All organizations eventually inherit outdated technology infrastructure. As new technology becomes available, old apps and services become increasingly expensive to maintain.
That expense can come in a variety of forms:
Cloud computing is one of the most significant developments of the past decade. Organizations are increasingly moving their legacy IT assets to new environments hosted on cloud services like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
Cloud migration projects enable organizations to dramatically improve productivity, scalability, and security by transforming on-premises applications to cloud-hosted solutions.
However, cloud migration projects are among the most complex undertakings an organization can attempt. Some reports state that nine out of ten migration projects experience failure or disruption at some point, and only one out of four meet their proposed deadlines.
The better prepared you are for your application migration project, the more likely it is to succeed. Keep the following migration checklist handy while pursuing this kind of initiative at your company.
The more you know about your legacy applications and their characteristics, the more comprehensive you can be with pre-migration planning.
Start by identifying the legacy applications that you want to move to the cloud. Pay close attention to the dependencies that your legacy applications have. You will need to ensure the availability of those resources in an IT environment that is very different from the typical on-premises data center. You may need to configure cloud-hosted resources to meet specific needs that are unique to your organization and its network architecture.
Evaluate the criticality of each legacy application you plan on migrating to the cloud. You will have to prioritize certain applications over others, minimizing disruption while ensuring the cloud-hosted infrastructure can support the workload you are moving to.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to application migration. The inventory assessment may bring new information to light and force you to change your initial approach. It’s best that you make these accommodations now rather than halfway through the application migration project.
Once you know what applications you want to move to the cloud and what additional dependencies must be addressed for them to work properly, you’re ready to select a migration strategy.
These are generalized models that indicate how you’ll transition on-premises applications to cloud-hosted ones in the context of your specific IT environment.
Some of the options you should gain familiarity with include:
The success of your project relies on creating and leading a migration team that can respond to the needs of the project at every step. There will be obstacles and unexpected issues along the way – a high-quality team with great leadership is crucial for handling those problems when they arise.
Before going into the specifics of assembling a great migration team, you’ll need to identify the key stakeholders who have an interest in seeing the project through. This is extremely important because those stakeholders will want to see their interests represented at the team level. If you neglect to represent a major stakeholder at the team level, you run the risk of having major, expensive project milestones rejected later on.
Not all stakeholders will have the same level of involvement, and few will share the same values and goals. Managing them effectively means prioritizing the values and goals they represent, and choosing team members accordingly.
Your migration team will consist of systems administrators, technical experts, and security practitioners, and include input from many other departments. You’ll need to formalize a system of communicating inside the core team and messaging stakeholders outside of it. You may also wish to involve end users as a distinct part of your migration team and dedicate time to addressing their concerns throughout the process.
Keep team members’ stakeholder alignments and interests in mind when assigning responsibilities. For example, if a particular configuration step requires approval from the finance department, you’ll want to make sure that someone representing that department is involved from the beginning.
It’s crucial that every migration project follows a comprehensive plan informed by the needs of the organization itself. Organizations pursue cloud migration for many different reasons – your plan should address the problems you expect cloud-hosted technology to solve.
This might mean focusing on reducing costs, enabling entry into a new market, or increasing business agility – or all three. You may have additional reasons for pursuing an application migration plan. This plan should also include data mapping.
Choosing the right application performance metrics now will help make the decision-making process much easier down the line. Some of the data points that cloud migration specialists recommend capturing include:
You will also want to establish a series of cloud service-level agreements (SLAs) that ensure a predictable minimum level of service is maintained. This is an important guarantee of the reliability and availability of the cloud-hosted resources you expect to use on a daily basis.
Mapping dependencies completely and accurately is critical to the success of any migration project. If you don’t have all the elements in your software ecosystem identified correctly, you won’t be able to guarantee that your applications will work in the new environment. Application dependency mapping will help you pinpoint which resources your apps need and allow you to make those resources available.
You’ll need to discover and assess every workload your organization undertakes and map out the resources and services it relies on. This process can be automated, which will help large-scale enterprises create accurate maps of complex interdependent processes.
In most cases, the mapping process will reveal clusters of applications and services that need to be migrated together. You will have to identify the appropriate windows of opportunity for performing these migrations without disrupting the workloads they process. This often means managing data transfer and database migration tasks and carrying them out in a carefully orchestrated sequence.
You may also discover connectivity and VPN requirements that need to be addressed early on. For example, you may need to establish protocols for private access and delegate responsibility for managing connections to someone on your team. Project stakeholders may have additional connectivity needs, like VPN functionality for securing remote connections. These should be reflected in the application dependency mapping process.
Multi-cloud compatibility is another issue that will demand your attention at this stage. If your organization plans on using multiple cloud providers and configuring them to run workloads specific to their platform, you will need to make sure that the results of these processes are communicated and stored in compatible formats.
Once you fully understand the scope and requirements of your application migration project, you can begin comparing cloud providers. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google make up the majority of all public cloud deployments, and the vast majority of organizations start their search with one of these three.
Your organization’s needs will dictate which of the major cloud providers offers the best value. Each provider has a different pricing model, which will impact how your organization arrives at a cost-effective solution. Cloud pricing varies based on customer specifications, usage, and SLAs, which means no single provider is necessarily “the cheapest” or “the most expensive” – it depends on the context.
Additional cost considerations you’ll want to take into account include scalability and uptime guarantees. As your organization grows, you will need to expand its cloud infrastructure to accommodate more resource-intensive tasks. This will impact the cost of your cloud subscription in the future. Similarly, your vendor’s uptime guarantee can be a strong indicator of how invested it is in your success.
Given all vendors work on the shared responsibility model, it may be prudent to consider an enterprise data backup solution for peace of mind.
If you choose to invest time and resources into refactoring applications for the cloud, you’ll need to consider how this impacts the overall project. Modifying existing software to take advantage of cloud-based technologies can dramatically improve the efficiency of your tech stack, but it will involve significant risk and up-front costs.
Some of the advantages of refactoring include:
Some of the drawbacks you should be aware of include:
There are many factors to take into consideration when moving data from legacy applications to cloud-native apps. Some of the things you’ll need to plan for include:
By the time your data arrives in its new environment, you will need to have virtual machines and resources set up to seamlessly take over your application workloads and processes. At the same time, you’ll need a comprehensive set of security policies enforced by firewall rules that address the risks unique to cloud-hosted infrastructure.
As with many other steps in this checklist, you’ll want to carefully assess, plan, and test your virtual machine deployments before deploying them in a live production environment. Gather information about your source and target environment and document the workloads you wish to migrate. Set up a test environment you can use to make sure your new apps function as expected before clearing them for live production.
Similarly, you may need to configure and change firewall rules frequently during the migration process. Make sure that your new deployments are secured with reliable, well-documented security policies. If you skip the documentation phase of building your firewall policy, you run the risk of introducing security vulnerabilities into the cloud environment, and it will be very difficult for you to identify and address them later on.
You will also need to configure and deploy network interfaces that dictate where and when your cloud environment will interact with other networks, both inside and outside your organization. This is your chance to implement secure network segmentation that protects mission-critical assets from advanced and persistent cyberattacks. This is also the best time to implement disaster recovery mechanisms that you can rely on to provide business continuity even if mission-critical assets and apps experience unexpected downtime.
Once your data and apps are fully deployed on secure cloud-hosted infrastructure, you can begin taking advantage of the suite of automation features your cloud provider offers. Depending on your choice of migration strategy, you may be able to automate repetitive tasks, streamline post-migration processes, or enhance the productivity of entire departments using sophisticated automation tools.
In most cases, automating routine tasks will be your first priority. These automations are among the simplest to configure because they largely involve high-volume, low-impact tasks. Ideally, these tasks are also isolated from mission-critical decision-making processes.
If you established a robust set of key performance indicators earlier on in the migration project, you can also automate post-migration processes that involve capturing and reporting these data points.
Your apps will need to continue ingesting and processing data, making data validation another prime candidate for workflow automation. Cloud-native apps can ingest data from a wide range of sources, but they often need some form of validation and normalization to produce predictable results. Ongoing testing and refinement will help you make the most of your migration project moving forward.
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