Application migration is the process of moving software from one environment to another. The process involves moving files, data (e.g., stored data in a database), and configurations from one location to another. As more enterprise organizations leverage cloud resources, migration of an application from on-premise servers to the cloud is common. Migration of an application is a complicated process, especially when it’s a critical part of productivity and downtime must be avoided. The aim for every organization is to have a smooth transition, but this requires good planning and testing prior to cutover.
Organizations typically have several reasons to migrate an application to a new environment. One common reason is due to poor performance and lack of resources to support additional users. Inefficient application resources impact productivity and the customer experience, so it’s often a primary factor in the decision to migrate. Migration to the cloud is a common approach to solving performance and resource issues; an application with a growing user base requires additional resources eventually, and the cloud scales much easier than building new resources onsite.
The decision to migrate could be based on other factors including cost, elasticity, scale, and compliance. Data storage is virtually unlimited in a cloud environment, and some services (e.g., containerization) will scale up and down automatically, which gives organizations with seasonal business the resources to deal with traffic spikes. Using a provider with several data centers spanning multiple continents, international organizations can provide better application performance by distributing resources across targeted geolocated data centers for each country supported.
Finally, migration can be done for compliance reasons. For example, if the organization does not have the right monitoring and cybersecurity infrastructure on-premise, the application can be migrated to the cloud where its tools can be used to monitor and secure customer data.
Every organization wants to migrate their application smoothly and suffer from no downtime or bugs. Planning and testing are key to a smooth migration, but every team responsible for the migration faces challenges. By following best practices, the team should experience fewer bugs and less downtime.
The initial step in the migration process is planning. The planning process ensures that all resources and configurations for the application are accounted for. Every server, database, storage requirements, configurations, and users who need access to the application should be audited and included in the migration plan.
Any interconnectivity between the migrated application and internal resources should be noted, because moving to another environment such as the cloud requires the right settings to continue communication between different environments. In some migrations, it could take refactoring code to support the change.
A good strategy is to go through a test run in a staging environment to get practice and identify any bugs before cutover to the production environment. The entire application data doesn’t need to be migrated during testing. A small subset of data along with files and configurations can be migrated to test the process.
After running a test migration, document any bugs or challenges so that they can be remediated before the final migration of production. This step is integral in a smooth transition from one environment to another, and it can greatly reduce the number of complications and downtime.
Some organizations migrate an application and think of security afterwards. For organizations that have concerns about compliance, cybersecurity should be a priority during migration. Cloud misconfigurations are a major factor in data breaches. For example, misconfiguring S3 buckets on Amazon Web Services (AWS) could expose all files and data stored there. Many organizations that use cloud services have a security expert review the setup for any misconfigurations and security flaws before going live.
After migration, the application should be monitored so that bugs can be found and remediated quickly. Monitoring can also be used to identify bottlenecks and performance issues either from buggy code or failed resources. Using the right monitoring, you can identify downtime of specific application components, determine if more resources are needed, identify misconfigurations, and measure success by comparing previous application performance statistics with the new environment’s.
If you research application migration, you’ll find six strategies often referred to as the 6 R’s. For example, you might decide to migrate from a monolithic codebase to microservices. You could rebuild or replace the code to run in a cloud-native microservices environment. Here are the 6 R’s to help you find what’s right for your organization:
After migration, there can be a phase where bug fixes and user feedback seems overwhelming. Eventually, migration to a new environment to resolve the many bottlenecks and issues from the old environment will be realized, especially if the application is fully monitored. The benefits may not seem obvious in the beginning but after migration some benefits include: