Application Migration to the Cloud: Steps to Successfully Run the Cloud Migration Process

Application Migration to the Cloud: Steps to Successfully Run the Cloud Migration Process

Dorota Owczarek - December 7, 2022

Migrating to the cloud is a strategic decision that can impact your entire organization. By taking the time to plan and execute your migration process carefully, you can ensure a successful transition that meets your business needs. The following steps will help you run a smooth cloud migration process and take full advantage of the cloud’s benefits.

Cloud Migration – What is it?

Cloud migration is the process of moving data, applications, and workloads from on-premises or legacy systems to access via the internet. The Cloud enables resources such as computing power and data storage to be made available on-demand without the user’s direct involvement, and migrating to it means providing access to these capabilities for new or existing functionalities.

High-level cloud migration strategy

High-level cloud migration strategy

There are many benefits to migrating to the cloud, such as improving scalability, enabling application modernization, increasing reliability, and/or reducing costs. It should come as no surprise, then, that businesses are migrating their applications to the cloud in droves – in fact, a recent study showed that application migration is the number one priority for companies from the digital transformation perspective.

However, keep in mind that not all applications are a good fit for the cloud, and not all migrations are performed equally. You must consider the workload, application type, and your organization’s specific needs before deciding to migrate, as well as noting that a successful cloud migration requires careful planning and execution to avoid disruptions to your business.

Key Types of Cloud Migration – Migration Strategies for Workloads (the 7 Rs)

Many different approaches can be taken when migrating to the cloud, but they typically fall under one (or more) of the 7R cloud migration strategy types for each workload. This is shown by the infographic below.

Seven strategies of smooth migration journey for existing applications, data, and workflows to the cloud landscape

Seven strategies of smooth migration journey for existing applications, data, and workflows to the cloud landscape

The 7R methodology of cloud migration strategies

The 7R methodology of cloud migration strategies

Refactor

The first option is to make a type of code- or architecture-level change where an application is rewritten to be more modular and scalable to improve its performance. Refactoring is usually done when an application needs to be made more cloud-friendly or efficient but doesn’t require a complete rewrite for it to be made cloud-compatible.

A refactor can be a time-consuming and expensive process, but it’s often worth the investment because of the potential to improve an application’s performance in the cloud. What’s more, refactoring allows you to modernize an application and take advantage of the latest technology trends.

Replatform

In a replatforming migration, also known as a “lift and modify,” application code and/or architecture is changed for it to be made compatible with the cloud. This approach is often used for applications that are not originally designed for the cloud but would benefit from cloud-native capabilities, such as scalability and flexibility.

Replatforming can be a time-consuming and expensive process, but it’s often worth the investment because replatformed applications tend to perform better in the cloud than their on-premises counterparts. In addition, replatforming can provide an opportunity to modernize an application and take advantage of the latest technology trends.

Repurchase

Sometimes the best, or indeed an only option, is to start from scratch and purchase a new application that’s already been designed and built for the cloud. While this “rip and replace” migration strategy, as it is sometimes known, may sound like a daunting task, it can actually be simpler than replatforming an application.

Repurchasing is often used when an existing application is not compatible with the cloud or would be too expensive to replatform. Of course, this approach comes with its own cloud migration challenges, like finding an application that meets all your business needs, migrating data from the old application to the new one, and training employees on how to use the new one.

The main disadvantage of repurchasing, though, is that it can be expensive, especially if you need to purchase multiple applications. In addition, it can take time to find the right application and get it up and running.

Rehost

Many companies begin their cloud journey by rehosting – moving an application to a cloud-based infrastructure. This step, also known as “lift-and-shift,” is the simplest way to move an application to the cloud without changing any of the existing architecture or code.

The rehosting approach is often used for applications that are already compatible with the cloud or need to be moved quickly, with minimal impact on the business. On the other hand, different strategies usually mean making significant changes to how an application is built so it can run more effectively in a cloud environment.

Relocate

It is also possible to move an existing cloud-based application from one environment to another (e.g., cloud to cloud migration). This might be necessary if you need to change providers or if you want to take advantage of a different type of environment.

Relocating an application can be a complex and lengthy task, so plan ahead to check that the application will be compatible with the new environment. In addition, you’ll need to migrate data and application settings from the old environment to the new one.

Retain

In certain situations, it makes more sense to keep an application on-premises rather than migrate it to the cloud. This could be because the application is incompatible with the cloud, has to be kept on-prem due to legal or privacy restrictions, or would be too expensive to rehost, replatform, refactor, rebuild, or relocate.

It should also be noted that not all applications need to be moved to the cloud, in which case it’s perfectly fine to keep them on-premises, provided they are still meeting business needs and are well-maintained. The main disadvantage of retaining an application on-premises is that you miss out on the benefits of the cloud, such as scalability, flexibility, and cost savings.

Retire

In some cases, the hassle and expense of migrating an application to the cloud may not be worthwhile at all. This is often the case for legacy applications that are no longer supported by the vendor or used by the business.

