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Simplifying Cloud Migration Strategy With Observability

With digital transformation continuing to accelerate across organizations of all sizes globally, it’s safe to say the investments companies make in digital and digitally enabled products and solutions will likely only increase as they see more benefits. A survey by McKinsey revealed COVID-19 accelerated the speed of adoption of digital technologies by several years. One key investment companies make during their digital transformations is migrating their workloads to the cloud for maximum benefits with minimal effort and costs. Gartner states cloud spending is expected to reach nearly $600 billion by 2023. However, since a cloud migration strategy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it can lead to a lot of waste if not done correctly. McKinsey reported approximately $100 billion of wasted migration spend is expected over the next three years. So, how can companies looking to migrate do so smarter and cost-effectively? What strategies can organizations follow to give a cloud migration strategy the best chance of success? Suppose your organization is thinking about or building a roadmap to make the big move from on-premises to software as a service (SaaS) and other modernization efforts. You’re likely beginning to build strong business cases for every component you plan to migrate. In this post, I want to dive deeper into the pros and cons of common types of cloud migration strategies, potential challenges organizations can face when migrating (and how to plan around them), and, lastly, touch on why a move to cloud computing is incomplete without the deep level of insights provided by an observability solution.

Types of cloud migration strategies to know

The general issue of what’s involved in migrating is one you’ve probably faced before – how to move the workload from one data platform to another. To address this, several cloud migration strategies must be understood and considered. Gartner first published the “5 Rs” framework for cloud migration in 2010. This model quickly became a starting point for companies to build from when defining their own cloud migration strategies, such as the “6 Rs” framework from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Gartner has also made revisions and updates to its 5 Rs framework over time as cloud services evolved, but the original “5 Rs” is still a well-known and commonly used reference point. According to Gartner, the 5 Rs of cloud migration include:
  1. Rehosting, or lift-and-shift, is a cloud migration strategy involving moving applications or systems from an on-premises environment to the cloud without significantly changing their architecture or functionality. Rehosting primarily aims to leverage cloud infrastructure benefits quickly and cost-effectively, such as scalability, reliability, and flexibility. While it offers a straightforward migration path, organizations should know how rehosting may limit the ability to optimize and fully utilize cloud-native features and services.
  2. Refactoring, or rearchitecting, is a way to move an application or system to the cloud by making big changes to its design. The goal is to make the application work better with cloud features and services, so it can scale up, perform well, and be more efficient. Refactoring might mean breaking a big application into smaller parts, using cloud-specific technologies, and redesigning components to fit in the cloud. While it can take more time and resources than just moving the application as-is, refactoring can help organizations get the most out of the cloud and drive innovation.
  3. Revising is a cloud migration strategy involving incremental modifications to an existing application or system during migration. The goal is to improve specific parts or features of the application to work better with the cloud. This might mean adjusting modules, updating tools, or making small code changes. Revising finds a middle ground between just moving the application as-is and making significant changes, giving organizations some benefits of the cloud without completely redoing their application.
  4. Rebuilding involves redeveloping an application or system from scratch using cloud-native technologies and architectures. This strategy can allow organizations to fully utilize the cloud's capabilities by leveraging modern design principles, microservices, serverless computing, and other cloud-native services. While it can require a significant investment in time and resources, rebuilding helps organizations create a highly optimized and future-proof application in the cloud.
  5. Replacing is a cloud migration strategy that entails getting rid of an old application or system and replacing it with a new one that is already made and ready to use in the cloud. This strategy is often chosen when the old system is too old-fashioned, doesn't meet business needs, or is too expensive to fix or change. By replacing, organizations can quickly switch to a modern cloud solution without dealing with the complicated process of moving an old system. But it's important to think carefully and plan well to ensure the new solution fits the business and works well with what's already there.
In addition to the “5 Rs,” AWS introduced a few other terms in its “6 Rs” framework I wanted to mention, as you may run into these when researching cloud migration strategies:
  • Replatforming is a cloud migration strategy to move an application or system to the cloud with minimal modifications and take advantage of cloud-native services. This strategy focuses on migrating applications to a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, where organizations can leverage managed services, auto-scaling capabilities, and other cloud-specific features. Replatforming can help an application be more flexible and perform better without worrying too much about managing everything. It may need some adjustments, but replatforming can be easier than making major changes or moving as-is.
  • Repurchasing involves decommissioning an existing application or system and replacing it with a new commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software solution available in the cloud. This strategy can allow organizations to transition from self-built or legacy applications to pre-built cloud-based solutions, reducing the need for custom development and maintenance. Repurchasing can also help businesses leverage the capabilities of proven software products while benefiting from cloud scalability, reliability, and cost-efficiency. However, carefully evaluating available COTS options and their fit to specific business requirements is crucial to ensure a successful migration.
Every cloud migration strategy has good points and considerations, but businesses must customize them to fit their needs, use cases, and goals. A critical aspect of any successful cloud migration plan is having a clear view of the entire infrastructure, its connections, how data moves around, and how well it performs. By using an observability solution, organizations can better handle risks, improve operations, and get the most out of their cloud migration strategy.

