AWS Migration Strategies: The 6 Rs

Businesses find new reasons all the time to migrate some or all of their operations to the cloud. Common motivations include plans to expand into new markets, a desire to revamp applications to make use of new technologies and services, the need to offload some development and management tasks, or simply the end of a lease on on-premises equipment.

In 2011, Gartner outlined 5 R’s for cloud migration: Rehost, Refactor, Revise, Rebuild, or Replace. With some modifications (and one addition), these migration strategies are still relevant to migrating to AWS, which provides the servers, applications, and services to support almost any cloud operation. Working with a partner like Mission will help you assess your current operations and decide which of the 6 "R" migration strategies apply.

The Rs have it

Our process begins with conducting a Migration Readiness Assessment (MRA). We look at the financial, technological, and operational challenges facing your migration, and together we prepare an inventory of your current technology stack to determine which elements are suitable to move to AWS. Once you have your list, we’ll help decide which of the 6 R’s are appropriate for each element.

The first two options apply to technology you can set aside because you’re not going to migrate them:

To start with, you may be able to Retire some applications. It’s not uncommon to have processes running in your data center that you no longer use, a phenomenon sometimes called “server sprawl.” The migration process is a good time to just turn those applications off.

The other category is the applications you decide to Retain. This might be because you’ve recently upgraded and you’re still happy with the application and its service contract, or maybe you want to realize the full depreciation value before changing it out—the Readiness Assessment will take these kinds of considerations into account. In any case, you can always look at migrating a retained application later.

Migration Options

Once you’ve determined which applications you’re migrating, the other 4 R’s describe your choices in how to go about it.

The simplest and most straightforward approach is to simply Rehost your applications, a process also known as “lift and shift.” This means just transferring your existing servers into the cloud and using AWS as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This is also the quickest approach and doesn’t require much change in your workflows. 

An AWS tool named VM Import/Export helps with this process, as it’s a way to import virtual machine images from your existing data center to Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances. (You can also export the virtual machines back to your local infrastructure should you need to.)

Replatforming—also called “lift, tinker, and shift”—is for when you want to tweak your applications when moving them to the cloud without changing their core architecture. Replatforming provides the opportunity to replace a licensed service with an open source one, for instance, or simply update or optimize old components.

An example of this approach is Mission’s work with mPulse Mobile to migrate their database to AWS. MPulse Mobile had acquired healthcare communications company MessageBeam, whose operations depended on an Oracle database, and the company wanted to migrate that database to AWS. The company didn’t have the resources to execute the process itself, so Mission worked in close collaboration with the mPulse team over several weeks to successfully migrate the database to an Oracle instance on Amazon EC2, backed up with other instances to provide redundancy and address other needs.

Other times, though, you will want to change the core code, and in this case the process is called Refactoring or Re-architecting. In this approach, you might be redesigning the application to take full advantage of the IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) technologies available. It’s a complete modernization of the application to add features or achieve performance or scale that couldn’t be achieved in the existing environment. 

Among the modernization options might be implementing a microservices architecture or containerization, as was the case with Evolve Media’s migration from a collocated data center. Modernizing their technology stack in that way would enable the lifestyle content publisher to scale its operations much more easily. Mission communicated with Evolve for more than a year, including carrying out an MRA and providing the information the company needed to prepare for the actual migration. In the end, Evolve successfully migrated 50 applications across five business verticals in less than four months.

The final R is the most drastic: simply Repurchasing your applications, otherwise known as “drop and shop.” That can take one two forms: transferring your software license from an on-premises server to AWS, or completely replacing your current application with SaaS options, such as changing your call center management or ERP software to software available on AWS. This might be because you don’t want to manage the applications onsite anymore, or just because you want to replace them with something more modern to help future-proof your operations.

In 2010, for example, the Boston Celtics saw that its on-premises infrastructure was not going to be able to handle the increasing flood of modern sports data—at least not without putting a tremendous strain on its in-house personnel and resources. The franchise worked with G2 Tech Group (which, along with Reliam and Stratalux, became Mission in October 2018) to help it successfully migrate much of its operations to AWS. Mission has continued to work with the Celtics ever since and was named the team’s official Cloud Services Provider in 2019.

Mission has helped hundreds of businesses like mPulse Mobile, Evolve Media, and the Boston Celtics migrate their infrastructure to AWS. We are proud that we have been identified by AWS as having attained a Migration Competency for our technical expertise and track record of proven customer success. We can help you navigate the 6 R’s with minimal interruptions and near-zero downtime. For more on how to transform your organization by migrating to AWS with Mission, contact us here.

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