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What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

A cloud migration strategy is the plan an organization makes to move its data and applications from an on-premises architecture to the cloud. Not all workloads benefit from running on cloud-based infrastructure, so it is important to validate the most efficient way to prioritize and migrate applications before going live. A systematic, documented strategy is crucial.

The cloud migration process

Your exact roadmap for migrating to the cloud depends on the size and complexity of your environment. These are the basic steps:

  • Planning your migration: Before getting started, you should be clear on your reasons for the move and which strategy can best support them. Start by assessing your current environment. It is important to calculate your cloud server requirements based on current application resource requirements to avoid buying more than you need. At this critical stage, you will need the resources and expertise of a specialist. An application performance management (APM) solution can provide complete, real-time visibility into your environment and all its dependencies while rolling up strategy as part of the package.
    See our application performance management solution
  • Choosing your cloud environment: Now that you have the visibility you need to achieve success, you are ready to decide what kind of cloud model you want to adopt. Whether you choose public cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud, or multicloud (or services like Google, Azure, or AWS) depends on which best serves your current and future needs. Just make sure your APM solution extends to your chosen provider(s).
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  • Migrating your apps and data: Planned accurately, your actual migration should be plain sailing. Still, keep in mind cloud security concerns, such as complying with security policies and planning for data backup and recovery. Also be sure to use APM to baseline premigration performance in preparation for the next step.
    See our approach to cloud application management
  • Validating post-move success: You cannot declare a cloud migration successful without evidence that it works as expected. With a solution like AppDynamics Business iQ, you can prove the benefits of cloud migration by comparing pre- and post-move application performance, from both a technical and business perspective, in a low-risk test environment.
    See how Business iQ works

What are the types of cloud migration strategies?

Broadly known as the "six R's of migration," these are the six most common approaches:

1. Rehosting ("lift and shift")

As the name implies, this involves lifting your stack and shifting it from on-premises hosting to the cloud. You transport an exact copy of your current environment without making extensive changes for the quickest ROI. Companies with a conservative culture or no long-term strategy for harnessing advanced cloud capabilities are well suited for rehosting.


2. Replatforming

As a variation on the lift and shift, replatforming involves making a few further adjustments to optimize your landscape for the cloud. Again, the core architecture of applications stays the same. This, too, is a good strategy for conservative organizations that want to build trust in the cloud while achieving benefits like increased system performance.


3. Repurchasing

This means moving your applications to a new, cloud-native product, most commonly a SaaS platform (for example, moving a CRM to Salesforce). The challenge is losing the familiarity of existing code and training your team on the new platform. Even so, repurchasing might be your most cost-effective option if moving from a highly customized legacy landscape.


4. Refactoring

Refactoring (or rearchitecting) means rebuilding your applications from scratch. This is usually driven by a business need to leverage cloud capabilities that are not available in your existing environment, such as cloud auto-scaling or serverless computing. Refactoring is generally the most expensive option, but also the most compatible with future versions.


5. Retiring

Once you have assessed your application portfolio for cloud readiness, you might find some applications are no longer useful. In this case, simply turn them off. The resulting savings might even boost your business case for applications that are ready for migration.


6. Retaining

For some organizations, cloud adoption does not yet make sense. Are you unable to take data off premises for compliance reasons? Perhaps you are not ready to prioritize an app that was recently upgraded? In this case, plan to revisit cloud computing at a later date. You should only migrate what makes sense for your business.


What are the benefits of migrating to the cloud?

At a basic level, the cloud's strength lies in its elastic infrastructure. This advantage manifests in many different ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Decreased hosting costs: In the cloud, you no longer have to worry about the costs and conditions of keeping physical servers running. A third-party data center manages the servers, often on a subscription-based model that cuts out capital expenditure.
  • Agility and scalability: CIOs rank operational agility as a top driver for cloud adoption, according to Gartner. Cloud-based services not only automatically scale capacity to growing or fluctuating demand, but also allow teams to collaborate on application updates or issues from anywhere instead of on-site. This level of continuity can give businesses a real competitive edge.
  • Decreased footprint: Because server capacity scales up and down to fit your cloud needs, you only use the energy and resources you need. You could potentially even reduce your pool of data centers to one or even zero for reduced environmental impact.
  • Disaster recovery: This is important to businesses of all sizes, but it is historically expensive for smaller businesses. Today, the cloud is helping more organizations implement backup and recovery solutions that take less time and upfront investment.
  • Security: The cloud offers greater security than data centers by storing your sensitive data and apps centrally. Most cloud providers also keep unwanted traffic from accessing your data by rolling out regular security updates, leaving you free from security threats, and free to take care of what matters to your business.

What are the challenges of cloud migration?

Ensuring smooth application migration is a top challenge for today's technologists. Even after finding the right cloud provider, the migration process carries a certain degree of risk. Critical scenarios to be aware of include:

Downtime

The migration process might require taking in-house servers temporarily offline. But outages could be disastrous to application performance -- and by extension, customer loyalty -- if not supported by proper backup or resource allocation.


Data loss

On its move to the cloud, your company's data is at its most vulnerable. Some of it might be unavailable or at risk of breach. Extreme care must be taken to minimize breach risk by applying cloud security controls such as privileged access management and app encryption.


Resource management

Not all IT professionals trust the cloud. Employees who were used to managing physical servers might need educating on the new infrastructure. In other cases, cloud adoption requires introducing new IT management roles or transforming the very backbone of business operations.


Interoperability

It is not easy to get your existing applications to communicate properly with newer cloud environments. To help ensure they do, you might have to adapt your processes to those of your cloud provider.


Conclusion

These are only a few of many migration challenges that justify careful planning, testing, and resourcing. Work with an APM provider to account for these challenges before developing your cloud migration plan, and you can migrate with confidence.


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