Tips for preventing common cloud migration challenges

According to the Flexera 2023 State of the Cloud Report, 66% of all organizations surveyed responded that cloud migration is a top challenge for their business. For enterprises, this percentage rose to 71%. In the report, other significant cloud challenges for enterprise organizations include managing cloud spend (82%), security (78%), and lack of resources/expertise and managing multi-cloud tying at 80%. The report also found almost half of all respondents currently have plans to move their on-premises software to SaaS. Uncertainty about data and cloud security, costs, latency, business continuity, and lack of visibility are just a few major challenges organizations must solve when planning a successful cloud migration. Here are some often overlooked best practices to consider when cost savings, security, and avoiding business disruptions are key concerns when migrating to the cloud.

Consider incremental cloud migration

If there’s one thing businesses moving to the cloud have in common: they want to migrate quickly and without interruptions. It may seem like a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too type of situation, but the truth is it’s absolutely possible to successfully migrate your workloads to the cloud without disrupting day-to-day business. However, much like with the story of the tortoise and the hare, there are lessons to be learned from moving too fast. When it comes to cloud migration, businesses should consider a more strategic route and take time to plan a slow roll migration thoroughly. Migrating to the cloud in phases can help organizations avoid issues involved with rushing, take the pressure off your team to shift in a single sitting, and save you from making mistakes or overlooking anything. Try starting with less-critical workloads, and note any issues while migrating before you move business-critical and sensitive data. I’ve also seen how many organizations like to move their applications to the cloud and improve later. This is especially true if there’s a deadline and migration is imminent. For this, it can make sense to divide the whole migration task into two clear and manageable phases, as long as the improvement part isn’t forgotten. That said, planning how to refactor existing applications post-migration can start immediately. For example, some universal concepts for public cloud infrastructure include auto-scaling, decoupling, and statelessness to consider when planning. Still, there will also be some specific to the chosen cloud platform. Such thinking automatically forces teams to assess potential issues that might occur, providing enough time to mitigate them and avoid disruptions.

Reassess your multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environment

In addition to following a phased approach to avoid workflow disruptions for end-users, organizations should consider working in a hybrid environment or using multiple clouds during a cloud migration. Choosing a multi-cloud/hybrid cloud approach can help your business continue to run without coming to a full stop for migration purposes. Using a hybrid cloud can allow you to gain the benefits of the cloud while maintaining control of an on-premises environment. This can also make migration easier, as you can house some of your workloads on-premises while simultaneously shifting others to the cloud. Many companies are also choosing to work with more than one cloud provider, allowing businesses to expand their options and take advantage of various cloud platforms' features. Every business has its own needs; some cloud platforms may be better suited to meet those needs. Some organizations also find they still need to work on-premises when migrating their infrastructure. Many existing cloud environments are a hybrid of private and public cloud platforms. Depending on the organization's size, arranging multiple high-speed links from the on-premises environment to the chosen platform is common. However, those links can be quite cumbersome to set up as many different parties are involved, such as the service provider, carrier, networking, and cloud teams. Availability of ports and bandwidth can also be a challenge. Suffice it to say, lead times for an end-to-end cloud migration process typically range from a few weeks to a few months. For this reason, it’s recommended to prioritize identifying if such link(s) will be required and which data centers to get the commissioning process started.

The importance of observability for successful cloud migrations

To ensure successful cloud migration, it's essential to have complete visibility into your infrastructure, database, and apps before and after the move. To achieve this, observability solutions are designed to help you minimize disruption during the migration, alert you to any discrepancies or evolving threats, and prevent delays. Observability can also help you demonstrate compliance with any strict regulatory and compliance requirements essential in today's business environment. In the run-and-observe phase post-migration, an observability solution can help validate the performance, service levels, and other critical aspects of your environment. Performance validation can help to ensure customers receive the best service and experience by providing the insight needed to right-size and scale up or down your new cloud infrastructure based on new requirements, quickly identify the root cause of issues like crashes or latency, and optimize your applications to avoid any downtimes. Here’s how observability can also play a key role throughout the migration process, including these three core phases:
  1. Prepping your team
  2. Planning and assessing
  3. Migrating and validating

Prepping your team

If there’s one mistake capable of ruining your migration, it’s failing to prepare your team. Train your team in the latest cloud migration technology and expand their skill set to support a smoother move of legacy systems and legacy applications to the cloud. Consider allowing your team to take on smaller migration tasks initially, decreasing your chances of failing and familiarizing your team with what it means to shift to the cloud. Investing in skill development programs and education for your team can also benefit the company outside of migration. Businesses have historically used multiple monitoring and purpose-built migration tools to manually stitch together a strategy to document and monitor moving to the cloud. However, as modern infrastructures grow and evolve, using these disparate solutions to manage and migrate different parts of the tech stack is leading to teams working in silos, increasing risk and poor service delivery. To address these challenges, an observability solution is built to provide a single source of truth for metrics throughout the migration process. With observability, teams can monitor the performance and behavior of applications and infrastructure components in real-time, allowing for the detection and resolution of any issues or bottlenecks that can arise. A centralized observability solution can also help facilitate better collaboration between teams by allowing them to share information, troubleshoot issues collectively, and make data-driven decisions to manage and optimize the cloud migration process, helping minimize delays, resolve issues faster, and ensure a coordinated migration effort.

