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5 Things to Consider Before Migrating Apps to the Cloud

John HawkinsBy John M. Hawkins

Application migration can be a difficult and frustrating task. Differences between two environments can lead to a loss of functionality, depending on what’s supported by the new location. Additionally, many applications aren’t designed for portability and trying to mobilize them can cause complications and poor performance. In order to prevent these issues, you need to understand what cloud migration means for each application, know what to expect from the process, and have a plan for accomplishing the migration as smoothly and effectively as possible.

Here are five things that all channel partners — whether reseller, aggregator, value-added reseller (VAR) or systems integrator — should consider before migrating applications to a cloud-based environment.

Assessment

Before you rush into the migration process, the first thing you need to determine is which applications would actually benefit from migrating to the cloud in the first place. Not every application is worth the effort that it takes, and some simply function better when hosted locally. How do you decide which applications should be migrated and which shouldn’t? You need to perform an assessment.

For each application, there are several different areas you need to examine in order to assess the feasibility and desirability of migration to the cloud. They include the technical requirements, risk assessment and overall value gained.

Here are a few basic questions to ask when assessing an application’s cloud readiness:

  • What type of setting is this application best suited for? Will it do best in a physical environment? A virtual one? A private cloud? A public cloud? Will you need to access it remotely, or only on-site? Where and how will its functionality best meet your organization’s needs?
  • Is the application ready for migration? How portable is the platform? Is the architecture able to be moved easily from one environment to another? How complex is the application, and what will it take to get it into the cloud in a form that retains all of its essential elements and functions?
  • What benefits will you get from migrating this application into the cloud? Are the benefits worth the cost and the effort it will take?
  • What security considerations are there? Are you dealing with sensitive data? Will it require extra measures to keep that data secure in the cloud? What are the risks involved, and can they be easily overcome? Are they risks you’re willing to take?

The most important consideration, though, is this: For every application that you migrate to a cloud environment, you need to have a specific reason. Why is the cloud the best place to host this application? What will it provide you that on-site hosting will not?

Cloud migration is not a magic cure-all. It’s a tool and it’s up to you to decide how you will use that tool to get the most benefit for your client.

Functionality

As cloud computing becomes increasingly popular, many fundamental applications have released their own cloud versions for companies to use. The purpose is to eliminate the need for migration entirely. Now instead of struggling to unite two noncompatible environments, you simply can export your data directly from your licensed version of the application into the cloud version. It’s a much easier and faster way of doing things.

Keep in mind that cloud versions of established applications typically aren’t as robust as the regular licensed and installed versions. They simply don’t offer the same functionality. Ideally, what people want is to be able to do all the same things they did on the licensed version of the app, anywhere and on any device.

Essentially, what you’re looking to migrate into the cloud isn’t the application itself, but the workload associated with it. If you export to a cloud version of the application that you’re using, but don’t retain the same essential features and functions that you had with the licensed version, your application will provide less value. In order to maintain your full workload, you have to migrate the full licensed version of the application into the cloud.

The workload aspect of your applications is why functionality is such an important consideration in the migration process. What do you need this application to do, and what’s the best way to get it to do that? This again comes back to the question of whether or not a specific application should be migrated to the cloud at all.

If it should, then what type of cloud will it work best on? Public? Private? Distributed? Hybrid? There are a variety of clouds to choose from, and each has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the functions it lends itself to.

For each of your applications’ functions, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something that should be made available remotely, or should it be performed locally?
  • Will you retain the functionality that you need if you do decide to migrate this application to the cloud?
  • Can you restrict access to private or sensitive information in the cloud as effectively as you can on site?

Once you’ve determined your responses for each application, you’ll be able to organize applications so that they meet all of your client’s functionality needs as closely as possible.

User Requirements

Before you can determine whether or not an application should be migrated to the cloud, there are two simple questions you need to ask: what does the user need it for and what do they need it to be able to do?

For instance, you may have a series of customer relationship management (CRM) applications where data is key. You want to be able to retain basic data organization and the ability to search for and retrieve customer data with ease. There also may be messaging applications for connecting with your client’s customers directly. Will these still be usable the same way in the new cloud environment?

There are also enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) applications to consider. They may provide projected figures and analytics that help your client manage a variety of business scenarios, and more. For each application, you need to note the essential functions that the user is getting out of them, and determine whether those functions are able to migrate effectively to the new cloud environment.

Upgrades

One thing that’s essential when dealing with applications in any form is planning for the future. Technology advances, often at a very rapid rate. If you don’t advance with it, your client will get left behind, making it difficult to remain competitive. That’s the main reason why you want to migrate applications to the cloud in the first place. But it’s important to make sure that the functions that those applications perform aren’t going to be made obsolete soon after the migration is complete. Otherwise, all of the time, effort, and resources spent on migrating applications will have been a waste.

How do you make sure applications will remain competitive? Ensure they can be quickly and easily upgraded. You may be tempted to upgrade your applications as part of the migration process, in order to kill two birds with one stone and make sure that you stay on top of the latest versions of each application. However, upgrading simultaneously with the migration process further complicates the issue of what functionality will be retained in the migration, and can cause problems with migrating successfully. Instead, if there are upgrades that need to be performed at the same time that you’re planning on performing the migration, decide whether to do the updates before the process begins, or after it is completed.

There are advantages to each option. Upgrading before the migration ensures that you have the latest, most up to date version ready to go, as soon as it’s up in the cloud. Upgrading afterwards can give you an immediate feel for what the new upgrade process will be like within the cloud. Either way, it’s up to you. Really, the difference is negligible. The important thing is that you make sure that all applications remain up to date at all times, so that your client gets the full functionality from each of them.

Platform

You must choose a public or private cloud environment and also which provider.

One popular form of application migration is transferring your data from an on-premises site to Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is a low-cost, highly versatile cloud solution which can do everything from application hosting to backup and storage to content delivery and more. Migrating to AWS can be tremendously beneficial to your company in a number of ways.

But hosting your applications on AWS is not an end unto itself.

Before you spring headfirst into a new platform, you need to understand exactly what it’s capable of, and what you want to be able to do with it. It’s essential to have a concrete plan of action going in. As previously mentioned, part of that is about retaining as much functionality as possible and ensuring that your applications are hosted in the location where they most benefit you.

Migration from an on-premises server into the cloud isn’t the only consideration here, either. You may decide instead to migrate some or all of your AWS resources to a different cloud. This isn’t an easy task to do manually. AWS is designed to easily migrate into, but difficult to migrate out of. Stop and take stock, and see what it will take to retain all of your application’s functionality when migrating it out of AWS.

Next Steps

There are a variety of other considerations as you assess which applications should be migrated to the cloud. You could try to cover all the bases yourself, but that takes a lot of time, effort, and resources. Furthermore, unless you really understand the application migration process thoroughly, you could still end up making the wrong decision and end up with applications that don’t function according to your client’s needs.

If you aren’t in a position to determine each application’s readiness yourself, seek help from vendors or specialists. Not only can they help you assess the feasibility of migrating each application, they can also help you through the actual migration process. With the help of someone who knows what they’re doing, you can make the entire transition smoother, making sure that each application migrates optimally, leaving your client with a fully functioning system of cloud applications.

John M. Hawkins is a senior director of services at RiverMeadow Software. Hawkins has more than 20 years of software IT/consulting experience. He is also a strategist, speaker, consultant, entrepreneur and the author of “Building a Strategic Plan for Your Life and Business and Affinity: Managing Java Application Servers.”


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