Why infrastructure is critical to your application cloud migration

By Grant Caley, Chief Technologist UK&I at NetApp.

“You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation”

Moving applications to the cloud can have numerous benefits for a business. And in 2021, that’s not likely to be a surprise; during the pandemic, organisations around the world have depended on cloud applications for remote working, rapid strategic pivots and increasing operational efficiency.

Today, cloud is not only viewed as a way to respond to current disruption, but as a means to futureproof the business in readiness for further change in the years ahead.

But a great building starts with the strong foundations – and likewise, the right infrastructure strategy is critical for migrating applications successfully.

Every organisation’s needs will be different, necessitating careful planning by IT and business leaders. But there are valuable tools that can support whatever strategy you choose. So, let’s reconsider the six Rs of cloud migration through the infrastructure lens, and even add a seventh: (w)riting a modern cloud application.

Three infrastructure routes – and the technologies that can help

When migrating to the cloud, businesses usually take one of three routes with their infrastructure. These are our first three Rs – rehosting, re-platforming and rearchitecting – and each scenario offers benefits and challenges. But importantly, technologies are available that can alleviate potential problems which may emerge during the migration itself.

Depending on their individual circumstances, including factors such as timescales, cost, available resources and the overall business plan, organisations will usually choose between:

1. Rehosting: Lifting and shifting existing infrastructure to the cloud, while anticipating refinements further down the line – enabling businesses to quickly migrate critical core services without costly development and testing

2. Re-platforming: Making changes to the existing infrastructure, but keeping the core architecture the same – enabling businesses to start small and experiment with the cloud environment before scaling up

3. Rearchitecting: Starting from scratch in the cloud – enabling businesses to increase their resilience, adapt to future change and often realise long-term savings

For businesses that are taking the first route and simply rehosting, hybrid cloud storage can be a valuable resource. Data can be transferred quickly and applications can run in parallel on the cloud and on-premises. This can enable organisations to use the same on-premises capabilities in the cloud – while importantly decreasing the risk of any downtime.

Likewise, storage-as-a-service can offer advantages for organisations choosing the middle option and re-platforming. Depending on the specific provider, it’s possible to benefit from the high performance and low latency needed for running demanding applications on the cloud. A variety of performance tiers can enable businesses to quickly scale up and down depending on their workloads. Additionally, the option to use automation, as well as machine learning or artificial intelligence, as part of these services can also be beneficial to create scalable cloud infrastructure for larger applications.

The final option, rearchitecting, will usually have the biggest implications for a business’ infrastructure, but tools can help to reduce the burden. In addition to the various cloud storage solutions, a concurrent versions system (CVS) can decrease the level of manual re-architecting required, while importantly enabling teams to implement new features, enhance performance and build in scalability.

Critically, a CVS can reduce the risk a business faces during this significant operation, by supporting disaster recovery and offering business continuity through cross-region replication (CRR) – for added peace of mind.

To retire, repurchase, retain . . . or (w)rite?

Across the board, businesses are gradually pivoting away from on-premises solutions and towards software-as-a-service (SaaS), to support flexible working and build greater adaptability into the organisation. Therefore, as part of the cloud migration, it’s valuable for businesses to audit their infrastructure to evaluate where applications are hosted – and this is where our next three Rs come in.

It might be best for applications to be:

· Repurchased: Legacy applications that aren’t meeting business needs, or are incompatible with the cloud, can be decommissioned and replaced with a cloud-based version

· Retired: Redundant applications can be decommissioned or consolidated with other applications

· Retained: On-premises applications that already work well or require very high performance might be retained

Again, identifying the right storage options can help teams through any transition. For example, during the retirement process, IT teams will need to extract the data from applications. This can then be archived in low-cost storage or alternatively stored on object format to reduce costs even further and keep the migration cost-effective.

Equally, there might be applications that will be useful after rearchitecting, so should be left on-premises until changes are made and the migration takes place. For the layover time, having a public or hybrid cloud might be the best approach. This can be combined with storage tiering to reduce costs, by storing data that’s not being used frequently on inexpensive block storage.

Finally, there’s a seventh, additional R to consider: (w)riting cloud applications. Driven by the demand for rich, personalised digital experiences, many businesses are now writing their own applications specifically for serverless and Kubernetes environments. This can offer speed, flexibility and agility – and there are tools to help.

Application-aware data management services can ensure businesses build and use applications efficiently. At the same time, solutions are available to protect, recover and move applications deployed on Kubernetes – without requiring the installation of software that subsequently has to be maintained.

Strong foundations

Organisations are keen to reap the advantages of moving to the cloud – and a key part of ensuring the migration is successful in a way that sets the business up for the future, is to focus on building strong foundations. That means identifying the right approach for your infrastructure.

There are many considerations to bear in mind, but whatever strategy is best for the business, there are tools that can smooth out the process. It’s important to consider ways to reduce complexity and manage costs to reap the advantages of the cloud. Automation can continually optimise and monitor cloud infrastructure in any environment: whether on-premises, cloud or Kubernetes service.

Plan carefully, take advantage of the tools available – and ensure your cloud migration becomes your business’ platform for future success.

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