Planning and assessment

Before you begin the migration, conduct a baseline inventory ofcurrent on-premises infrastructure to determine the scope of your migration. With a full grasp of applications, hosts, and their architecture, you can reduce the possibility of missing dependencies during migration and can more easily identify workloads not suitable for migrating to the cloud. For example, compliance, performance, or latency requirements might force some workloads to stay on-premises. Even if a company adopts a “cloud-first” strategy, such workloads could force the change of model to a hybrid cloud. If not done initially, identification of such workloads should be carried out as soon as the decision on the platform is made so the design can cater for them right from the start. You also need to understand whether workloads can be converted into microservices using cloud-native technologies or moved as-is, load time, response time, network bandwidth utilization, and more. As you prepare for your cloud migration, plan and prioritize workloads to move to the cloud and their migration order. For an organization where identical but isolated development environments exist, it’s generally preferred to migrate those first. However, you may find exceptions in cases where deployment pipelines are implemented. To understand what a successful migration looks like is to understand what success means for your workload. We can break this down into how the workload performs against how resources are used to execute the workload. For example, you can start by surveying all your databases and stack ranking them in terms of usage and potential risk. This can allow you to take a phased approach, starting with the database with the lowest usage and lower risk in case of failure.  You need to understand and document workload utilization, usage metrics, seasonal data metrics, performance, and the feasibility of moving it to the cloud. During the initial plan and assessment phase, it's also crucial to understand the state of every workload on-premises. Additionally, it's critical to understand and establish the baseline KPIs of your workloads while on-premises, as this is key to maintaining the health of the workload during and post-migration. This also helps you understand and calculate the benefits of the migration once the migration is complete. Based on the gathered baseline information, the migration process can be smoother, and you can save costs and better manage resources. By improving visibility, instance dependencies, and utilization details, an observability solution can help with complete mapping and capturing the baseline details of your environment. An observability solution built to provide real-time holistic metrics across your environments can decrease time to identify root cause issues occurring during and after migration, so you can quickly resolve them.

Migrating and validating

After establishing a baseline for existing on-premises workloads in the planning and assessing phase, move to the migration and validation phase. During this phase, monitoring and comparing the performance of the infrastructure, databases, applications, and other services against the baseline numbers you established during the premigration phase is essential. This work includes identifying discrepancies as you migrate and taking the appropriate actions to resolve any issues. By proactively monitoring and validating the data throughout the migration process remedial measures can be taken as needed. To start the migration process, you need comprehensive visibility first. Planning, managing, and validating the success of a workload migration to the cloud will require monitoring the performance of applications and databases every step of the way. An observability solution is designed to allow you to see and understand your workload behavior in terms of throughput, concurrency, latency, and errors before, during, and after you migrate to a cloud environment. Achieving deeper visibility through observability can also simplify detecting changes in those metrics and dissect the workload to the point where you can view the sets of tasks or hosts diverging from the expected norm.

Own your cloud migration strategy with one solution for a seamless path to the cloud

Cloud isn’t going anywhere soon. Early movers into the cloud are already reaping the benefits of a hybrid multi-cloud strategy. Companies can run their workloads in multiple locations, including on-premises environments and public and private clouds, while ensuring consistent interoperability and workload portability. Other cloud advantages, such as flexibility, reduced IT costs, and availability, are also proving to be extremely beneficial during migration. However, the greatest challenge isn’t cloud migration or the technology it takes to shift, it’s ensuring the IT pros behind the process are trained, ready to adapt, and have the visibility they need into the environment to be successful. By leveraging an observability solution before, during, and after a cloud migration, businesses can more easily contain and manage risks and avoid costly deviations, saving costs and resources that would have otherwise gone into identifying the root cause of the problems. SolarWinds® Hybrid Cloud Observability can offer organizations of all sizes and verticals a flexible, comprehensive, integrated, cost-effective, full-stack solution. With built-in AIOps, machine learning (ML), and automation, Hybrid Cloud Observability can help to enhance visibility, troubleshoot across apps and services, reduce remediation time, and provide data-driven insights to help you make optimal and informed decisions throughout your migration process. Hybrid Cloud Observability also has a seamless path to the cloud, so if your future needs are fully cloud-based you don’t have to rip and replace, and instead, you can easily migrate to our SaaS product SolarWinds Observability. Learn more about how Hybrid Cloud Observability can help you with your cloud migration strategy by demoing it for free today.
Rohit Raveendran
Rohit Raveendran
Rohit Raveendran has been in SolarWinds since November 2021 and has over 17 years of experience in the field of marketing. He has worked across…
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