Migrating workloads or an application to the cloud can seem daunting for any organization. The cloud is synonymous with industry buzzwords such as DevOps, digital transformation, opensource, and more. As of 2021, AWS has over 200 products and services.
Nowadays, every other LinkedIn post is somehow related to the cloud. Sound familiar? Maybe a bit intimidating? If so, you are not alone! Organizations often hope that operating in the cloud will help them become more agile, enhance business continuity, or reduce technical debt. All of which are achievable in a cloud environment with proper planning.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This sentiment is true not only in life but also in technology. Any successful IT project has a strategy and tangible business outcomes. Project managers must establish these before any “actual work” begins. Without this, leadership teams may not know if the project is on task and on schedule. Technical teams may struggle to determine where to start or what to prioritize. Here we’ll explore industry-standard strategies that organizations can deploy to begin their cloud journey and help technical leaders decide which path to take.
What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is when an organization decides to move its data, applications, or other IT capabilities into a cloud service provider (CSP) such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Microsoft Azure. Some organizations may decide to migrate all IT assets into the cloud; however, most organizations keep some services on-premises in a hybrid environment for various reasons. Performing a migration to the cloud may consist of multiple CSPs or even a private cloud.
What Are the Different Strategies for Cloud Migration?
Gartner recognizes five cloud migration strategies, nicknamed “The 5Rs.” Individually they are called rehost, refactor, revise (a.k.a. replatform), rebuild, and replace, each with benefits and drawbacks. This blog focuses on three of those five migration approaches—rehost, refactor, and replatform—as they play a significant role in application modernization.
What is Rehost in the Cloud?
Rehost, or “lift and shift,” is the process of migrating a workload into the cloud as-is without any modifications. Rehosting usually involves infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) technologies in a cloud provider such as AWS EC2 or Azure VM’s. Organizations with little cloud experience may consider this strategy because it is an easy start to their cloud journey. Cloud service providers are constantly creating new services for rehosting to make the process even easier. This strategy is less complex, so the timeline to complete a rehost migration can be significantly shorter than other strategies. Organizations often rehost workloads and then modernize after gaining more cloud knowledge and experience.
- No architecture changes – Organizations can migrate workloads as-is, which benefits those with little cloud experience.
- Fastest migration method – Rehosting is often the quickest path to the cloud. This method is an excellent advantage for organizations that need to vacate an on-premises data center or colocation.
- Organizational changes are not necessary – Organizational processes and strategies to manage workloads can remain the same since architectures are not changing. Organizations will need to learn new tools for the selected cloud provider, but the day-to-day tasks will not change.
- High costs – Monthly spending will quickly add up in the cloud without modernizing applications. Organizations must budget appropriately for rehosting migrations.
- Lack of innovation – Rehosting does not take advantage of the variety of innovative and modern technologies available in the cloud.
- Does not improve the customer experience – Without change, applications cannot improve, which means customers will have a similar experience in the cloud.
What Refactor Means?
Use the refactoring technique to update and optimize applications for the cloud. Refactoring often involves “app modernization” or updating the application’s existing code to take full advantage of cloud features and flexibility. This strategy can be complex because it requires source code changes and introduces modern technologies to the organization. These changes will need to be thoroughly tested and optimized, leading to possible delays. Therefore, organizations should take small steps by refactoring one or two modules at a time to correct issues and gaps at a smaller scale. Although refactoring may be the most time-consuming, it can provide the best return on investment (ROI) once complete.
- Cost reduction – Since applications are being optimized for the cloud, refactoring can provide the highest ROI and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO).
- More flexible application architectures – Refactoring allows application owners the opportunity to explore the landscape of services available in the cloud and decide which ones fit best.
- Increased resiliency – technologies and concepts like auto-scaling, immutable infrastructure, and automation can increase application resiliency and reliability. Organizations should consider all of these when refactoring.
- A lot of change – Technology and cultural changes can be brutally painful. Cloud migrations often combine both, which compounds the pain. Add the complexity of refactoring, and you may have full-blown mutiny without careful planning and strong leadership. Refactoring migrations are not for the faint of heart, so tread lightly.
- Advanced cloud knowledge and experience are needed – Organizations lacking cloud experience may find it challenging to refactor applications by themselves. Organizations may consider using a consulting firm to address skillset gaps.
- Lengthy project timelines – Refactoring hundreds of applications doesn’t happen overnight. Organizations need to establish realistic timelines before starting a refactor migration.
What is Replatform in Cloud?
Replatforming is a happy medium between refactoring and rehosting and applies a series of changes to the application to fit the cloud better without rearchitecting the whole thing versus completely overhauling the application as you would expect from refactoring. Replatforming projects often involve rearchitecting the database to a more cloud-native solution, adding scaling mechanisms, or containerizing applications.
- Reduces cost – If organizations take cost-savings measures during replatforming, they will see a reduction in technical operating expenses.
- Acceptable compromise – Replatforming is considered a happy medium of adding features and technical capabilities without jeopardizing migration timelines.
- Adds cloud-native features – Replatforming can add cloud technologies like auto-scaling, managed storage services, infrastructure as code (IaC), and more. These capabilities can reduce costs and improve customer experience.
- Scope creep may occur – Organizations may struggle to draw a line in the sand when replatforming. It can be challenging to decide which cloud technologies to prioritize.
- Limits the amount of change that can occur – Everything cannot be accomplished at once when replatforming. Technical leaders must decide what can be done given the migration timeline then add the remaining items to a backlog.
- Cloud and automation skills needed – Organizations lacking cloud experience may struggle replatforming workloads by themselves.
Which cloud migration strategy is best for your organization?
As stated above, it is essential to have clear business objectives for your organization’s cloud migration. Just as important is establishing a timeline for the migration. Both will help technical leaders and application owners decide which strategy is best. Below are some common goals organizations have for migrating to the cloud.
Common business goals for cloud migrations:
- Reduce technical debt
- Improve customer’s digital experience
- Become more agile to respond to change faster
- Ensure business continuity
- Evacuate on-premises data centers and colocations
- Create a culture of automation
Determining the best migration strategy is key to getting the most out of the cloud and meeting your business objectives. It is common for organizations to use all three of these strategies in tandem and often work with trusted advisors like 2nd Watch to determine and implement the best. When planning your cloud migration strategy, consider these questions:
Cloud Migration Strategy Considerations:
- Is there a hard date for migrating the application?
- How long will it take to modernize?
- What are the costs for “lift and shift,” refactoring, and/or replatforming?
- When is the application being retired?
- Can the operational team(s) support modern architectures?
In today’s world, the cloud is where the most innovation in technology occurs. Companies that want to be a part of modern technology advancements should seriously consider migrating to the cloud. Organizations can achieve successful cloud migrations with the right strategy, clear business goals, and proper skillsets.
2nd Watch is an AWS Premier Partner, Google Cloud Partner, and Microsoft Gold partner, providing professional and managed cloud services to enterprises. Our subject matter experts and software-enabled services provide you with tested, proven, and trusted solutions in all aspects of cloud migration and application modernization.
Contact us to schedule a discussion on how we can help you achieve your 2022 cloud modernization objectives.
By Jacob Acton, 2nd Watch Cloud Consultant