As the digital transformation wave sweeps through enterprises, an integral question many businesses grapple with is whether to maintain their data on-premises or move to the cloud. In the context of driving efficiency and scalability, a growing majority are migrating their core business processes from on-premises to cloud platforms, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) at the forefront of their selection.
Indeed, the need for such a transition is quite evident. Enterprises face significant challenges maintaining their traditional data centres, such as escalating maintenance costs, lack of flexibility, and difficulty in implementing advanced technologies. On-premises infrastructure is no longer viable considering today’s business dynamics, and enterprise migration to the cloud is inevitable for sustainable growth.
In this context, AWS offers a comprehensive suite of globally standardized, secure, and efficient cloud solutions that cater to diverse business needs across industries. From storage to analytics, AI to machine learning, AWS provides an integrated platform that supports seamless enterprise migrations.
Understanding AWS Cloud
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most broadly adopted cloud platform. Proved by its worldwide customer base that trusts it for its innovation, scalability, and flexibility, AWS offers over 200 fully featured services from data centres globally.
The core components of AWS encapsulate computing power, database storage, content delivery, and other functionalities that help businesses scale and grow exponentially. These wide functionalities when fused with AWS’s unique selling points like AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface and AWS Software Development Kits, make AWS a highly efficient and easy-to-use cloud service provider.
Benefits of AWS Cloud Migration
The key benefits that businesses enjoy in migrating to the AWS Cloud are:
Scalability is the ability to add or reduce resources to meet changing demand. With AWS, enterprises have the freedom to scale services to fit their needs, customize applications, and access servers anytime from anywhere.
Security and Compliance
AWS provides advanced security features that ensure the highest level of data protection and compliance with data privacy regulations. These features are regularly enhanced with up-to-date security tools and configurations.
By migrating to AWS, enterprises can lower their infrastructure costs. AWS provides a pay-as-you-go model that eliminates the need for upfront capital expenditure and reduces the total cost of ownership.
Enterprise On-Premises to AWS Migration
Following a deep-dive into the world of AWS and the advantages it presents for businesses, let’s pivot to precisely what enterprise on-premises to AWS Cloud migration entails.
The process of migrating from on-premises to the AWS Cloud involves shifting your business operations, including data, applications, and other business elements, from locally hosted environments to the expansive AWS Cloud platform. This process can be tailored to the specific needs of your organization and may involve several approaches, such as ‘Lift and Shift’ or application rewriting.
The ‘Lift and Shift’ strategy typically involves moving applications and data to the cloud without making changes. It’s a quicker approach as it doesn’t require significant modification of the source application. However, it may also fail to leverage all the features and efficiencies of cloud-native services.
Conversely, rewriting applications, sometimes known as refactoring or re-platforming, involves altering the application’s existing codebase to optimize it for the cloud environment. It might take more time and resources compared to ‘Lift and Shift,’ but it allows businesses to leverage the full suite of services and capabilities provided by AWS Cloud.
Challenges in Enterprise On-Premises to AWS Migration
Despite its numerous advantages, migrating from on-premises to the AWS Cloud is not without its complexities. Being aware of these challenges and planning for them can help facilitate a smoother transition.
One of the primary complexities of cloud migration is understanding and managing the technical aspects involved in the shift. This includes selecting appropriate strategies for different workloads and applications, managing data transfer over the network, and ensuring compatibility between on-premises systems and AWS services.
Planning for costs is another significant challenge. While moving to AWS can yield substantial long-term savings, the initial migration process can entail significant costs for data transfer, temporary infrastructure required for the transition, and potential increases in operational costs until the system is fully optimized.
Lastly, dealing with potential downtime during the migration process can pose a challenge. Businesses must plan and execute their migrations in a way that minimizes disruption to their active services and maintains a consistent experience for their customers.
Migration Framework and Principles
As organizations continue to embrace digital transformation, migrating from on-premises to the AWS Cloud has become increasingly attractive due in part to the myriad of benefits, such as cost savings, enhanced security, and greater scalability, to name a few. However, making the switch can prove to be a challenging and complex endeavour. For a smooth and successful transition, laying the foundation for migration involving a solid migration framework and adherence to principles is essential.
Five Principles for Large-Scale Migration
Issue a Top-Down Executive Directive
Initiating a successful enterprise cloud migration begins with obtaining a clear top-down directive from executive stakeholders. This directive serves as a call to action, providing the organization with a well-defined goal and success criteria while encouraging cross-organizational engagement. Obtaining this directive helps organizations develop a shared understanding of their current state and align their goals for the cloud journey. It also paves the way for finalizing resource allocation and funding for cloud migration efforts.
