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Kick-start your app migration strategy with these best practices

As the cloud becomes more popular, most enterprises will need a migration strategy. Before they move to the public cloud, companies should step back and assess their applications and migration methods.

An app migration shouldn't be taken lightly -- enterprises need to perform various assessments and build a strategy to run an application effectively and optimally in cloud.

One of the trickiest parts of an app migration is deciding whether the public cloud is the right environment for current, and possibly future, workloads. Prior to any move, enterprises should analyze their workloads, the tools that can help them migrate and the clouds they want to use. Follow these four tips to better understand what an app migration entails.

A cloud migration assessment lets IT look before it leaps

The public cloud appeals to the majority of enterprises, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right hosting environment for every organization.

Organizations should consider regulatory requirements before their app migration. These regulations can limit the physical location of sensitive data and applications. They can also apply to disaster recovery and data backup. Before choosing a provider, check where its availability zones and regions are located.

Also, security and performance are important considerations. Even though the provider secures and manages the cloud, it's the enterprise's responsibility to secure access to its own data. Also, not all apps will perform well in cloud. Monolithic applications often experience the most issues after moving, while cloud-native applications perform the best on the public cloud.

Once an enterprise decides the public cloud is right for its apps, it needs to review the three phases of cloud migration: planning, deployment and maintenance. It must identify the workloads it wants to move to cloud, evaluate the business case for each migration and then asses the application's individual suitability for the migration. Next, the enterprise must design its deployment and decide which services and instances its applications need. After you deploy the app, it must be monitored, fixed and frequently updated.

There are various cloud provider services that can ease the stress of an app migration, such as AWS Migration Acceleration Program and Google Cloud Platform migration tools. Or you can opt for third-party options, such as CloudPilot from CloudAtlas and AppDynamics' App iQ and APM.

It's time to rethink app migration strategies for cloud

Gartner's five app migration approaches -- rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild and replace -- may not be adaptable to the ever-changing IT landscape. Today, users believe there are other important app migration methods, like rethink and rearchitect.

Simpler migration methods may be quicker, but the applications may not take advantage of cloud's benefits. For example, the rehost method -- or lift and shift -- is fast and only requires minimal changes to the application's deployment configuration. However, the lack of modifications can have heavy cost implications down the line.

Other methods -- such as refactor, revise and rebuild -- continue to focus on varying degrees of modification to the application so it fits better into a cloud-based infrastructure. It is much more common to use the rebuild strategy -- a combination of refactoring and revising -- which alters the app to use cloud-native web services. When all else fails, enterprises can replace the application entirely with a hosted SaaS version. Today, SaaS applications are primarily third-party extensions of a provider's web services that users integrate into their own software.

Although Gartner's five methods are a great start to an app migration, enterprises should rethink and rearchitect apps specifically for the cloud in order to optimize performance and cost.

Estimate cloud computing costs prior to app migration

Cost is the biggest motivator for organizations to move to the cloud. Cloud prices can add up if companies don't prepare for various factors, like the costs of setup, data storage and transit.

Before an enterprise makes a commitment to a cloud migration, it needs to see if the cloud is the most economical choice for their workloads. Don't assume the cloud is always cheaper. While there are app migration approaches that offer low upfront costs, such as lift and shift, there can be more ongoing expenses later. On the other hand, the refactor approach could cost more upfront, but it will have significantly less costs in the future.

If an organization doesn't know how to estimate costs, there are cloud calculators, migration consultants and other services to help. Top IaaS providers offer their own set of tools to assess pricing, such as AWS Simple Monthly Calculator and Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator. There are also third-party options, such as Unigma's Public Cloud Cost Comparison Calculator and RightScale's Cloud ROI Calculator.

While there are plenty of options available to help organizations evaluate costs, it is ultimately up to the enterprise to decide which road to venture down. But one thing is for sure: Every company should properly research pricing.

What's a cloud migration factory, and how does it work?

The purpose of a cloud migration factory is to change the way enterprises move a large number of applications to the cloud. This method is made up of the people, processes and tools that help migrate workloads. It blends the technical, business and human components to make a larger app migration easier.

A cloud migration factory can aid enterprises throughout each phase of implementation. For planning, it helps select and organize the provider's resources, as well as show the business value of the move. It can also guide enterprises toward the best app migration strategy for their workloads. Once the planning is complete, it is time to execute the move that includes provisioning, testing, cutovers, monitoring and troubleshooting.

A cloud migration factory is not right for all enterprises; you need to consider the size of the migration and the needs of the business. Typically, low-priority workloads that run experimentally in public cloud won't need to use this method. But if you plan to have recurring migration tasks, this more formal approach can ease your move.

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