• 6 min read

Be prepared for what’s next: Accelerate cloud migration

We are currently in the midst of unprecedented times. The implications of the global health crisis to healthcare, public policy, and the economy are expected to be far reaching. Organizations are…

We are in the midst of unprecedented times with far-reaching implications of the global health crisis to healthcare, public policy, and the economy. Organizations are fundamentally changing how they run their businesses, ensure the safety of their workforce, and keep their IT operations running. Most IT leaders that we have had the opportunity to speak with over the past couple of months are thinking hard on how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. They are also trying to retain momentum on their well-intentioned strategic initiatives.

Across our customers in many industries and geographies, we continue to see the cloud deliver tangible benefits. Azure enables our customers to act faster, continue to innovate, and pivot their IT operations to what matters most. We understand the challenges our customers are facing. We also recognize that our customers are counting on us more than ever.

Common, consistent goals for businesses

Even though our customers’ challenges are often unique to the industries they serve, we hear many common, consistent goals.

  • Cloud-based productivity and remote collaboration is enabling workers, IT professionals, and developers to work from anywhere. As our customers enable an increase in remote work, there’s increased importance on scaling networking capacity while securely connecting employees to resources they need.
  • Azure is critical to our customers’ ability to rapidly scale their compute and storage infrastructure to meet their business needs. This is made possible because of how customers have transformed their IT operations with Azure. Driving operational efficiency with Azure can also enable businesses to scale on-demand and meet business needs.
  • IT budgets will be constrained over the coming year—optimization of existing cloud investments and improving cashflow via migration to Azure are top of mind. Our customers are exploring ways to run their businesses with reduced IT budgets. Owning and managing on-premises datacenters is expensive and makes customers vulnerable to business continuity risk. An Azure migration approach is resonating with these customers to transition spend to Opex, improving cash flow and reducing business risk.
  • The downtime is also becoming an opportunity to accelerate projects. CIOs are looking at this as an opportunity to deliver planned projects and find ways to innovate with Azure. They are counting on this innovation to help their business experience a steep recovery as we exit the current scenario.

In many of my discussions with customers, we still hear uncertainty about how to navigate the cloud migration journey. There is an urgency to act, but often a hesitation to start. There is, no doubt, a learning curve, but Microsoft has traversed it with many customers over the past few years. Businesses need best practices and prescriptive guidance on where to begin, how to best steer, and how to avoid the pitfalls. This blog is aimed to help you make progress on this pressing need. We’ll dive deeper into the steps of the cloud migration journey in upcoming posts.

To get you started on your accelerated journey to Azure, here are our top three recommendations. While these aren’t meant to be one-size-fits-all, these are based on learnings from hundreds of scale migration engagements that our team has helped our customers with.

1. Prioritize assessments

Perform a comprehensive discovery of your datacenters using our free tools such as Azure Migrate or Movere. Creating an inventory of your on-premises infrastructure, databases, and applications is the first step in generating right-sized and optimized cost projections for running your applications in Azure. Between your existing configuration management database (CMDB), Active Directory, management tools, and our discovery tools, you have everything you need to make crucial migration decisions.

The priority should be to cover the entire fleet and then arrive at key decisions related to candidate apps that you can migrate first and the appropriate migration approach for them. As you run your assessments, identify applications that could be quick wins—hardware refresh, software end-of-support, OS end-of-support, and capacity constrained resources are all great places to prioritize for the first project. Bias towards action and demonstrating urgency with triggers that need immediate attention can ensure that you are able to drive operational efficiencies and flip your capital expenses to operational.

Many Azure customers are doing this effectively. One example is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). In partnership with Azure engineering and Microsoft FastTrack for Azure, and by leveraging the Azure Migration Program, GSK was able to quickly discover their VMware virtual machines and physical servers with Azure Migrate. By leveraging features such as application inventory and application dependency mapping, GSK was able to build a prioritized list of applications that they could migrate. They then used the discovery and assessment data and incorporated it with their CMDB to build PowerBI dashboards to track the progress of their strategic migration initiatives.

“Microsoft engineering and FastTrack’s ability to quickly aggregate and visualize our application hosting estate is the cornerstone to our migration planning activities. GSK is comprised of many different business units, and we are able to tailor migration priorities for each of these business units. In addition, we also now have clear visibility for each server, what they are dependent on, and can now also determine the appropriate server size in Azure to create our migration bundles and landing zones. With this excellent foundation of data, we are able to quickly move into the migration phase of our cloud journey with a high degree of confidence in our approach.”—Jim Funk, Director, Hosting Services, GlaxoSmithKline

2. Anticipate and mitigate complexities

You will run into complexities as you drive your migration strategy—some of these will be related to the foundational architecture of your cloud deployments, but a lot of it will be about how your organization is aligned for change. It is important that you prepare people, business processes, and IT environments for the change, based on a prioritized and agreed cloud adoption plan. Every migration we’ve been involved in has had its own unique requirements. We find that customers who are moving quickly are those who have established clarity in ownership and requirements across stakeholders from security, networking, IT, and application teams.

“The migration to the cloud was more about the mindset in the organization and that transformation we needed to do in IT to become the driver of change in the company instead of maintaining the old. A big part of the migration was to reinvent the digital for the company.” —Mark Dajani, CIO, Carlsberg Group

On the technical front, anticipate complexities and plan for your platform foundation for identity, security, operations, compliance, and governance. With established baselines across these shared-architectural pillars, deploy purpose-built landing zones that leverage these centralized controls. Simply put, landing zones and the platform foundation capture everything that must be in place and ready to enable cloud adoption across the IT portfolio.

In addition to designing your baseline environment, you would also want to consider your approach to managing your applications as they migrate to Azure. Azure offers comprehensive management solutions for backup, disaster recovery, security, monitoring, governance, and cost management, which can help you achieve IT effectiveness as you migrate. Most customers run in a hybrid reality even when they intend to evacuate on-premises datacenters. Azure Arc is a terrific option for customers who want to simplify complex and distributed environments across on-premises and Azure, extending Azure management to any infrastructure.

3. Execute iteratively

Customers who have the most success in executing on their migration strategy are customers who follow an iterative, workload-based, wave-oriented approach to migration. These customers are using our free first-party migration tools to achieve the scale that works best for their business—from a few hundred to thousands of servers and databases. With Azure Migrate you have coverage for Windows Server and Linux, SQL Server and other databases, .NET and PHP-based web applications, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). These capabilities give you options for migration to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) offerings like Azure App Service and Azure SQL.

The key to success and executing effectively is targeting specific workloads and then executing in phases. In addition, leveraging capabilities like dependency mapping and test migration ensures that your migration cutovers are predictable and have high success rates. We strongly recommend using a lift-optimize-shift approach and then innovating in the cloud, especially during these times.

One such customer who has leveraged the Azure Migrate toolset as part of their cloud transformation is Malaysian telecommunications operator, Celcom. Celcom leveraged Azure Migrate’s discovery and assessment features to securely catalog their applications, virtual machines (VMs), and other IT assets, and to determine the best way to host them in the cloud. With their foundational architecture and management strategy in place, Celcom executed in waves, transitioning their complex multi-vendor on-premises environment with multiple applications over to Azure. Read more about Celcom’s digital transformation with Azure.

Share your feedback

In the coming weeks and months, we will dive deeper into these topics. Please share your experiences or thoughts as this series comes together in the comments below—we appreciate your feedback. You can also visit Azure migration center to learn more and get started.