In today’s competitive technological landscape, cloud adoption is the norm. According to Forrester’s senior analyst, Tracy Woo, the question is not whether a company should migrate to cloud. “The question most are weighing is when, and should we be moving all of our workloads to the cloud?”
The pandemic has accelerated the need to innovate and cut costs. Deloitte’s recent report states that costs, modernization, and security are the top three reasons why companies migrate some, most, or even all of their services to cloud.
While cloud migration is top on the list for almost all companies in 2021, modernization also forms an integral part of the conversation on cloud adoption and the need to embrace cloud services in varied forms. For instance, many companies look at modernization as part of a long-term plan to achieving digital transformation. They wish to fully reap the benefits of the cloud and update their technologies to fulfill long-term business goals.
When making a choice between a ‘lift and shift’ approach and modernization, companies need to understand the best practices of each approach and find the right reasons to choose one over the other.
Cloud migration is a straightforward term. It refers to a company moving or shifting a part of its entire architecture to the cloud in a quick and efficient manner. Cloud migration is especially important for companies who are small or mid-sized, or those who are just beginning their journey with cloud.
Modernization especially applies to larger companies that have a huge infrastructure and data architecture, with innumerable applications that are essential to their long-term business strategy. Companies can choose what they want to modernize from their applications. If you have already migrated part of your architecture, you need to reevaluate what you need to modernize and to what extent. Like cloud migration, modernization too is essential to boost productivity and reduce costs significantly.
Your cloud migration strategy depends on many factors. You will also discover that adopting both cloud migration and modernization can work well for you too.
Here are the pros and cons of each approach and how to choose a strategy that works for you.
When a company wants to migrate to cloud, it typically wants to move away from on-site infrastructure, taking some or all of its data center applications and architecture to the cloud. Cloud migration has many benefits – faster lead time, cost savings, agile businesses, increased security, and innovation.
Here are a few strategies under cloud migration that a business can consider:
Lift and shift or rehost: The lift and shift form of cloud migration refers to moving all the applications that are running on your in-house servers to a cloud infrastructure. This does not pose many challenges or changes to your applications.
This is a great strategy for a company that is just exploring moving to the cloud, and wants to move strands of their architecture to the cloud in a quick and easy manner. An example is when a company moves a copy of its application from on-site servers to the cloud. This is a great option because you can shift to the cloud with literally no code and no major architecture changes. It is also easy to shift your core services to the cloud without much hassle. You can even optimize your application in the cloud. Building applications on the cloud reduces on-site costs.
A company that adopts lift and shift can easily map applications to the cloud migration in order to prevent process failures.
This approach is not without its challenges.While this is a great way to move to cloud, it doesn’t suit a company’s long-term plans, especially if they want to make cloud a major part of their business processes and strategies.
When shifting legacy-based applications to cloud, it is hard to scale these applications as easily as one can scale applications that are native to the cloud.
If on-site applications are shifted to cloud, they could face problems if they are not optimized to run on cloud and suit the cloud configuration.
Lift and shift works for small-scale businesses, but what if you want to grow? If you are in the process of expansion, it is important to involve all your business and process units when making the shift to cloud.
In the wake of COVID-19, digital transformation is top on every company’s list. Application, infrastructure, and architecture modernization are important ways to achieve this transformation.
Modernization refers to transforming and optimizing cloud-based applications, bringing in automation, AI, and remote collaboration into the mix. Modernization involves a series of coordinated efforts and steps. It also involves approaches like serverless architecture, digital decoupling and replatforming.
For small businesses or relatively new companies who move to the cloud, it is relatively easier to build applications and to optimize the cloud to its full potential. For older or larger companies that have legacy systems with a huge number of applications running on your portfolio, modernization is important. Such companies should decide how much of their infrastructure and applications they would want to modernize and how they would want to do it.
When a company wants to modernize the entire architecture, it is an extensive process and has to be done in phases. It is difficult to see immediate results or monetary benefits. Having said this, modernization does boost productivity and performance, optimizing cloud architecture and aligning it with specific business goals.
When a company works on its application architecture or wants to change a large part of its code base to run better in the cloud, it is called refactoring. This is when applications are front and center of the migration process. It is less straightforward than the lift and shift method because of the code changes that a company makes to its application to see if it is built to work effectively in the cloud environment. What is interesting about this approach is that it can provide the highest Return on Investment (ROI) once the company analyzes application components and rebuilds them natively on the cloud.
