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Migrating applications to the cloud is a complex process. It becomes even more complicated if the applications in question are business-critical, have been heavily customized, or run on IBM POWER hardware. Fortunately, IT can reduce risk during the migration process by planning and preparing data and applications in advance. Here's how.
Planning for a Future Migration
Before getting sucked into the details of a cloud migration, IT should specify the goals for that migration and ensure that they line up with larger business initiatives or digital transformation projects. These goals might be reducing data center costs, improving business agility, modernizing software development processes, or improving disaster recovery and backup options.
Next, they should choose their overall approach to the migration. Is it better to redesign software entirely, or lift and shift it to the cloud "as-is?"
While redesigning software to use cloud-native components is usually necessary to get the full flexibility and scalability benefits of the cloud, it might make more sense to lift and shift for scenarios like disaster recovery or migrating development workloads. IBM i and AIX applications (which are based on PowerPC) used to be incompatible with the cloud without refactoring them to use x86 components, which added a great deal of time, work and risk to the process. In practice, that usually resulted in these applications staying locked in the data center.
Over the last few years, however, solutions have emerged to lift and shift these applications to the cloud as well, reducing the risk and complexity of such a migration.
A third option is to lift and shift applications to the cloud initially, and then refactor them slowly, piece by piece, instead of all at once. This typically decreases the risk and complexity of the migration and allows organizations to get some cloud benefits while taking their time to refactor.
6 Steps to Prepare Data for the Cloud
Once these important decisions have been made, IT can get to work on the nuts and bolts of the transition. Here is a series of steps to prepare data and applications for cloud migration.
1. Assess existing workloads- First, IT should examine all workloads to be moved to the cloud and determine their technical and business requirements. The most important of these is the capacity they will need (always-on, bursting, variable or pay-as-you-go). There is a trade-off here between cost and capacity, so selecting lower capacity options where possible will save money.
2. Pick data center locations- Next, IT should decide which data centers their workloads should be run in. Compliance requirements, latency, or a need for redundancy within a region are all factors to consider, particularly for disaster recovery and backup workloads.
3. Measure workload sizing and capacity- Figure out the scale, OS and external connections that each workload will require. A cloud provider can often help measure CPU, memory and storage requirements. Using cloud infrastructure makes it possible to eliminate idle resources and over-provisioning, resulting in a significant reduction of concurrently running LPARs or virtual machines.
4. Check licensing compliance– Licensing compliance in the cloud can be difficult; licenses for major applications like ERP systems are often not portable or are tied to a specific hardware serial number or to the ID of a logical partition. If this is the case for your workloads, your cloud provider may offer workarounds, such as VM Host pinning.
5. Plan how to transfer the data– This will vary depending on the workloads in question, timeline, and volume of data that needs to be migrated. There are many options to choose from for actually moving data to the cloud, including secure FTP, database replication, an encrypted physical hard drive, or cloud features like Azure Express Route or IBM Cloud Mass Data Migration.
6. Plan how to manage access- Consider how to manage access to the cloud once the migration is complete. Users and teams can easily create their own environments using pre-built templates, rather than relying on a cloud team to build it for them (this has the added benefit of eliminating bottlenecks and speeding up release cycles considerably). If management has concerns about lack of oversight leading to unanticipated costs, it might make sense to set up usage quotas for groups or departments and track usage to ensure no one runs up the bill by accident.
As with all large projects, resist the urge to speed through the planning and preparation phases of a cloud migration — this is vital to ensuring that the whole project runs smoothly. Working through these steps will set IT up for success, no matter how complex the applications being migrated are.