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Azure Cloud Migration Process and Strategies

Microsoft Azure cloud platform offers over 200 products and services such as analytics, virtual computing, storage, and networking. It is a powerful tool that businesses can use to improve their enterprise IT environments while ensuring full compliance and data protection. They can choose to augment their applications or fully replace their on-premise setting with Azure cloud to boost productivity, increase flexibility, and reduce costs.

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Planning your migration to Azure is an important process as it involves choosing whether to rehost, refactor, rearchitect, or rebuild your applications. A laid-out Azure migration strategy helps put these decisions in perspective. Read on to find our step-by-step guide for the cloud migration process, plus a breakdown of key migration models.

An investment in on-premises hosting and data centers can be a waste of money nowadays, because cloud technologies provide significant advantages, such as usage-based pricing and the capacity to easily scale up and down. In addition, your downtime risks will be near-zero in comparison with on-premises infrastructure. Migration to the cloud from the on-premises model requires time, so the earlier you start, the better.

Dmitry Baraishuk Belitsoft’s CTO on Forbes.com

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Cloud Migration Process to Microsoft Azure

We would like to share our recommended approach for migrating applications and workloads to Azure. It is based on Microsoft's guidelines and outlines the key steps of the Azure Migration process.

1. Strategize and plan your migration process

The first thing you need to do to lay out a sound migration strategy is to identify and organize discussions among the key business stakeholders. They will need to document precise business outcomes expected from the migration process. The team is also required to understand and discover the underlying technical aspects of cloud adoption and factor them into the documented strategy.

Next, you will need to come up with a strategic plan that will prioritize your goals and objectives and serve as a practical guide for cloud adoption. It begins with translating strategy into more tangible aspects like choosing which applications and workloads have higher priority for migration. You move on deeper into business and technical elements and document them into a plan used to forecast, budget, and implement your Azure migration strategy.

In the end, you'll be able to calculate your total cost of ownership with Azure’s TCO calculator which is a handy tool for planning your savings and expenses for your migration project.

2. Evaluate workloads and prepare for migration

After creating the migration plan you will need to assess your environment and categorize all of your servers, virtual machines, and application dependencies. You will need to look at such key components of your infrastructure as:

Virtual Networks: Analyze your existing workloads for performance, security, and stability and make sure you match these metrics with equivalent resources in Azure cloud. This way you can have the same experience as with the on-premise data center. Evaluate whether you will need to run your own DNS via Active Directory and which parts of your application will require subnets.

Storage Capacity: Select the right Azure storage services to support the required number of operations per second for virtual machines with intensive I/O workloads. You can prioritize usage based on the nature of the data and how often users access it. Rarely accessed (cold data) could be placed in slow storage solutions.

Computing resources: Analyze how you can win by migrating to flexible Azure Virtual Machines. With Azure, you are no longer limited by your physical server’s capabilities and can dynamically scale your applications along with shifting performance requirements. Azure Autoscale service allows you to automatically distribute resources based on metrics and keeps you from wasting money on redundant computing power.

To make life easier, Azure has created tools to streamline the assessment process:

  • Azure Migrate is Microsoft’s current recommended solution and is an end-to-end tool that you can use to assess and migrate servers, virtual machines, infrastructure, applications, and data to Azure. It can be a bit overwhelming and requires you to transfer your data to Azure’s servers.
  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit can be a lighter solution for people who are just at the start of their cloud migration journey. It needs to be installed and stores data on-premise but is much simpler and gives a great picture of server compatibility with Azure and the required Azure VM sizes.
  • Virtual Machine Readiness Assessment tool Is another great tool that guides the user all the way through the assessment with a series of questions. Besides the questions, it also provides additional information with regard to the question. In the end, it gives you a checklist for moving to the cloud.

Create your migration landing zone. As a final step, before you move on to the migration process you need to prepare your Azure environment by creating a landing zone. A landing zone is a collection of cloud services used for hosting, operating, and governing workloads migrated to the cloud. Think of it as a blueprint for your future cloud setup which you can further scale to your requirements.

3. Migrate your applications to Azure Cloud 

First of all, you can simply replace some of your applications with SaaS products hosted by Azure. For instance, you can move your email and communication-related workloads to Office 365 (Microsoft 365). Document management solutions can be replaced with Sharepoint. Finally, messaging, voice, and video-shared communications can step over to Microsoft Teams.

