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If you’re thinking about what it takes to modernize your applications, you’re not alone. Companies everywhere now understand that migrating applications to the cloud and shifting to a cloud-first approach is critical to business competitiveness. The purpose of modernizing applications is to better align them to current and future business needs. By deploying enterprise applications to the cloud, you gain greater ability to innovate, improve security, scale to meet demand, manage costs, and deliver rich and consistent customer experiences anywhere in the world more quickly.

But as you move to the cloud, there are many options to choose from and skills to gain. One of the most important parts of this effort is understanding how to prepare developers for cloud modernization—and one of the trickiest parts is knowing where to start.

According to research on Developer Velocity, the number one driver of business performance is best-in-class developer tools.1 Companies that create the right environment—by providing strong tools and removing points of friction for developers to innovate—have 47 percent higher developer satisfaction and retention rates than those in the lowest quartile for Developer Velocity. With Microsoft Azure, you’ll find not only the tools and technologies that you need to move to the cloud, but also extensive developer support for cloud modernization.

In this article, we’ll walk you through technical documentation, educational resources, and step-by-step guidance to help you build the skills and strategy needed to successfully modernize your applications. We use Azure App Service as our example, but the same concepts apply to other tools you might use in your modernization efforts.

Here are five steps to take to start preparing for cloud modernization:

1.    Watch how application migration works.

Migrating existing, on-premises applications to the cloud is often the focus of initial application modernization efforts. Once the business case has been made to migrate an application to the cloud, you’ll need to assess the application for all the dependencies that can affect whether it can be successfully migrated without modifying the application. In the case of App Service, a migration assistant guides you through the assessment. Then, if the assessment indicates that the application can be migrated, the migration assistant performs the migration. To get an introduction to how the assessment and migration process works, watch the overview video on how to migrate web apps to App Service.

2.    Learn to migrate an on-premises application to the cloud.

The best way to understand what it takes to migrate an application is to try it for yourself. To learn how to migrate an on-premises web application to App Service, take the step-by-step online course—including a hands-on lab—that guides you through migration and post-migration. Using a sandbox environment and access to free resources, you’ll get an in-depth walkthrough of how to migrate your web application, from assessment through post-migration tasks. You’ll also get background on why the assessment phase is so important, what types of problems it’s intended to identify, and what to do if any problems are found. Next, the course takes you through the migration process and provides guidance on the settings you’ll need to choose from, and it prepares you for additional tasks that might be necessary to get the web app in working order.

3.    Build a web app in the language of your choice.

Learning how to build a cloud-native application is another important step in preparing yourself to shift to a cloud-first approach. To give it a try, sign up for an Azure free account, which gives you access to dozens of free services, including App Service. Along with access to a wide range of cloud resources, you get developer support for cloud modernization through quickstart guides that walk you through creating and deploying a web app in App Service using the language of your choice, including .NET, Node.js, Java, Python, and other languages. This is also a great time to explore other Azure cloud capabilities and use the $200 credit that you get with the Azure free account.

4.    Assess your own web apps for modernization readiness.

Once you understand the basics of migrating and deploying applications in the cloud, it’s time to get to work on the process of assessing and migrating your own web apps. Use the free App Service migration tool to run a scan on your web app’s public URL. The tool will provide you with a compatibility report on the technologies your app uses and whether App Service fully supports them. If compatible, the tool will guide you through downloading the migration assistant, which simplifies migration in an automated way with minimal or no code changes.

5.    Download the App Migration Toolkit.

With a solid background in how to prepare for modernization, you’re in a good position to start putting the full range of Azure developer support for cloud modernization to work. Download the App Migration Toolkit to find the resources you need to successfully modernize your ASP.NET applications from start to finish. From building your business case to best practices and help gaining skills, the toolkit provides practical guidance and support to help you turn your application modernization plans into reality.

While application modernization is a significant initiative that requires strategy, planning, skill-building, and investment of time and resources, the benefits to the business are worth the effort. Fortunately, Azure simplifies the process of figuring out how to prepare developers for cloud modernization. The App Migration Toolkit gives you the skills and knowledge needed to help your organization innovate and stay competitive.

1Developer Velocity: How software excellence fuels business performance.

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