There are many advantages in refactoring. A company can make changes or add features to your applications. Refactoring also enables companies to take into consideration new requirements from customers. Further, the companies can also reduce cost and save money. Legacy systems that are not modernized run on highly integrated applications. It is difficult and costly to change components in these applications. Taking monolith applications and breaking them into more cloud-based applications do increase efficiency.
There is a downside to this approach too. You don’t see immediate results like you would with a simple lift and shift approach. A business needs a team of experts with exceptional engineering skills.
The simplest (and yes, slightly more expensive) solution is to modernize your entire architecture. This way your technology stack, long-term strategy, and resources are all in alignment, reducing maintenance costs and the need to go back and forth as new business needs emerge.
Choosing the right strategy
Migration and modernization are two sides of a spectrum. Some companies work better with a lift and shift approach, while others have the expertise and the bandwidth to truly leverage the cloud by breaking down applications and rebuilding them to boost efficiency. Some companies may not have reached a certain point in their journey where they have the openness.
Here are some of the points that companies can consider before making the best choice when moving to the cloud:
Factors in favor of a lift and shift approach
The company’s power structure: The lift and shift is a good approach when it comes to large companies that have many hierarchical structures and stakeholders that need to throw their weight behind the change. Lift and shift is a straightforward process that is done with minimal investment, a little to no downtime, and in an accelerated manner. This makes it easier for CEOs and key stakeholders to see its benefits. They will support the move to the cloud, and the company can make more changes in the future once they achieve the initial shift in perspective.
IT leaders should take the lead to make the right decision when it comes to refactoring the enterprise architecture. They need to prioritize which applications they want to modernize first and create a definite plan to start the modernization journey in coordinated steps.
Budgetary considerations: The lift and the shift approach needs less planning and bandwidth than modernization. The initial investment is lesser than the money spent in modernization. After all, the company needs to manage containers, databases, and put a lot of time and effort into changing the application technology. In the long run, however, modernization can achieve a degree of efficiency that can boost productivity and profit. Budget does, however, play a key role in the company’s decision to embrace the cloud technology. For instance, if the company’s data center lease is coming up for renewal, now is the time to lift and shift to cloud instead of operating on a tight deadline. It is important not to rush into modernization, but plan it systematically.
Factors in favor of modernization
Phasing out legacy systems: Companies that are bogged down by legacy systems should opt for modernization if they want to leave their legacy architecture behind and move forward to cloud-native technologies that give them an edge over their competitors.
Companies that are keen on long-term benefits: Migration/lift and shift may have immediate cost benefits; but modernization, in spite of incurring multiple times the investment of a lift and shift approach, can realize the ROI in less than a decade.
Going hybrid with cloud technology
Many companies are opting for migration coupled with modernization or modernization after migration.
Modernization coupled with migration is when a company replaces one platform at a time instead of revamping the entire architecture. This can benefit companies that want to reap the benefits of modernization, but do not have the resources yet. When a company shifts to the cloud and then starts modernizing applications and its assets, it starts seeing higher returns.
An enterprise needs to understand its problems, pain points, and business strategies in order to opt between modernization and migration. What is the age of your legacy systems? Are you able to maintain them efficiently or do you want to upgrade to an architecture that helps you make the best of the cloud platform?
Evaluating legacy systems
Another way to choose between migration and modernization is to look into the problems and concerns that the legacy applications pose. All businesses are digital, and the legacy systems should be agile enough to accommodate the current digital landscape. If a legacy system cannot keep pace with this, it can be a serious roadblock for the company. If the legacy system poses security threats, compliance issues, or lacks the ability to scale, it is time to consider modernization.
Rearchitecting incurs lower costs, but rebuilding provides excellent results even though the costs are higher. It is important to keep all the factors in mind when choosing a strategy.
Evaluating the risks and the benefits
Companies should weigh the risks and rewards involved in every phase of the modernization journey before choosing the best strategy. A risk-reward assessment will create a roadmap for the modernization process and measure its potential success. A company should get all the aspects of modernization right in order to benefit from it. A hands-on approach is a good way forward to make the best of modernization.
Conclusion Every business is taking the cloud journey seriously. Migration and modernization are both part of this journey. Businesses can combine infrastructure and different architecture models in order to produce the desired results. By outlining their business objectives, companies can map out the IT architecture they need to achieve these goals. They can then figure out what they can modernize first and the resources they need to make it a success.