Application Migration: A Comprehensive Guide to Successfully Transitioning to Modern Infrastructure
Many companies are seemingly ready to embrace the latest technologies. However, moving to a new infrastructure can be daunting and complex, and many hesitate to take the leap. McKinsey warns that slow movers run the risk of creating confusion and incurring great costs, with two parallel stacks operating side by side. Even worse, the consequences of a failed migration can be severe and long-lasting.
Therefore, before you migrate your application, explore the fundamentals, partner up, and build a solid plan. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you successfully transition.
Fundamentals of Application Migration
Application migration is the process of moving an application from one environment to another. The goal here is to modernize the infrastructure and help organizations take advantage of newer technologies.
One of the main requirements of migration is ensuring that the application continues to function as intended in the new environment. Whether it means transferring everything from code to data and configuration settings, the app must be fully functional by the end. For this, organizations must have the resources and capabilities to support the application along with the new infrastructure.
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Migration isn’t always a one-to-one transfer between environments. Applications are often designed and developed to work with specific technology stacks. So, when you decide to move them, there may be more modifications than you originally expected.
Reasons for Migrating Applications
One reason to migrate is the outdated hardware or software in your current environment. If left unaddressed, this can lead to security risks and performance issues. But migrating applications to a more modern environment with the latest technology should solve these problems.
Another reason is cost reduction and optimization. Modern environments like the cloud reduce infrastructure costs and improve operational efficiency. And you can even pay for the resources you need and when you need them without upfront setup costs.
Other drivers are scalability and performance improvements for evolving businesses. Migrating to a more scalable environment will ensure you have more resources to support your growing needs.
Another common reason is the need for compliance and security. This is especially important for organizations that deal with sensitive data; you don’t want to risk a data breach by continuing to use outdated software.
Types of Application Migration
Your software migration plan will look different depending on what type you choose:
- Rehosting (also known as lift and shift) involves moving an application to a new environment without making any major changes. It’s the quickest and easiest option but doesn’t usually take full advantage of the new environment’s capabilities.
- Replatforming has minor changes to accommodate new features and capabilities. The process takes more effort but makes it worth it through improved performance and scalability.
- Refactoring takes it a step further with changes to code and architecture. Such optimization for the new environment needs higher expertise, though.
- Rebuilding is about making an application from scratch using modern tools and technologies.
- Retiring means decommissioning an app that is no longer needed or relevant. This is done with the goal of simplifying your IT environment and reducing costs associated with maintaining outdated infrastructure.
Application Migration Strategies and Best Practices
To ensure a smooth and successful migration, it’s crucial to have an application migration checklist in place. These aren’t the only practices that you should follow, but they provide a solid starting point.
Assessing the Current Application Landscape
This step is about identifying which applications need to be migrated and prioritizing them based on their business impact and complexity. For example, a healthcare organization will choose the electronic health record system as a mission-critical app with high business impact.
This kind of prioritization will help you allocate your resources better and minimize the risk of disruptions.
Developing a Comprehensive Migration Plan
Next, you want to define clear migration goals and objectives, as well as establish timelines and milestones and allocate resources and budgets. The plan should account for potential challenges and risks, with contingency measures to address them. This will keep your team well-organized and efficient.
Preparing the Target Infrastructure
To prepare the target infrastructure, you need to make sure that the new environment is capable of supporting the application being migrated. At this step, you’ll also discover whether the necessary interoperability measures are already implemented. The same goes for your anticipated workload and performance requirements.
It’s also important to ensure the new infrastructure has the right security and compliance measures in place.
Executing the Migration
One of the most intensive parts of migration is the execution phase because there are many tasks to complete. You’ll need to migrate and transform data to the new environment, adjust code and configurations as necessary, and thoroughly test and validate the app so that it performs how it’s supposed to. This is where you shouldn’t mind uncovering issues or challenges because you have the chance to address them before the process is complete.
With other application migration steps complete, the work’s not done. One of the critical post-migration activities is monitoring and optimizing performance (operation, bottlenecks) and enhancing it over time. Another important point is decommissioning legacy systems that you don’t use to cut down costs and reduce security risks.
Challenges and Risks in App Migration
If you’re committing to careful planning, you can’t miss the potential risks and uncertainties. Think of them as not just obstacles to avoid but also opportunities to prepare and adapt.
App migration can present technical challenges in the form of data loss or corruption and integration and compatibility issues. Data loss or corruption can happen due to improper backup procedures or data transfer errors, while compatibility issues arise if you don’t address them during software migration planning and preparation. An app that works perfectly on one operating system won’t necessarily do so on another, so your app will experience decreased productivity unless you anticipate incompatibility.
There are also several operational challenges to handle, such as downtime, disruptions to business processes, and employee resistance and adoption. To minimize downtime, consider conducting a pilot migration to spot issues or performing the migration during off-peak hours. It also helps to have a rollback plan in place in case of anything major.
As for employee resistance, you want to lead with communication and support — communicate the benefits of the new platform and provide them with training and resources to understand and adapt to it.
A few additional points to add to your plan are unforeseen costs, budget overruns, and ROI expectations. There might be more customization requirements, hardware and software upgrades, and the need for extra resources. But even though you can’t anticipate everything, budget planning for the project scope will still cover most expenses.