Retiring an application may sound like a simple process, but it’s important to consider the data associated with the application and how it will be managed going forward. In addition, you need to take into account any dependencies on the application so that they can be addressed before retirement.

The main advantage of retiring an application is that it frees up resources that can be used elsewhere. On the other hand, you will lose any data or functionality associated with the application.

Cloud Migration Steps

Migrating applications to the cloud can be a daunting task, so you need to have a plan in place that you can follow for the process to be as smooth as possible. Below, we will discuss the steps you need to take to successfully migrate your applications to the cloud with minimal downtime to keep your business running efficiently.

The step-by-step cloud strategy - moving from on premises infrastructure to the cloud computing environment

The step-by-step cloud strategy - moving from on premises infrastructure to the cloud computing environment

01: In-Depth Analysis of Your Current On-Premises Solution

Migrating to the cloud is not a decision that should be taken lightly – you need to carefully think about all aspects of your application and IT landscape before making the switch. This includes understanding how your applications work, their dependencies, and how they interacts with other applications and systems.

Carrying out an in-depth analysis of your current on-premises solution is a key step in application migration planning. You must clearly understand your application’s data needs and compatibility with the target cloud platform, among other things.

02: Migration Scope Definition – What Will Be Migrated?

Next, you have to decide what will be migrated – this includes data, applications, and infrastructure. Data migration is often one of the most complex aspects of an application migration because everything needs to be transferred correctly and completely. In contrast, the application itself needs to be taken into account if it is to work better in the cloud than it does on-premises.

Additionally, you have to consider any dependencies that the application has, such as on other applications or specific infrastructure. Finally, you must also consider the application’s infrastructure in the cloud, including understanding how the application will be deployed and any networking or security requirements.

03: Migration Objectives – Why You Want to Migrate Applications to the Cloud?

It’s crucial to clearly understand why you want to migrate your application to the cloud and what your objectives are for the migration. The former could be for several different reasons, such as application or data center retirement, application or server consolidation, business expansion, cloud-native application development, or disaster recovery.

For the latter, do you want to reduce costs, improve application performance, and/or take advantage of cloud-native features? Whatever your objectives are, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) – e.g., improve application performance by 25% within 3 months.

04: Migration Ownership – Who Will Own the Whole Process?

One of the most vital aspects of application migration is deciding who – out of the internal organization, application owner, application teams, or information technology (IT) operations – will be responsible for the whole process, including everything from planning and execution to monitoring and post-migration support.

It’s necessary to establish who will be involved in each stage of the migration project so that everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are. This will help to avoid any confusion or overlap in tasks, which could lead to delays or errors in the migration process.

05: Choosing Cloud Environment and Approach

Another critical decision you will make when migrating applications to the cloud is deciding which cloud deployment and service models would be best for your application. The main options are public cloud or private cloud and hybrid cloud or multicloud. Think about the application’s requirements and which of these models would be most suitable, as well as considering your budget and the level of control that you want over the application and its data.

Cloud migration to private cloud vs. public cloud

Cloud migration to private cloud vs. public cloud

Public cloud means that the application and its data will be hosted by the cloud provider, while private cloud means that the application and data will be hosted on-premises. Hybrid cloud is a mix of the two, with some application and data components being hosted on-premises and others in the public cloud. Multicloud is when an application uses two or more different cloud environments, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

The provider you choose will also play a role in application migration, as different cloud providers offer various levels of support and cloud services. The provider you choose must meet your application’s requirements and offer the level of support you need throughout the migration process.

06: Explore Cloud Migration Tools and Frameworks That Can Facilitate Your Migration

The right tools and techniques for your application migration will vary depending on the application being migrated, but some common tools and techniques include:

  • configuration management tools (e.g., Puppet, Chef, and Ansible)
  • server provisioning tools (e.g., AWS CloudFormation and Azure Resource Manager)
  • orchestration and automation tools (e.g., Jenkins, CircleCI, and TravisCI)
  • containerization tools (e.g., Docker, Kubernetes, and Mesos)
  • application performance monitoring tools (e.g., New Relic and AppDynamics)
  • logging and tracing tools (e.g., Fluentd, Logstash, and Splunk)
  • application security testing tools (e.g., OWASP ZAP and Burp Suite)

There are also various cloud migration frameworks that can automate and orchestrate application migration to make the process easier and less time-consuming, such as:

  • Double-Take Move
  • PlateSpin Migrate
  • CloudEndure Migration
  • Zerto Virtual Replication
  • Sungard Availability Services

07: Set Desired Migration Plan, Timeline, and Budgets

Carrying out a successful application migration requires careful planning for everything to go smoothly and according to schedule so that you can avoid any potential delays or issues. The application migration plan should be comprehensive and cover all aspects of the migration, including:

  • application discovery and assessment
  • dependency mapping
  • risk assessment and application impact analysis
  • cloud architecture design
  • performance testing and application tuning
  • data migration
  • application replatforming
  • application cutover
  • decommissioning of on-premises data center

The application migration budget should also be taken into account because there can be significant costs associated with application migration, particularly if you are using a cloud provider for the first time. Don’t forget to factor in these costs when planning the application migration so that there are no surprises later on.

