Azure is one of the most popular cloud service providers today offering capabilities in three major categories - IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) & SaaS (Software as a Service). Migrating to a cloud platform such as Azure is in the IT road map of most if not all enterprises. Moving the software and workloads to Azure helps in driving productivity, reducing cost of operations, increasing scalability and ensuring high service availability. So how does an organization move to cloud? It does seem like a daunting process but with proper planning and strategy success can be ensured.
Different consulting agencies that help organizations in their "Journey to the cloud" programs, offer different road maps. However the core principles tend to follow a similar pattern. Going with the popular approach, we can generalize and consolidate the steps needed to move to Azure (or any other Cloud platform for that matter) into the following four phases.
- Setting Goals - The first and foremost action should be to set realistic goals for the entire migration process. The people responsible for leading the migration must understand that the cloud has very different attributes when it comes to hosting applications, content and other assets than the on-premise environment. There should be answers available to questions such as
- What is the primary purpose behind moving to cloud and its intended benefits?
- What are the Key Performance Indicators/Success Criteria? Are these quantifiable and measurable?
- What is the cost involved and the Return on Investment?
- What are the risks and mitigation strategies?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Other such questions.
- Strategy & Discovery - A robust strategy is a must to ensure a successful migration. Minute details need to be ironed out regarding the entire scope of migration, timelines, pilots and experimental migrations, transformation requirements, user training etc. Discovery pertains to preparation of application, content and infrastructure inventory. It is by nature an extensive process and must be done with utmost care as a miss in this stage can be costly later in the process. Once the scope has been finalized, further planning is needed to segregate the inventory into assets which can be migrated as-is, assets which need to be transformed and assets which should be decommissioned. If assets are required to be transformed then what's the approach to transform for each of them. User training and skills required to support and use the new system should also be planned ahead.
- Migrate - This is when the bulk of the IT Assets are moved to the cloud. This phase should be run as per the strategy laid out during the previous phase. This is also the time when all stakeholders must collaborate with each other. This phase may be carried out in iterations or releases. Generally organizations start with migration of applications which are either small or non-critical so that any issues arising may be resolved and taken as lessons learnt. This phase may consist of various sub-phases depending on the complexity of an organization's IT portfolio.
- Refinements & User Training - Some applications might behave unexpectedly after migration even with all the planning put in. Refinements or repair may be required for such applications as well as the infrastructure that's hosting them. Once one or more phases of the migration are complete, users must be trained to use the new system. These not only include end users but also administrators, content authors, and operations team who will support the new system.
Azure can bring a host of operational benefits to an organization. At the same time migrating to Azure can be complicated and time consuming. Therefore the a strong strategy and a well thought out plan is of paramount importance to the success of the migration.