For other workloads that are irreplaceable and need to be moved to the cloud, we recommend an iterative approach. Luckily, we can take advantage of Azure hybrid cloud solutions so there’s no need for a rapid transition to the cloud. Here are some tips for migrating to Azure:

  • Start with a proof of concept: Choose a few applications that would be easiest to migrate, then test your migration plan and document your progress. Collect insights and apply them when you move on to more complex workloads. Top choices for the first move include basic web apps and portals.
  • Advance with more challenging workloads: Use the insights from the previous step to migrate workloads with a high business impact. These are often apps that record business transactions with high processing rates. They also include strongly regulated workloads.
  • Approach most difficult applications last: These are high-value asset applications that support all business operations. They are usually not easily replaced or modernized, so they require a special approach, or in most cases - complete redesign and development.

4. Optimize performance in Azure cloud

After you have successfully migrated your solutions to Azure, the next step is to look for ways to optimize their performance in the cloud. This includes revisions of the app’s design, tweaking chosen Azure services, configuring infrastructure, and managing subscription costs.

This step also includes possible modifications when after you’ve rehosted your application, you decide to refactor and make it more compatible with the cloud. You may even want to completely rearchitect the solution with Azure cloud services.

Besides this, some vital optimizations include:

  • Monitoring resource usage and performance with tools like Azure Monitor and Azure Traffic Manager and providing an appropriate response to critical issues.
  • Data protection using measures such as disaster recovery, encryption, and data back-ups.
  • Maintaining high security standards by applying centralized security policies, eliminating exposure to threats with antivirus and malware protection, and responding to attacks using event management.

Azure migration strategies

The strategies for migrating to the Azure cloud depend on how much you are willing to modernize your applications. You can choose to rehost, refactor, rearchitect, or rebuild apps based on your business needs and goals.

1. Rehost or Lift and Shift strategy

Rehosting means moving applications from on-premise to the cloud without any code or architecture design changes. This type of migration fits apps that need to be quickly moved to the cloud, as well as legacy software that supports key business operations. Choose this method if you don’t have much time to modernize your workload and plan on making the big changes after moving to the cloud.

Advantages: Speedy migration with no risk of bugs and breakdown issues.

Disadvantages: Azure cloud service usage may be limited by compatibility issues.

2. Refactor or repackaging strategy

During refactoring, slight changes are made to the application so that it becomes more compatible with cloud infrastructure. This can be done if you want to avoid maintenance challenges and would like to take advantage of services like Azure SQL Managed Instance, Azure App Service, or Azure Kubernetes Service.

Advantages: It’s a lot faster and easier than a complete redesign of architecture, allows to improve the application’s performance in the cloud, and to take advantage of advanced DevOps automation tools.

Disadvantages: Less efficient than moving to improved design patterns like the transition to microservices from monolith architecture.

3. Rearchitect strategy

Some legacy software may not be compatible with the Azure cloud environment. In this case, the application needs a complete redesign to a cloud-native architecture. It often involves migrating to microservices from the monolith and moving relational and nonrelational databases to a managed cloud storage solution.

Advantages: Applications leverage the full power of Azure cloud with high performance, scalability, and flexibility.

Disadvantages: Migrating may be tricky and pose challenges, including issues in the early stages like breakdowns and service disruptions.

4. Rebuild strategy

The rebuild strategy takes things even further and involves taking apart the old application and developing a new one from scratch using Azure Platform as a service (PaaS) services. It allows taking advantage of cloud-native technologies like Azure Containers, Functions and Logic Apps to create the application layer and Azure SQL Database for the data tier. A cloud-native approach gives you complete freedom to use Azure’s extensive catalog of products to optimize your application’s performance.

Advantages: Allows for business innovation by leveraging AI, blockchain, and IoT technologies.

Disadvantages: A fully cloud-native approach may pose some limitations in features and functionality as compared to custom-built applications.

Professional support for your Azure migration

Every migration process is unique and requires a personal approach. It is never a one-way street and there are a lot of nuances and challenges on the path to cloud adoption. Often, having an experienced migration partner can seriously simplify and accelerate your Azure cloud migration journey.

Belitsoft is a team of Azure migration services and modernization experts with a proven track record and portfolio of projects to show for it. We can help analyze your workloads, check for compatibility, and create a sound migration strategy. Further, we will take all the necessary steps to ensure your successful transition to Azure cloud.

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