Cloud Migration Strategies - Picking the Right "R" for the Job
Updated: Jan 29
It’s probably safe to assume your organization’s IT portfolio contains applications and platforms at various states within their lifecycle, serving business functions of varying levels of criticality, and supporting a diverse array of requirements. All this variety makes for quite the spider web of complexity when contemplating how to best migrate your applications to the cloud. Each application in your portfolio will require some effort to move, however each application stack should be evaluated to ensure the right migration strategy is selected to support the current and future needs of the business.
If you do a search on the web, you will likely find reference to the R’s of cloud migration strategies – Retire, Retain, Rehost, Re-platform, and Refactor and/or Re-architect. Each of these approaches serves a particular purpose and provides a critical lens from which to evaluate the best migration strategy for the job. In this post, we’ll discuss each approach using effort and business benefit as the filter, as well the scenarios that best suit each approach.
The obvious of the lower effort approaches are Retire and Retain. Retire is the appropriate choice when you are hosting applications that have outlived their useful life or are soon to be decommissioned. Identifying these potential “Retirees” as early as possible in the planning phase reduces any time wasted spent on discussing or planning on how they are to be addressed and ensures attention is placed on the areas needing it most. Retaining an application simply means keeping it in its current environment. This may be the desired route when the amount of effort, cost, and impact are too high to be managed as part of the initial phases of cloud migration. This option may also be the best if the application recently underwent upgrades, requires a higher level of TLC, or is too complex to move. Generally speaking, the decision to retain is a temporary one since more than likely the decision will be revisited later. Although both of these approaches maintain the status quo and do not advance the digital agenda, it may prove to be the best decision for the business given any negative impact to these applications could mean disruption to the business.
The next approaches, Rehost or Re-platform, require more effort but minimize risk, while gaining some of the benefits of migrating to the cloud. Rehost or “lift and shift” is exactly what it means; it is taking an existing application and moving it, as is, to the cloud. This offers the benefit of moving like for like, with the exception you are now leveraging cloud infrastructure. Servers running packaged software or development and test environments are perfect candidates for rehosting. Re-platform, sometimes referred to as “lift, tinker, and shift” by Stephen Orban of AWS, requires a bit more effort since in this approach you will likely make changes such as a move to PaaS or make some changes to the application in order to leverage cloud features such as automation. Re-platforming becomes a great option when your application may require upgrades at the host or database level. Both of these approaches allow your organization to soft-pedal the transition to cloud; while at the same time allowing your team to gain valuable expertise, take advantage of optimized capabilities in the cloud, and easing the future re-architecture of your application for the cloud.
High on the effort and cost scale and somewhat similar, are Re-factoring and/or Re-architecting. In this approach you are essentially recoding, re-building and/or replacing parts of or the complete application and architecture to take advantage of native cloud capabilities. Re-factoring/Re-architecting may take the shape of replacing an in-house CRM system with a SaaS solution or rebuilding application components to take advantage of Service Oriented Architecture. Although both approaches require more effort, time, and budget to complete, these approaches gain you the optimal efficiency that a cloud environment provides in enabling you to leverage the full menu of features that cloud solutions offer. Many organizations choose this path when they are ready to rebuild or replace a legacy application that is critical to the business.
Migrating to the cloud requires a careful evaluation of the long-term strategic view of your application portfolio. Understanding where each application is headed in the future, its specific requirements, and its impact to the business ensures your organization will employ the right “R” for migrating your application portfolio to the cloud.
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