Are you considering a move to the cloud? In this article, we'll take you from on-prem to Microsoft Azure, walking step-by-step through the cloud migration process, and offer special considerations to keep in mind as you begin your cloud journey.
Notes from a Veracity Expert:
"Cloud vendor selection can be a daunting task, but there are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a cloud provider. Fundamentally, a provider should meet industry standards and support the needs of the business. Beyond that, the vendor should be able to supply a solution that utilizes technologies that align with your organization, now and in the future. Security, compliance, performance, and reliability are additional contributing factors. Many organizations often rush the selection and do not realize all the ramifications. This type of change has a direct impact on business owners and organizational structures. Furthermore, many do not evaluate their product fit and neglect digital transformation details. In order to fully understand the benefits, a business needs to assess why they want to move to the cloud and include an honest look at the associated costs. Systems should be evaluated for modernization opportunities with the thought of leveraging cloud benefits. Continually I am seeing many organizations utilizing multiple partners with an increase in the desire to create hybrid solutions between vendors. Creating a strategy that addresses the culture, risks, and expectations can ease the movement of stakeholders to cloud services. Partnering with an organization that understands cloud adoption can greatly reduce the risks of moving to cloud. Each vendor comes with unique challenges and great opportunities. No one vendor is the answer for every business. Picking the right solution is often more of an art than a science."
Chief Architect and Executive Security Director, Veracity Solutions
While every cloud migration is unique, these primary steps will apply whether you're a small business owner or heading up a $10 billion contract with the Pentagon (a deal acquired just earlier this week).
With the right cloud strategy and resources at your fingertips, you stand armed and ready to lead your team to achieving your business advantage.
About Microsoft Azure
As one of the world's leading cloud providers, Microsoft Azure is only picking up speed, as it continues to attract some of the world's most significant cloud contracts with organizations like Walmart, Kroger, and Gap. In fact, in the last few months alone, Azure has scored a multi-billion-dollar deal with AT&T and landed a highly coveted $10 billion JEDI Cloud Contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Modernized technology, a secure global network, and seamless scalability are just some of the benefits these organizations will plan to take leverage. But, despite the size of your business, a move to the cloud can offer extensive benefits for you, too.
For CEOs or CIOs seeking to make an impact in their organization, a cloud migration might feel overwhelming, complicated, or even unnecessary at times. But with the right guidance and perspective, a cloud migration could be the very catalyst you need to achieve your business objectives. Allow us to show you how.
Benefits of Moving from On-Prem to Azure
When it comes to selecting a specific cloud provider, your choice will largely be determined by the particular project you are trying to complete. In the end, all cloud providers will have their unique range of products that might be a better or worse fit for the specific problem you're trying to solve. To determine which cloud provider is right for you, we'd recommend teaming up with a cloud partner who can take an in-depth look at the needs and condition of your IT organization and recommend a solution that will best fit your needs.
However, Microsoft Azure does tend to be a popular choice for organizations currently immersed in Microsoft technology, as it can lead to a seamless integration or may even offer services at a discounted price.
In addition to seamless Microsoft integration, here are a few significant offerings that Microsoft Azure does well:
- A Global Network – as one of the most widespread cloud providers in the world, Microsoft Azure has created an expansive global network to support their clients from any region. The support of a worldwide network offers heightened security, careful monitoring, and minimized downtime, allowing you to spend less time maintaining your systems and spend more time improving them.
- High Availability – The global Microsoft Azure network also lends itself to high availability, minimizing the risk of downtime, fraud, or failing hardware that can often come with the use of a single data center.
- Disaster Recovery – Microsoft's disaster recovery system is designed to help your business keep operating, even during outages. As a leading provider of Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Azure can not only offer greater security than your on-prem data center but also provide it at a lower cost to maintain it.
- Agility – Azure's migration tools can make migration quick and easy, allowing your organization to not only complete your migration quickly but start achieving long-term value at a faster pace.
- Compliance – Azure offers more than 90 compliance certifications and more than 35 industry-specific certifications spanning from healthcare to finance, government, and more (Learn more about each certification in the Microsoft Trust Center).
- Security – Microsoft's extensive library of security tools are designed to help you analyze and react to security threats before they make it to your system. Products like Threat Intelligence, Advanced Threat Analytics, and Multi-Factor Authorization can help you know your data is kept secure around the clock.