Similarly, there will be uncertainties regarding ROI. But it’s something stakeholders will definitely want to know, so you’ll need to identify the key drivers of ROI and choose relevant KPIs.
Migrating an Application to the Cloud
This is a type of app migration process that moves applications from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud-based one. The applications that migrated to the cloud the most are customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, and human resource management. Of course, it’s possible to move other business-critical applications to the cloud, too, if not all of them.
More and more companies are catching on. In fact, by 2024, it’s projected that most enterprises will allocate $8 out of every $10 for IT hosting toward the cloud. This shift is driven by the significant value that cloud adoption can unlock, estimated at $1 trillion for businesses. But it’s not for large enterprises only; small and medium-sized businesses benefit as much.
Benefits of Cloud Migration
There are many solid reasons for this trend, as businesses are discovering the advantages that cloud migration can bring:
- Cost savings. Organizations don’t need to purchase and maintain expensive on-premises hardware. Plus, the pay-as-you-go model makes sense for businesses of all sizes.
- Operational efficiency. You can achieve automation and the ability to quickly deploy and scale resources. This reduces the need for manual intervention and speeds up your time-to-market.
- Scalability and flexibility. Cloud providers offer virtually unlimited scalability. And you can access your applications and data from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Enhanced security and compliance. There are many measures included in cloud packages, such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, encryption, and access controls. This is especially beneficial for highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance.
- Collaboration and innovation. For instance, cloud-based project management tools allow teams to share data online and work more efficiently towards shared goals.
Cloud Migration Strategies
Different strategies provide organizations with different ways to take advantage of cloud computing. These strategies are broadly broken down into three categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
With IaaS, organizations migrate their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud, including servers, storage, and networking. They maintain control over their infrastructure while still enjoying cost benefits and the scalability and flexibility of the cloud.
The second option, PaaS, allows you to build and deploy applications on a cloud-based platform. It’s better suited for companies with development teams who can focus on applications without worrying about the infrastructure.
The third delivery model, SaaS, is for businesses that rely on specific software applications but don’t want to manage the infrastructure. Here, you’ll just use the software.
Choosing the Right Cloud Provider
Perhaps you’re already preparing to move your operations to the cloud. You should understand how critical it is to choose the right provider that is the best fit for your organization. Here are several criteria to consider:
- Features and capabilities. Evaluate factors like data storage options, the ability to scale resources, and integrations that are important to you.
- Service level agreements and support. Look at uptime guarantees, technical support, and response times for support tickets. The provider’s documentation and online resources are also important.
- Cost and pricing models. Determine what’s best for you: pay-as-you-go, subscription-based, or tiered pricing.
- Security and compliance. You want to make sure the service adheres to industry-specific regulations and standards. For this, look at data encryption, access control, and monitoring.
- Stability and reputation. Research what kind of financial stability, track record, and customer reviews the provider has.
Case Studies: Examples of Application Migration Success Stories
J.B. Hunt Transport Services has been on a gradual journey to Microsoft Azure since 2018. Their application migration plan included mainframe applications, which represented the backbone of its business operations, as well as new and existing distributed applications.
“The new capabilities enable our company to build and expand our products in cloud-native format. For us, the value proposition is about growth. In just over two years, we launched a new e-commerce offering that is generating a $1.3 billion run rate. We did not have to worry as much about infrastructure to achieve this success.”
Gary Dowdy, VP of Engineering and Technology
Another success story of migration comes from Airbnb. Airbnb’s migration to AWS was a strategic move to free up its engineers from managing servers and infrastructure. Since the company was formed in 2008, it didn’t have to deal with any legacy IT to migrate, so the move was particularly smooth.
Also, the migration allowed them to focus on the company’s core business:
“We concentrate more of our energy on solving problems unique to Airbnb.”
Mike Curtis, VP of Engineering
The Role of Emerging Technologies in the Future of Application Migration
Containerization and microservices are revolutionizing the way applications are built and deployed. This approach breaks down applications into smaller, independent components. And so, this means that updates and changes can be made to specific parts of an application without disturbing the rest, creating a more flexible, scalable, and nimble approach for businesses.
The increasing role of automation and AI also dictates the way businesses approach application migration. With automated tools, companies can streamline the migration process and enhance efficiency, accuracy, and productivity. These tools can help analyze dependencies, allocate resources, and automate repetitive tasks, while AI can predict potential issues and provide recommendations for optimization.
Additionally, with emerging technologies like serverless computing, edge computing, and hybrid cloud environments, there are new and exciting ways we can build and use applications. Meanwhile, migration strategies are becoming more refined. There are advanced techniques like lift-and-shift, refactoring, and re-platforming, all of which optimize modern migration journeys.
From conducting a thorough assessment of the current environment to optimizing performance post-migration, there are many factors to consider. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of application migration, though. This transition can be smooth if you plan out each step and address all major risks.
Lastly, remember that application migration is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your application migration strategy should be tailored to meet your unique needs and requirements to make it all worth it. One of your best options is to work with an experienced technology partner and let them bring valuable expertise and resources to the table. With guidance and support throughout the process, this significant undertaking won’t be as hard. Let’s talk now.