IT professionals understand the importance of meticulous planning when moving a legacy IT environment to the Cloud. This blog will provide a high level view of an approach you can take to reduce risk and move safely into the Microsoft Cloud.

Whilst the behemoth that is AWS clearly retains its position as the market-leader for Cloud services, Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud service, has matured significantly over the last few years. With a doubling of year-on-year revenue to July 2016 and 90,000 new Azure customer subscriptions every month, it’s worthwhile singling out Redmond’s increasingly popular service to assess the best approach to take if you are considering hosting your own services on Azure.

We’ll cover some of the main reasons you might move your legacy environment to Azure and provide the approach to take in order to determine which of your applications would be good candidates for a move to Azure.

So, let’s get started…

Initial Assessment

A Cloud Readiness Assessment (CRA) will clarify your ‘maturity’ level in order to determine where there may be obstructions, gaps and challenges when moving to Azure. The assessment will also highlight the remediation steps that will help get you into the optimal position for a Cloud transformation. But please take note, in order to guarantee a successful outcome it is absolutely critical to seek independent help from migration professionals who have the necessary experience in executing CRA’s.

The CRA will focus on the areas of process, people, applications and financials, culminating a set of recommendations outlining the feasibility and practicality of a move to Azure.

Using the right tools at the right point in the process is important. The Microsoft Azure Cost Estimator tool can be used by the migration team to assess the environment and produce a cost model to help inform decision-making. Microsoft’s cost estimator is compatible with Windows, VMware & Linux environments and provides a comparison between Azure and on-premises running costs (e.g. hardware, power, cooling, building, security, and systems management among others).

Assuming the CRA gives a green light to move forward it is then time to take a more detailed look at the estate. At Xceed Group we take a holistic approach when assessing your environment for Cloud compatibility. Here’s how it’s done:

Top Down – Application Focused

First, we will work with you to identify and engage the key business stakeholders to ensure they support the move to Azure and recognise the benefits, which may include improved availability, scalability, performance and cost. We will start by carefully assessing your environment on an application by application basis by performing a discovery exercise with your application stakeholders, mapping the business processes that are supported by the application. Key questions are asked at this stage that will support, or perhaps not support, the goal of moving to the Cloud.

For example, when considering a move to the Cloud, security is often an area of concern. Is your core line of business application subject to a regulatory constraint, such as PCI DSS? This is important, as depending on the risk profile of the application and your organisation’s appetite for risk you might decide to remain on premise or pursue a hybrid Cloud approach, presenting the service within the Cloud but opting to retain the data on premise. Of course, even in the event that an application is subject to restrictive compliance requirements, many Cloud hosting providers offer compliant solutions, including Microsoft Azure.

The list of questions continues…

Who uses the application? What are the hours of operation? How many users? What is their geographic locations, regional variations, Service Levels and the relationships between applications? Answers to these questions will help determine the feasibility of moving each application to Azure. As an example, you will understand if you need to site multiple instances of applications in different jurisdictions due to regional differences.

We have an automation tool to aid answering these questions – adX, which can accelerate a discovery phase by 80%. Once the discovery is finalised you will have a clear picture of the application estate from the perspective of the business stakeholders.

We now understand the application estate, but it is also critical to understand the short/medium/long term business strategy and how it maps to your IT services. To demonstrate this point, let’s assume that your core business service is a customised CRM application with a significant investment in licencing and support. You might determine that this significant investment is fulfilled before a move to Azure is advised. If, however, your CRM application is nearing the end of support and you are struggling to hire staff with the requisite knowledge to operationally maintain it, then moving to Microsoft Dynamics CRM might be the perfect solution. Xceed Group specialise in guiding customers through this complex process.

Bottom Up – Infrastructure services

Many organisations have embraced virtualisation and this is a desirable starting point when considering a move to Azure, or any other Cloud platform. For even the most efficient organisations, it is unlikely that all workloads are virtualised. Whilst it is possible to use a Cloud migration programme of work as a platform to perform a Physical To Virtual (P2V), it is not usually recommended to do this in-flight during the migration. Change as little as possible during your move to the Cloud and you’ll have a better chance of understanding where problems lie following the move.

Analysis within the environment is key to determining the current levels of performance and utilisation, as it may be possible to consolidate the number of hosts in Azure and reduce cost. This detailed assessment follows on from the CRA. Use the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit to perform an automated assessment of your desktop and server estate. The MAP toolkit is compatible with Hyper-V, VMware and Linux environments; in addition, a number of products and services can be assessed for Azure readiness, including Exchange, SQL and Active Directory Users and Devices.

Assessment of the network environment performance must be undertaken to baseline performance and identify any potential network bottlenecks. At the application layer, it is important to understand application response times under load. It is important to understand if your application is dependent on particular hardware components or configurations. Some of these might not be suitable for a move to Azure. Many Virtual Machine Templates are available on the Azure Marketplace, running MAP will advise which templates are the best fit according to your workload.

Research carefully and choose a reputable partner to assist you with this process.

In summary, expert help in aligning the results of the top-down business analysis and the bottom up infrastructure assessment will provide a detailed view of what services could move to the Cloud and when, whilst others may be retired or retained on-premise.

Do you need some assistance with your Cloud Migration to an Azure platform? Contact us