Digital Transformation: Application Migration and AWS

Transformation is the road map of almost all businesses across the globe today. In 2019, this means taking advantage of frequently changing digital technology provided by public cloud vendors and third-party software providers. It seems that the companies who excel in generating it, incorporating it, or adapting to it are the ones that are succeeding in the marketplace and delivering the greatest returns to their investors. Netflix as a use case emphasises this point, they closed their last data centre in 2016 and run nearly all their applications in the cloud. Digital transformation for Netflix took seven years and it was not just centred on the adoption of cloud technologies, there was also a significant cultural shift.

A complex technical landscape
When a business decides to consider digital transformation they have to understand and select from a vast array of services in a constantly evolving technical landscape.

At Rackspace, our customers tell us that they often struggle to compare the hundreds of services and products that are available from application and cloud vendors. This makes it hard for our customers to decide on best-fit solutions for their individual business needs. Compounding this is the increasing speed to market that DevOps technologies provide. New versions of cloud technologies and third-party software applications are being published faster than ever before. This quicker pace of innovation means there is a variety of products to pick from but this can cause confusion as to which product is the best, slowing down the decision making process.

Attacking cloud migration
When we look at approaches to cloud adoption, we also have to look at approaches to application migration and modernisation.  Should we adopt a multi-cloud strategy? If so, which applications should we host on which cloud?  Which applications should we lift and shift and which should be relocated to different platform? Or would it make more sense to refactor completely and take advantage of cloud native serverless technologies.

Enterprise businesses with the largest application estates have the most to consider when deciding on a cloud migration strategy. It’s at this stage that Rackspace would start to recommend the creation of a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE). A CCoE provides a team of change agents backed by executive steering that are tasked with spearheading and leading the stages of cloud adoption.

Typically, a CCoE will:

  • Define the activities, processes, KPIs, and principles which guide cloud transformation
  • Reduce risks to cloud adoption by ensuring business and technical stakeholder coverage
  • Help make decisions on the technology choices and application designs
  • Help plan and manage the migration order and the ongoing operational model

Application migration strategies
Refactoring comes up as the first consideration when looking at an application migration strategy. Refactoring can provide the best results and provide a tight fit with cloud-based services, but it can also result in a lengthy design process that can hider deadlines when migrating applications into the cloud.

By contrast, taking advantage of rehosting and relocating opportunities can help a cloud migration moving quickly, gain cloud experience along the way, and help realise cost-savings upfront.  Refactoring as a second step is then an easier process when leveraging the skills gained from the initial migrations.

In 2011, Gartner outlined their 5 R’s for defining application migration. Today, we generally discuss 6 R’s which are:

1. Rehost – lift and shift
Move an application as is onto virtual server instances running in the cloud to take advantage of the immediate cost savings that the cloud can provide.

2. Relocate – move
Relocate is the newest R on the block and looks to enable quick relocation of applications based on VMware and container technologies.

3. Repurchasing   - different product
Consumers are increasingly moving to the SaaS model with products like Workday, Drupal and Salesforce. Cloud providers have rich marketplaces with multiple software vendors offering products.

4. Refactoring – rearchitecting
Changing how the application is architected and developed, typically using cloud-native features. A migration strategy that involves the highest costs, highest risk and the most disruption when migrating to the cloud. Often, refactoring involves breaking up a monolith application into independent services and transitioning to a microservices architecture.

5. Retire  - no longer needed
Often at times during a pre-migration analysis a number of applications are identified as redundant and can be retired.

6.  Retain – leave as is
These applications may only be needed short term before they can be retired. An application that has just upgraded may be able to wait so that other more important applications can be prioritised for migration.

Housing Your Applications
At Rackspace, we advise our customers to separate AWS workloads by account. The AWS account construct provides a clean, robust and secure mechanism to isolate control of data plane access to contained resources. The account boundary is very effective in the following ways:

  • Protection against human error and misconfigured IAM policies and/or security groups
  • Provide the best separation from a governance standpoint and separation of privileges
  • Multiple accounts provide the best separation from a cost and reporting standpoint
  • It doesn’t cost any more to run multiple AWS accounts vs Multiple VPCs

In order to manage multiple accounts and applications its necessary to create what is widely now termed a landing zone. A landing zone is a collection of interconnected accounts consisting of shared services and application workloads. Just like moving into a new house, all utilities such as water, gas and electric will have been preinstalled ready for use.  In a cloud landing zone, security, shared services, logging and a transit network services should all be pre-deployed so that your applications have all of the required services available for their needs as soon as they have been migrated

Rackspace has expertise across the leading public, private and hybrid cloud platforms, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform™, Microsoft Azure®, Openstack® and VMware. Rackspace can support any migration strategy — Lift & Shift, DevOps, Application, and Built from Scratch — and migrate into IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS platforms with minimum disruption, all while tailoring the plan to your timeline and business needs.

To learn more about how Rackspace Professional services can assist with your business challenges related to digital transformation, migration and application modernisation please visit our website.

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Alan is a specialist within the Solution Architecture team with a focus on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Alan leverages a portfolio of tools to help customers build solutions matching business aspirations. His day-to-day role involves understanding application architectures and working with customers to guide them on their journey to the cloud. Alan is an experienced and results driven IT professional with deep experience in public and private sectors. He draws on competencies spanning multiple platforms and configurations that relate to pre-sales, consultancy, architecture & design, implementation, configuration, diagnostics and troubleshooting.

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