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Cloud services offer the potential for increased productivity and decreased costs but only if you can successfully migrate your current systems. Unfortunately, migration can be a huge undertaking, the failure of which can completely undermine any benefits the cloud might grant.

Here, we’ll cover how to create a plan for a successful migration to Azure and some of the tools that are available to you so that you can make sure that your cloud adoption is as rewarding as possible. 

4 Steps to a Successful Azure Migration

To ensure a successful migration, the following basic framework can be used and expanded upon. 

Assess

Assessing your current systems and goals is the key to moving forward in a migration—if you don’t know what you have to move or why your plan is sure to fail. To gather this information, Azure provides a variety of tools that you might find helpful. Microsoft’s VM Readiness Assessment tool, for example, will inspect your on-premise environment and generate a report of workload attributes and configuration informing you which pieces are ready to move and which require further investigation. Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit, another example, inventories, assesses, and reports on migratory readiness of both physical and virtualized workloads. Azure Migrate, which I’ll go into more depth on later, is the hub of these tools as well as third-party tool integrations.  

During the assessment, consider at least the following:

  • Current infrastructure—what hardware, operating systems, and server subsystems are you currently using? What applications are you using, what are their requirements, and how vital are they to operations? 
  • Data—what format is your data and how is it currently being stored? Does it require frequent access or infrequent and how quickly does it need to be accessed? How long does the data need to be stored for and how necessary is it to keep?
  • Connectivity—how is your network currently configured and do you need a similar configuration post-migration? What are your requirements for Service Level Agreements? Do you have sufficient bandwidth to handle migration and post-migration operations?
  • Security and compliance—what security measures are you currently using and which will you need in the future? What regulations do you need to comply with, how are you currently complying, and what might need to change during and after migration?

Plan

Creating a robust plan for Azure migration isn’t easy but it is necessary if you want to move successfully. Using the information collected in the assessment step, you can begin evaluating how to best move your applications, data, and workloads. You have three main options for migration: lift-and-shift, re-platforming, or re-architecting. 

Lift-and-shift, or re-hosting, is the easiest of these options as it entails simply moving applications, data, etc. from an on-premise system to a cloud one with no modification. This method can be useful for those items which cannot be modified, provided you do not need the benefits that cloud-nativity provides, or as the middle step of a more intensive migration.

Re-platforming is an in-between step of the other two as it involves modifying applications, or portions of applications, to optimize them for cloud use. This is often done when applications are not supported by cloud services or when their functionality would be greatly impacted by a lift-and-shift move.

Re-architecting, or re-factoring, requires making major changes to applications and often includes breaking them down into microservices which can then be containerized. This method has the benefit of granting all of the benefits of cloud-nativity but requires significant expertise and programming skills.

If none of these methods work for your needs, you can also look at simply repurchasing services or applications that are already cloud compatible although this is typically a last-ditch solution.

Whichever method you select, your plan should include clear timelines, roles and responsibilities, and workflow priorities if you want to ensure success. 

Prepare

Once your plan is in place, you need to start making preparations, including training employees on new workflows, putting downtime measures in place, and solidifying skills necessary for migration, such as becoming familiar with Azure APIs and the Portal. During this step, you might find it useful to develop a proof of concept that can be shown to stakeholders or run pilot tests to let users interact with the new system. These should help increase comfort and buy-in to the changes to come and have the added benefit of potentially uncovering flaws or gaps in your plan that can be addressed before they create issues. 

Migrate

Migration is your final step, although you’ll find it’s often more of a process than a single, discrete step. It is important to monitor your entire migration and thoroughly test each component that is transferred to ensure that you can smoothly move into production. Whenever possible, use automation for repetitive tasks; this can reduce the chance of misconfiguration and will free you to attend to more detailed aspects. 

Azure provides some tools that can prove helpful during this process that you should consider adopting. Azure Resource Manager templates, for example, allow you to migrate infrastructures and services automatically via JSON files. You can create these templates directly or take advantage of premade ones that have been shared by Azure. 

Azure Migrate: A Hub for Your Migration Needs

Azure Migrate is a portfolio of Microsoft and partner tools that can help you during your migration. Migrate grants end-to-end process tracking, step-by-step walkthroughs for common migration scenarios, and groups tools according to their features as needed for the phases of migration. 

The main focuses of the hub are: 

  • Server assessment—built-in functionality that allows discovery and assessment of on-premise VMware and Hyper-V servers
  • Server migration—built-in functionality that allows agentless migration of VMware and Hyper-V servers and agent-based migration of physical servers or VMs on AWS or Google Cloud
  • Database assessment—via Data Migration Assistant, allows assessment of on-premise SQL servers and alerts to blocking issues, unsupported features, and new features that might be useful to you
  • Database migration—via the Database Migration Service, helps you to move on-premises SQL databases
  • Web app assessment—via App Service Migration Assistant, allows assessment of on-premise websites through an online portal and offers assistance with the migration of .NET and PHP applications

Wrap Up

Migrating to the cloud often takes a lot of work and specialized skills, which can be a significant barrier for organizations wanting to make the switch. To help ease this process, Azure offers a wide range of tools and documentation that you can use to make the process smoother. These resources, in combination with a well developed and established plan, will help you make sure that your migration is successful and that you can begin reaping the benefits of cloud services.

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