- Seamless Microsoft Integration – For members already utilizing Microsoft products and tools, Azure can be a less expensive route with quick and seamless integration into your existing system. Once you're a part of the Azure cloud, there are also many unique perks and benefits on which you can capitalize. Offers like the Azure Hybrid Benefit and Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances not only help you save from the outset but make it easy to adjust and tweak your usage over time until your plan feels just right.
In the last year, Microsoft has also made significant changes to the way they price and offer their products. To gain a better understanding of what these changes mean for you, read through our Veracity article, Microsoft Charging More for Its Software in 'Other Clouds.'
Taking time to consider each of these factors from the perspective of your business will help determine if Microsoft Azure is right for you.
On-Prem to Azure: Preparing for Migration
Once you've officially selected your cloud provider, it's time to move forward into migration. Microsoft Azure recommends dividing the migration into four key steps, including:
- Secure and Manage
Through a structured and tailored approach, these steps will guide you through your migration from on-prem to the Azure cloud and fulfill your business needs.
Step 1: Assess
Create a Migration Plan
Before beginning a migration, or even moving too far along in the planning process, business leaders must work to get all crucial team members are on board. At Veracity, we have found that by grounding your migration in a business objective to be achieved (e.g., lower costs, increase business agility, or improved customer experiences), it becomes much easier to create buy-in and instill confidence throughout your organization.
Create a detailed plan of what you hope to achieve your migration, with particular emphasis on the organizational outcomes that wait on the other side. The planning phase is also a great time to evaluate the skillset of your organization, begin training and preparation for Azure, or bring in the help of a trusted cloud partner who can train, consult, and guide you every step of the way.
Regardless of where your cloud journey will take you, garnering the organizational vision and support from the outset can help migration initiatives survive, even if the road gets bumpy along the way.
Next, it's time to evaluate the cost of migration. Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your existing system will help you establish a baseline for comparison with your projected costs in the cloud. The Microsoft TCO Calculator is a valuable tool designed to evaluate your projected Azure TCO based on your on-prem server infrastructure, databases, storage, and bandwidth. These totals will likely help guide your decision making as you refine your migration strategy and continue planning in the following steps.
Discover and Evaluate Apps
Many technology leaders make the mistake of assuming a cloud migration should be done all at once. On the contrary, a personalized cloud migration strategy should be just that—personalized to the needs and best interests of your organizations.
Perhaps you have some cloud-ready applications, while others will take more time and resources. Or, you may have apps that are more business-critical than others. To better understand which applications are ready for the cloud, a thorough inventory must first be taken.
Microsoft cloud migration assessment tools are designed to help you map out your current applications and take a comprehensive inventory of existing server infrastructure. Azure Migrate is just one of the tools available to assist in the discovery and analysis of your different VMs and app environments and identify their readiness for the cloud. Careful analysis and ranking of each asset will lay the groundwork for your migration strategy, and ultimately help your Azure migration kick off smoothly and effectively.
Step 2: Migrate
Now that your preliminary work is complete, it's time to settle on a cloud strategy. The data gathered during the assessment stage will be a crucial indicator as you determine which direction you'd like to go. Microsoft Azure defines four key cloud strategies to consider:
- Rehosting (also referred to as "Lift and Shift") - Involves migrating applications as-is into the cloud. Rehosting allows for quick progress without the need for significant code changes and helps you kick off your migration right away.
- Refactoring – This option involves making modifications to your existing applications to maximize efficiency and make them compatible with Microsoft products in the cloud. While this is not changing the entire integrity of your application, it should modernize the app enough to help you take advantage of Azure IaaS and PaaS products.
- Rearchitecting – Rearchitecting takes your application one step further by changing the application code base altogether in preparation for the cloud. With fundamental code changes in place, your app will be ready for the latest Azure products and modifications, while still maximizing any value gained from your original application itself.
- Rebuild – If your applications aren't ready for the cloud, you may choose to rebuild instead. In this strategy, organizations can eliminate applications that are too old or outdated to function in the cloud and begin from scratch with cloud-native products.
Depending on your analysis of your existing applications, you may choose to use one of these strategies, or a combination of several to meet your business. Remember, every organization is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cloud adoption.
Get to Know Your Migration Tools
To help make your migration run smoothly, Microsoft Azure has countless tools to help automate your processes and assist in a smooth migration every step of the way.