Without a clear mandate for cloud adoption, the migration process risks becoming disorganized and may face a lack of consensus regarding the direction of the migration.
A. Goal and Success Criteria
A top-down directive clearly defines the goal, outlining what the organization aims to achieve by migrating to the cloud and how this benefits the organization. Example goals include:
- Exiting on-premises data centres by 2025 to reduce IT total cost of ownership (TCO).
- Migrating all workloads from on-premises to the cloud by 2026 to shorten time-to-market and maintain a robust security posture during growth.
B. Issuing the Directive
Directives are generally provided through multiple channels, starting from top executives down to business line managers and technology owners. One effective example of a top-down directive involves a customer’s Senior VP and CTO championing cloud adoption during company-wide town hall meetings led by the CEO. Direct reports then emphasize the message through regular monthly meetings. CTOs and business line VPs also push out recorded short video messages for offline viewing via internal portals. This approach helps employees and IT owners understand the cloud adoption strategy and changes their perception of cloud adoption within the organization.
By crafting a goal and success statement with cohesive messaging, leadership can paint a compelling vision of the future state, articulating the benefits of cloud migration and highlighting its alignment with the organization’s long-term objectives. As a result, this approach reduces the risks associated with stakeholder misalignment and potential lack of commitment to the cloud strategy.
Once the directive is issued, it’s crucial to track the goal and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) throughout the migration process. Measuring the directive against specific and well-defined KPIs helps control migration timelines and costs by maintaining a sharp focus on necessary outcomes, thus reducing the potential for scope creep.
Establish a Learning Mindset and Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE)
Building an organization-wide cloud competency requires a progressive learning approach and the establishment of a dedicated Cloud Centre of Excellence.
A. A Learning Mindset
With the rapid evolution of cloud technology offering transformative business benefits, organizations should emphasize flexible practices for cloud adoption. Most cloud-adept establishments utilize varied learning strategies:
- Instructor-led Immersion Day workshops
- Certification programs powered by AWS or its training partners
- AWS sandbox environments that allow employees to experiment risk-free and enhance their cloud skills
These strategies address potential gaps in institutional cloud knowledge, fostering a more agile approach towards cloud services and overall organizational upskilling.
B. Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE)
As part of a strategic initiative, establish a cross-functional team of five to ten individuals from various business segments. They will form your Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE), driving the development of methodologies and procedures for successful cloud adoption.
Critical to building trust and encouraging wider organizational engagement, this team creates operational best practices for scalable cloud consumption. They approach the cloud as a product and view the cloud consumer as a customer, developing tools and mechanisms for effective organizational cloud adoption.
As cloud consumption within an organization increases, the role of the CCoE may evolve or possibly dissolve once cloud adoption has matured within the organization. Often, the CCoE is charged with creating a framework for adopting cloud services, identifying, evaluating, and integrating new cloud services and tools necessary for large-scale migrations.
Identify and Enable the Required Services
Organizations must continually revise policies and guardrails as cloud services evolve and cloud adoption best practices shift.
A. Traditional Allow Listing
Allow listing IT products was initially designed to ensure compatibility and minimize security risks by maintaining compliance with industry standards and vendor use agreements. Many organizations treat cloud services as products, requiring each service to undergo the same allow listing process as traditional IT products before approving their use within the cloud environment. The process often involves:
- Creation of internal service documentation (standard operating procedures, work instructions, checklists)
- Testing activities
- Approval from multiple domains (legal, licensing, security, networking, system administration)
It is crucial to account for the organization’s allow listing process for discovery tools, migration tools, and any AWS services not yet enabled within their organization.
B. Start with the Essentials
With a growing number of AWS offerings, prioritizing the foundation services is essential when deciding which services to allow list within an organization. Ensure essential services – such as compute solutions with Amazon EC2 & AWS Lambda, storage solutions with Amazon S3 & Amazon EFS, networking solutions with AWS VPC & Amazon Route 53, database solutions with Amazon RDS & Amazon DynamoDB, and security solutions with AWS IAM – are allow listed before starting the migration journey.
Then, prioritize migration services like AWS Application Migration Service (MGN), AWS Database Migration Service (DMS), and AWS DataSync. As your organization’s AWS adoption matures, use additional migration patterns like Cloud Migration Factory on AWS to optimize large-scale migrations.
C. Enabling Cloud Services
Organizations with strong CCoE practices integrated into the allow listing process often to fast-track the enablement of essential cloud services. For example, a CCoE may set up a cross-functional approval team to accelerate the approval of services on a recurring two-week cadence.