08: Communicate Your Cloud Migration Strategy Across the Organization

Determining the application migration plan and timeline is one thing, but it’s just as important to communicate this to all stakeholders and relevant personnel within the organization. Application migration is a significant undertaking and will likely require changes to some processes and workflows, so get everyone on the same page and knowing what to expect by communicating (for example):

  • application(s) that will be migrated
  • cloud provider(s) being used
  • timeline
  • budget
  • risks and challenges
  • process and methodology
  • teams, operations, and ownership

09: Define Cloud Metrics

Decide on the cloud migration key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure the success of application migration. These KPIs should be aligned with the business goals of the application migration so that you can track your progress against these goals.

Some common application migration KPIs are:

  • time to migrate
  • cost of migration
  • number of application outages
  • application performance
  • application uptime
  • customer satisfaction levels

10: Prioritize Workloads Migration

A further key part of application migration is deciding which workloads should be migrated first before you start to plan and carry out the actual process. This decision should be based on several factors, such as:

  • business criticality of workload
  • application dependencies
  • data size and complexity
  • application performance goals
  • cloud provider compatibility
  • security and compliance requirements

11: Automate Repetitive Tasks

Setting up DevOps tools, processes, and pipelines that help to automate application migration can be a huge time-saver, as well as carrying out the task consistently and accurately. Automating repetitive tasks also frees up time for application migration teams to focus on more complex tasks and problems.

Some of the most common tasks that can be automated in application migration are:

  • provisioning of cloud infrastructure
  • application deployments (CI/CD pipelines)
  • application monitoring
  • application scaling
  • application logging and tracing
  • data backup and recovery
  • security compliance testing

12: Create Test Plans and Scenarios

Testing the process and any associated tools or infrastructure allows you to identify potential issues early on and make the necessary changes before the actual application migration. When testing cloud migrations, it’s useful to create comprehensive test plans that cover every aspect.

A pilot application migration enables you to test the process on a small scale first, since this can help to reduce the risk of application outages or other problems when carrying out the proper cloud migration. Piloting lets you identify any potential issues with application compatibility or performance, as well as any changes that need to be made.

13: Plan For Failure – Backups, Downtime, Reverse Migration

According to estimates, one in four application migrations will fail. Given this high likelihood, it’s crucial to have a plan in place for what to do if things go wrong. This plan should include provisions for application downtime, application outages, data loss, and application reversals (migration back to the on-premises environment).

Virtually all application migrations will experience some form of application downtime or service outage during the process, so have a contingency plan in place that details how they will be handled and how to minimize the impacts. All application data should be backed up before starting the cloud migration, process and regular backups made throughout, which can be used to restore any lost data.

There are certain cases where it can be beneficial to “reverse” an application, for example, if it isn’t being used frequently or is costing too much to keep in the cloud. Reverse application migration isn’t a relatively uncommon approach, but it’s still one that should be considered if an application isn’t performing well in the cloud and can be a method to clean up your cloud environment.

14: Go Live – All at Once or Iteratively Service by Service

Sometimes it’s best to migrate the entire application all at once, but this approach can be risky because there is a high chance of downtime and errors during such a large-scale transition. Alternatively, you may opt for an iterative service-by-service migration approach, which allows for the evaluation of each part of the application individually before shifting over to the new platform as a whole.

Ultimately, the option that works best will depend on, for example, the type of application being migrated, its size and complexity, and any existing dependencies across different systems and services. Whichever option you choose, each process has to be preceded by verifying your cloud migration checklist.

15: Validate Your Results

Once you have completed your cloud migration, the KPIs that you defined regarding, e.g., performance, cloud spend, and uptime, to check that everything is running smoothly. It can also be beneficial to seek out feedback from users or conduct user testing to get an idea of how well your application is meeting their needs.

16: Monitor Resource Allocation

You need to have visibility into the application migration process and cloud resources being used, which can be achieved by using application performance monitoring (APM) tools. These provide application-level visibility and can be used to monitor application performance and cloud services, identify application dependencies, and track application deployments.

APM tools can also be used to monitor cloud resource utilization, helping you to optimize application performance and reduce cloud costs.

17: Plan Further Optimization and Maintenance Actions

Maintaining and improving your cloud application going forward might involve, for example, optimizing application performance, optimizing costs of cloud computing, scaling application resources, or providing better application security controls. Such activities will keep your application continuing to meet the needs of its users.

Successful Cloud Migration With Nexocode Cloud Engineers

Nexocode is an AI development company that specializes, among other things, in application migration to the cloud. We have a team of experienced cloud engineers who can help you successfully plan and execute cloud migration.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you migrate your application to the cloud.

About the author

Dorota Owczarek

Dorota Owczarek

AI Product Lead & Design Thinking Facilitator

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With over ten years of professional experience in designing and developing software, Dorota is quick to recognize the best ways to serve users and stakeholders by shaping strategies and ensuring their execution by working closely with engineering and design teams.
She acts as a Product Leader, covering the ongoing AI agile development processes and operationalizing AI throughout the business.

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