idea at first, especially if you have a smaller team or an application that isn’t very complex. However, teams often run into a variety of challenges when attempting this strategy. 

To illustrate, lift and shift often leads to compatibility issues, especially when migrating older applications. What’s more, lift and shift may not address any of your underlying performance issues or vulnerabilities. If you have underlying problems in your applications, you could wind up simply transferring them into the cloud without actually fixing them. 

5. Relocate 

Relocating happens when you move infrastructure to the cloud but don’t purchase any new hardware, modify your existing operations, or rewrite your applications. As Amazon explains, this strategy is specifically for VMware Cloud on AWS. Another term for this strategy is a hypervisor lift and shift. 

6. Retain 

Retaining is a strategy where you keep applications in your source environment. This strategy makes it possible to postpone certain projects and revisit them to perform updates at a later date. Companies often retain applications when there is no immediate need to migrate them into the cloud. 

7. Retire

As you assess your application, you may discover that it no longer adequately serves your organization. This is common with older legacy applications. In this case, your team may choose to retire or decommission applications instead of moving them to the cloud. 

When to Move to the Cloud

Part of the reason it’s necessary to form a cloud migration strategy is so that you can justify the project and explain your reasoning for making the transition. This is especially important when working with administrators who are skeptical of migrating certain workloads off-site.

Here are some common reasons why businesses decide to move their cloud applications into hosted environments. 

Simplify Hosting

One of the downsides to using traditional applications is that you have to install key enabling components locally. This can be very challenging for global teams with distributed workers. 

By moving internal applications to the cloud, employees will be able to access them from any location. This makes it faster, easier, and more cost-effective to deploy cloud services and release updates. 

Improve Disaster Recovery

Many businesses today use traditional data centers for disaster recovery. This is expensive and complex and it requires ongoing maintenance which pulls engineers away from other projects. 

Many businesses now use cloud infrastructure for disaster recovery to achieve cost savings, reduce complexity, and ensure their apps remain accessible in the event of an unplanned outage or disaster. Cloud facilities offer full redundancy to protect against a variety of outages.

Enhance Security 

Migrating to the cloud is a great way to make your internal applications more resilient against today’s sophisticated and evolving cyberthreats. 

Of course, most public cloud providers use a shared responsibility model. This means that your business will still have an important role in daily security management. 

Key Considerations When Migrating Applications to the Cloud 

Examine Hybrid Cloud for Highly Sensitive Applications

While cloud providers pride themselves on security, it can be risky to rely on third-party cloud vendors to power your internal applications. These systems can sometimes fail, potentially exposing sensitive data. Further security issues can arise when transporting sensitive data over long distances using the public internet.

Many organizations are now adopting hybrid models and using a combination of edge deployments along with on-prem infrastructure. With this strategy, you keep highly sensitive applications and data on-site for tighter control.

Don’t Expect Immediate ROI

Advocates of cloud computing often point to cost savings and ROI as key benefits to migration. However, it can take a long time — several years even  — to achieve financial benefits from a cloud migration.

So, if your business is looking for immediate financial benefits from cloud migration, it’s important to temper your expectations and think long-term. Otherwise, you could be in for a disappointment. 

Limited Network Capacity 

Cloud applications can put a significant amount of strain on your network — especially if they use streaming media. This can bring your entire network to a standstill and negatively impact global users.

Before moving to the cloud, conduct a network assessment to make sure you have the resources in place to support your migration. This could require working with a third-party network as a service (NaaS) provider that can provide access to fully managed, affordable, and optimized infrastructure.

Using Cloud Test Environments to Control Costs

The journey to the cloud is full of pitfalls that can slow down your operations and drive up costs. And one of the top mistakes that companies make is they continue to rely on outdated and inefficient testing environments. 

Poorly managed test environments can have a major impact on your bottom line. According to our estimates, if your team makes 76 releases per year with an unmanaged test environment, you will lose roughly $1.4 million in provisioning delays, underutilized test environments, delayed production releases, application quality costs, and extra labor costs. 

As we explain in a related post, it’s critical to transition to cloud test environments and embrace testing and infrastructure automation. This is because test environments are inherently temporary in nature. So, if you can manage to cut the cycle time to just a few minutes, then you can significantly reduce operational costs and reallocate funding into higher areas of need. 

This is possible using a solution like Plutora Test Environment Manager, which is part of a complete toolkit for application delivery. This TEM solution lets you schedule and execute functional test scripts to check application behavior and environment health, check bookings, and run test audits with custom reports. 

If you’re serious about maximizing your cloud migrations and maximizing cost savings, Plutora can help get you on track. Plutora is also currently offering a new promotion with special pricing, enhanced reporting, and lightning-fast implementations. 

Want to start right away? Take Plutora for a spin by requesting a free demo today

Justin Reynolds

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.