Migrate or Modernize? Level Up Your Cloud Transformation Strategy to Power Innovation
Modern cloud application ecosystems aren’t just changing the ways companies build and run software. These technologies are so powerful that they’re transforming what it means to do business in the twenty-first century. Not only has cloud computing made it possible for organizations of all sizes to take scalability and agility to a whole new level, but it’s also enabling entirely new business models. Want to create a new software product for your customers? Or a digital service offering to meet the market’s latest demands? It’s never been easier than it is with today’s cloud infrastructure and platform offerings.
Still, established companies inevitably have applications and systems that they invested in before the cloud’s inception. And some of these systems may be mission-critical. When it comes time to decide on a strategy for moving them to the cloud, technology leaders will need to ensure that they’re following a plan that won’t result in unnecessary disruptions to the business, elevate costs or increase security risks. And because every business application is different, they’ll have to think carefully about each one.
This process, called cloud rationalization, involves evaluating every individual asset within your digital estate in order to determine the best way to migrate or modernize it so that it can best operate in the cloud. It isn’t always a simple process, but the benefits – including agility, streamlined operations and cost optimization – ensure that it’s more than worthwhile.
Start with security in mind
While strategizing to move your applications to the cloud requires individual attention to each one, there are some general best practices to follow that can help you ensure that you’re maximizing the value that the migration can bring to your business, and minimizing any possible downsides that it might have.
We recommend that every organization start its journey to the cloud by building out the right cloud adoption framework. This means cultivating a base understanding of how access and permissions work in your environment, and getting buy-in from stakeholders across the organization about the importance of good governance in the cloud.
The foundational elements of robust security in the cloud include:
- identity and access management
- robust management of permissions
- networking security
- cross-organizational communication (it’s just as important to train, educate and nurture your end users as it is to implement the right technical controls)
We also recommend that you use landing zones within your cloud environment. Landing zones are well-architected environments that have been expressly designed to support good governance. When you migrate workloads into landing zones, you’ll already have guiding principles in place for how they’ll be managed and secured. This ensures consistency across your entire cloud and accelerates the migration process. At the same time, it provides a solid foundation that you can build upon as your organization’s cloud maturity and footprint grows.
Application rationalization: Basic principles
It’s been more than a decade since the analyst firm Gartner first published what’s since become the best-known framework defining the available options for migrating an application to the cloud. Known as the five Rs, this framework outlines the most common and popular strategies for moving an asset to a cloud environment.
- Rehost. Also known as “lift and shift” migration, this involves moving an application to a cloud environment with no or minimal changes to its overall architecture.
- Refactor. Sometimes referred to as “revise,” this option involves modifying the application somewhat so that it can begin to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. One might, for instance, rebuild part of an application so that it can use a managed cloud database service for storage.
- Rearchitect. When an application is rearchitected, it’s significantly modified so that it can make extensive use of cloud-native capabilities. This requires major changes in the application’s underlying design, so that it can take advantage of elements like containers, Kubernetes and serverless functions.
- Rebuild. In some cases, the changes that would need to be made so that an application could be compatible with cloud-native architectures are so large, and the investment required is so great, that building an entirely new application using a cloud-native approach is a better option.
- Replace. There are instances when it makes more sense to replace the entire application with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) app that can better provide the needed functionalities and is much easier to maintain and administer.
Deciding which of the five Rs makes the most sense for your application requires you to understand the role that the application plays within your operations, and the reasons you’re moving it to the cloud in the first place.
Sometimes, speed is paramount. Perhaps your co-located data center’s lease is about to expire, or you need to adhere to a strict timeline because you don’t want to pay for an additional year’s worth of software licensing. In that case, rehosting the application will be the way to go, because it’s the fastest way to get an application into the cloud. This type of “as is” migration also tends to be the least disruptive to the users of a business-critical application who depend upon it to manage the organization’s day-to-day operations.
On the other hand, if you need a highly scalable app that can take full advantage of the cloud’s agility – while right-sizing costs for things like CPU, memory and storage – you’d be better served by refactoring or rearchitecting the application. This process is more complex and time-consuming than rehosting an app, so it can be a better fit for organizations that are further along on their cloud transformation journeys. It’s also possible that the best path forward might be to build an entirely new application that can leverage the cloud’s capabilities in all their depth and breadth.
Think of application rationalization as an iterative process
Finding the right path to the cloud involves balance. On the one hand, you don’t want to disrupt operations or cause too much downtime, but you also don’t want to maintain inefficient systems that will inevitably cost more (and perform worse) than modern, cloud-native solutions would. Figuring out how to navigate this path means identifying the systems that will be the best ones to migrate first, as well as those that you should select for re-architecting.
Choosing one of the Rs for your application doesn’t mean that your cloud journey is over, or that you won’t move towards a different R later. Instead, it’s an iterative process. Often, it makes the most sense to start out by lift-and-shifting an application to the cloud. Once it’s there, and you’ve built out additional test environments, adopted a DevOps pipeline and become more comfortable and familiar with cloud-native concepts, you can begin to modernize it gradually.
The key is to understand your business needs and goals. Is scalability important to your business because you anticipate rapid future growth? Do you want to be able to extend your application stack to users in different regions of the country or the world? Are you doing custom development in-house? In all of these cases, modernizing your application estate can help your business achieve its objectives, but beginning your cloud journey with the ends in mind can also help you figure out where to start.
Netrix is proud to serve as a strategic partner to our clients, helping them to identify their most important business goals and designing IT solutions that help them realize these goals. To learn more about our unique consultative approach to cloud migration, visit us at netrixglobal.com.