Legacy to Cloud Transformation – When and How?

Customer expectations have never been higher. When you build software, you usually need to add new features to meet their rising demands. If you test often, you can deliver often. This means that you can get feedback from your customers often and enhance your products often. There is a deep link between your competitiveness and your development/operations flexibility. Competitiveness is a key to business success, and it is the result of many factors like the smoothness and flexibility of the business’ IT operations and development. Hence, establishing an IT environment that is effective, better performing, secured yet pocket-friendly is desired.

Considering the speed and accuracy expected by customers, Cloud-native application development/migration is placed at the heart of nearly every Digital Business Transformation strategy. Cloud transformation enable businesses to accelerate their growth by providing the right approaches and tools. That said, some organizations may retain old systems that are critical to the business. While these old, legacy systems are a burden, they don’t just disappear, the complexity of maintaining them may even increase.

At Qentelli, we acquired an advanced understanding of enabling this kind of change since our client portfolio is diverse and the only thing that is common among them is their goals – to offer breakthrough customer experience, accelerate their innovation cycles, and achieve unprecedented responsiveness. In this article, we share with you a few strategies that we recommend to companies moving from legacy to Cloud-based. In other words, the practices you should do and should avoid for smoother Cloud Transformation.

The 6 R’s of Cloud Migration

A huge part of Cloud-native Transformation is the shift in technologies employed in development and operations. Therefore, Cloud Migration is a critical step. To make the most out of the possibilities of cloud native and become a truly digital enterprise, it is important to have the right migration strategy in place. If you are moving your data center to the cloud, your migration strategy is going to be one of the following options that we discuss.

Built upon the 5 R’s outlined by Richard Watson for a Gartner report in 2011, AWS designed these six different migration strategies in 2016.

This is the list of the 6 R’s:

  • Re-host
  • Re-platform
  • Re-purchase
  • Re-factor
  • Retire
  • Retain

At Qentelli, we always analyze the client’s Status Quo and suggest transformation strategies that are driven by their actual business strategies. Building cloud strategy leadership is a major aspect of the Digital Transformation journey. Even though AWS originated and outlined these strategies in their own way, they can (and have to) be used with other cloud providers and different environments to suite the unique requirements. For example, adopting an ‘As-a-service’ model for the back-office tools and end computing technologies can help some businesses to stay away from vendor lock-in, some will have to revisit their systems to check their appetite for new capabilities and understand the migration opportunities.

Depending on the data center, software architecture, and existing licensing arrangements, a company can outline a plan and a strategy to migrate to the cloud. Let’s look at some of the strategies on detail and understand the right time to go with respective approach.

Re-host (Lift-and-shift)

This is nothing but moving the application to the cloud without any significant changes. The digital-native businesses and their applications might incline towards exploiting the Cloud-native capabilities. But if the large-scale, legacy, never-been-on-cloud systems are looking for scaling opportunities, they would most probably want to be migrated through re-hosting. It may not always be the ideal and efficient choice of transformation, but it takes lesser time and fewer resources to move the legacy system to a modern open system platform.

Re-platform (Lift-tinker-and-shift)

This approach is also known as Lift-and-shape.

Some legacy systems are not well structured to move to the cloud; however, one can perform some optimizations without changing the application core before moving it to the cloud. Some applications that are already on cloud might consider this strategy to move the core system to a fully managed platform. (e.g., AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle, Salesforce, etc.)

A typical example is moving an on-prem database to cloud-managed data stores or emulating the application through a compatible virtual machine on the cloud.

Re-factor/Re-architect (Cloud-native)

This approach is about redesigning how the application is architected. Rearchitecting typically implements cloud-native features. This strategy can also be achieved after an initial migration using re-platforming or re-hosting strategies. Since refactoring costs are high, a typical use case here is partial refactoring: Specific parts of the application can be refactored to take advantage of the cloud platform.

One may use this strategy when they can provide the financial means to refactor (partially or totally) their platforms.

Choosing the Right Strategy

Each strategy has its own advantages but also has limitations and weaknesses. This is the reason why we practice an exercise of assessing the application stack and current staffing levels to determine the best approach. Some strategies such as Re-factoring imply moving from a Monolithic architecture to a Service-oriented architecture, and in many cases, the business continuity can be dependent on this. Preferring this alternative is usually driven by a business need to scale or add new features that are hard or impossible to implement in the legacy system.

At the same time, this strategy remains the most expensive. Even if you have a good product-market fit, reskilling your current technical talents and adapting them to the cloud-native ecosystem is critical to your business continuity.

Certainly, a successful Cloud-native journey can start after achieving another strategy like Re-hosting.

This strategy is useful only if you want to move legacy to the cloud quickly. It can be easier than Re-architecting and has quick wins. This is the reason why one should be able to ascertain the applications that can be moved first to the cloud.

Cloud Migration Possible Risks and Pitfalls

Moving to the cloud is not the ultimate goal, but it should be considered as a tool to boost your business productivity and ensure its continuity. Running some or most of the workloads on the cloud doesn’t mean that Cloud Migration was done right. The new infrastructure may encounter some uncertainties and struggle after discovering some hidden pitfalls. There are some questions to ask before deciding, and they can be related to teams, cloud provider(s), applications, data, and costs.

What level of support does your team need? Cloud providers offer different levels of paid support; some of them may be expensive. In addition to the support cost, managed services costs and pricing models may vary from one cloud to another.

Therefore, a comparison between cloud providers is essential. Some vendors may offer lower prices but can push you into vendor-lock before you even realize.

Costs should not be the only criterion, performance and high availability are as important as reducing your production and operation costs.

Choosing a cloud vendor also has technical impacts on your team and influences your future staffing decisions. To anticipate any problem, reskilling your team and preparing them should be at the center of your strategy. Your organization must have enough knowledge to maintain and evolve your application stack and ensure its continuity in a new environment.

Take the example of determining which part of your data is sensible and how sensitive it is; think about how it is handled in the cloud. Make sure that your team has enough technical and legal knowledge to manage how your data migration should be done.

The DON’Ts of Cloud Migration

  • Migrating to the cloud can be painful to some businesses when the wrong decisions are taken. We noticed that some companies motivate some choices by a specific business purpose, while some or most of the other uses can be ignored.
  • Proceeding without deeply comparing the different cloud offers is a common mistake. Your business needs and how applications are manufactured and managed by your cloud vendor may diverge with time.
  • Starting your transformation without a business purpose may exacerbate the consequences. Also, migrating all your applications and data at once, doesn’t make your company cloud-native, you should be cloud-ready before.
  • Cloud migrations are anything but straight-forward, it’s not about accomplishing some tasks in a checklist. With all the elements that revolve around the different choices and strategies for cloud migration and efficient transformations, doing everything on your own may harm your business continuity.
  • Applications and data are getting complex. While focusing on your business value is critical to your customers, becoming cloud-native, and achieving your cloud transformation is as important as the other business aspects.
  • Engaging with a specialized partner like Qentelli eliminates any risk in your cloud migration projects and grants you more time and energy to focus on your core business values.

Cloud Application Migration isn’t an easy decision to take. It doesn’t always result in Infrastructure modernization. Cloud Transformation directly impacts on various business components. Optimization is the key factor through out the game. Have more questions? Feel free to write us: info@qentelli.com