Azure Migrate – Azure Migrate is your one-stop-shop for tracking, assessing, and executing all phases of your Azure migration. Designed to help manage the bulk of work that must be done on the front end. Great for estimating costs, and offering an understanding of where you might run into trouble, and remains your central hub along the way.
Data Migration Assistant – Analyzes your on-prem SQL servers to check for compatibility before migrating to Azure. It helps easily identify where incompatibilities are taking place, to quickly pinpoint errors, and make necessary adjustments for efficient data migration.
Azure Database Migration Service – Simple, self-guided step by step tool to aid in your migration. Useful for those with less experience.
Data Box – Assists in the migration of your data, whether on or offline. Great for scenarios where you're limited in on time or network availability while maintaining heightened security.
Step 3: Optimize
Once your applications have made their way to the cloud, you've hit a massive milestone along your cloud migration path. But the journey to achieving full value from the cloud doesn't stop there. Microsoft Azure recommends the third step to their cloud transformation journey, centered all-around optimization. It is in this step that organizations can begin to fine-tune their cloud experience to ensure they're making the most of all Azure has to offer. Optimizing your cloud experience can be done in a few different ways:
- Financial Tracking – Keeping a close eye on costs with the Azure Cost Management tool can help to identify where you can beef up or cut back on your cloud usage. While the beauty of the cloud is that you'll never pay for services you don't need, clear transparency allows you to see where your budget is being allocated and help prepare financially for any next steps in your cloud journey.
- Reinvest Savings to Maximize Value – One of the main benefits of any cloud transformation is the return in time and resources that are no longer used, maintaining old or outdated systems. Use your newfound freedom to reinvest into innovations and projects within your organization, and amplify the value of your cloud transformation both now and in the future.
Step 4: Secure and Manage
Continuing to reap the benefits of your cloud migration overtime will require strict security and maintenance across all applications. To make this step seamless for IT leaders, Microsoft has additional products to assist in the security, backup, and full-time monitoring of your cloud applications to keep your business running and maximum capacity.
Azure Security Center – The Azure Security center offers a full-time view into the security of your cloud through a simple dashboard, helping you quickly identify security breaches caused by rapidly changing workloads and even the most advanced attack methods.
Azure Backup – fully back up your application data in the cloud to prevent costly outages, downtime, or security breaches.
Azure Monitor – keep a close eye on the usage, health, and activity across your various applications and VMs. Detect dependencies in your applications, streamlined approach to monitoring your entire cloud infrastructure.
Once you reach this step, your journey will consist of consistent monitoring, improving, and tweaking your cloud experience to help achieve maximum value over time!
On-Prem to Azure: Special Considerations
With the right planning, preparation, and strategic execution, a move from your on-prem infrastructure to the Azure cloud could be just what you need to shift the trajectory of your business success. But before you jump head-first into the cloud, there are a few things to consider along the way.
- Check Your Compliance – Keep in mind, just because your cloud provider is compliant, doesn't mean your organization is. While Microsoft Azure has a wide range of compliance certifications across the globe, there is still a responsibility on the part of the organization to maintain legal compliance as well. Before you begin your cloud venture, ensure that your organization has met any necessary standards for your unique industry so you can jump into the cloud with ease.
- Read the Fine Print - Educate yourself on any contractual agreements required by your cloud. Will you be required to use specific software when you join? Will you be limited to a select list of approved partners? Reading the fine print before jumping into a cloud commitment is always a wise choice, no matter which provider you choose.
- Avoid the "One-Size-Fits-All Mentality" - Just as your business is unique from every other organization in the world, so should be your cloud strategy. Take careful time to assess the health of your organization as you plan your migration to ensure you're making the decisions that will most benefit you in the long run. Just because a particular strategy is right for Walmart or the Pentagon, doesn't mean it's right for you!
- Don't be afraid to ask for help! - Cloud migrations are anything but simple and require a complex set of skills and understanding. To maximize your investment, we recommend finding a trusted cloud partner that can guide you along the way. Licensed Microsoft Partners have the skills and experience needed to take your migration from inception to the finish line and beyond.
While the steps listed in this article provide an effective outline, your personal cloud journey will likely require more customization along the way. With a personalized cloud migration plan, we can help guide you there. Set up a free hour with the Veracity Team to discuss what a cloud migration could look like for you, and how you can take your business from on-prem into the cloud.