However, modifying an existing allow listing process requires trust from customers, and it may be more prudent to follow existing processes if the CCoE is newly formed.
Understanding an organization’s approach to allow listing and expectations for cloud service enablement helps reduce the risk of delays. Integrating the CCoE into the allow listing and implementing fast-track mechanisms may further accelerate the migration project timeline.
Build Migration Candidates Queue
Creating a robust queue of migration candidates before initiating large-scale migration waves is crucial for effectively utilizing migration team resources and achieving business objectives within a predictable timeframe and budget. A mature migration queue building process should consider input from customer stakeholders, application owners, infrastructure, and business teams.
A. Establish Prioritization Criteria
Employing a prescriptive approach with clearly defined prioritization criteria ensures transparency in workload ordering and grouping into waves. A well-defined queue allows for more comprehensible and predictable processes, setting expectations regarding workload priorities and migration timelines early on.
A migration queue helps identify technical constraints and potential issues that need resolution before migrations start. It allows the migration team to examine technical dependencies and make necessary adjustments upfront, reducing the risk of unanticipated issues causing costly post-migration rework or rollbacks.
B. Perform Wave Planning
With a robust migration queue in place, the migration team can plan migration waves, prioritizing fewer complex applications first, applying iterative learnings from earlier waves, and strategically tackling complex applications to achieve optimal migration velocity without introducing excessive business risks.
During migration waves, migration schedules and application team availability may conflict. Therefore, it is vital to have enough migration candidates in the queue to compensate for potential delays or removals from the migration scope. A comprehensive migration queue and well-structured wave plan help mitigate technical delivery risks and prevent interruptions to your migration timeline.
Tailored Testing Approach
The onus for application testing falls on the application team responsible for the workloads being migrated. Testing should predominantly cover functional areas modified by the migration process, with extensive regression often unnecessary for applications rehosted and re–platformed using tools like AWS MGN and AWS DMS.
A. Migration Methodology-based Testing
The volume of application testing required during migration significantly depends on the methodology used to migrate the application to the cloud. A basic smoke test is typically sufficient for rehosted workloads, whereas full regression testing is obligatory if an application is refactored or rearchitected during migration.
Guide application teams to understand the migration impact on their workloads based on the chosen methodology and assist them in identifying necessary test cases. This may encompass targeted integration testing of functionalities reliant on databases, external storage systems (Network File System, Server Message Block), load balancers, cluster caches, or other application sub-systems affected by the migration. A testing approach tailored to the migration methodology helps avoid unnecessary testing costs and reduces post-migration technical issues by focusing on services or components altered during the migration process.
B. Industry Compliance Prescribed Testing
Certain post-migration testing requirements may apply to your organization based on industry or geographical location. For instance, life science organizations producing food and medical products may need to meet specific GxP compliant testing requirements. In the financial sector, entities storing, processing, or transmitting cardholder data (CHD) must comply with PCI DSS.
Having awareness of applicable regulations in your industry will aid in proactive planning for any specialized testing requirements to maintain compliance. For applications under compliance regulations, identify, assess, and document areas affected by the migration, and develop test cases to validate these areas. Ensure your validation method and evidence gathered meet the regulatory authority guidelines.
Remember to update the application architecture, infrastructure changes, and operational shifts resulting from cloud migration, and involve your organization’s designated reviewer to evaluate the validation procedure and document the results. Prioritizing and documenting industry-prescribed testing can significantly reduce the risk of post-migration compliance issues.
Accelerating your enterprise’s on-premises migration to AWS Cloud can significantly improve operational efficiency, scalability, and innovation velocity, setting the stage for business growth. As discussed, robust planning including detailed assessment and readiness planning, utilizing AWS migration tools, and establishing a mature AWS Cloud operations model are crucial steps in successful migration. This, coupled with continuous post-migration optimization and appropriate real-world instances of migration success, underlines the viability and benefits of such an endeavour. As professionals with extensive experience in this field, we understand the intricacies of these processes and the potential challenges that might arise during this digital transformation journey.
As an AWS partner, we’re equipped with both the technical expertise and hands-on experience needed to guide businesses through successful cloud migrations. We can help design and execute a tailored migration strategy that aligns with your business objectives, leveraging state-of-the-art AWS tools and technologies. Our team has already assisted several clients in seamlessly transitioning from on-premises setups to AWS Cloud, always ensuring minimal disruption to their operations and maximum gains post-migration. At VE3, we stand ready to support your enterprise in its journey to the AWS Cloud, helping you unlock new dimensions of scalability, resilience, and innovation.