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Application Migration Strategy: The 7 Rs and How to Choose

Read Time: 6 minutes

Application Migration Strategy: The 7 Rs and How to Choose

What Are Application Migration Strategies? 

Application migration strategies are plans that outline how to move applications from one environment to another, typically involving the transition from on-premises infrastructure to cloud platforms. 

These strategies aim to optimize the migration process by minimizing risks, reducing costs, and ensuring that the application’s performance and functionality are enhanced or at least maintained in the new environment.

The choice of strategy depends on various factors, including the application’s architecture, business objectives, technical requirements, and budget constraints. Strategies range from simple rehosting or “lift-and-shift” approaches to more complex refactoring or re-architecting of applications to fully leverage cloud-native features. 

This is part of a series of articles about VMware migration.

Key Challenges During Application Migration 

Here are some of the main factors that can make it challenging to implement an application migration strategy:

  • Technical difficulties: These often stem from compatibility issues between the old and new environments. They can range from differences in operating systems, middleware, or database technologies that require significant adjustments to ensure the application functions correctly post-migration. This can negatively impact performance.
  • Potential for business disruption: The migration process can affect daily operations, leading to downtime, reduced productivity, or data loss if not managed carefully. Interruptions in service can tarnish a company’s reputation and result in lost revenue, especially if customer-facing applications are involved. 
  • Uncertain cost of cloud migration: Estimating the total expense involves considering both the immediate costs of moving applications to the cloud and the long-term operational expenses. These costs can change due to factors such as data transfer fees, storage requirements, and the pricing models of cloud service providers. 
  • Data security and compliance risks: Ensuring data integrity and security is especially critical when transferring sensitive information across platforms or environments. It’s also important to maintain compliance with industry regulations and standards throughout the migration, which requires understanding the legal and regulatory requirements of the data being migrated.

The 7 Rs: Application Migration Strategies

The 7 Rs were originally introduced by Gartner as “5 Rs”, later expanded to “6 Rs”, and finally formulated as “7 Rs” by Amazon. “Rs” simply means that all the strategy names begin with “R”. While they were originally intended as strategies for cloud migration, they are relevant to many other types of application migrations. 

Rehost (Lift-and-Shift) 

Rehosting, commonly known as “Lift-and-Shift,” involves moving applications from an on-premises environment directly to the cloud without making significant changes to the application’s architecture or code. 

This strategy is favored for its simplicity and speed, allowing organizations to quickly migrate applications and realize the initial benefits of cloud computing, such as scalability and cost savings on infrastructure. Since the application undergoes minimal modifications, the migration process can be accelerated, reducing time-to-market. 

However, this approach may not fully leverage all cloud-native features and optimizations available in the new environment, potentially leading to missed opportunities for performance improvements or cost reductions in the long run.

Relocate 

Relocating involves moving applications to a cloud environment with minimal changes, focusing on adjusting the underlying infrastructure rather than the application itself. This strategy is particularly useful for applications running on virtualized environments that can be easily migrated to a compatible cloud platform. 

The key benefit of relocating is the preservation of existing investments in application architecture while taking advantage of basic cloud capabilities like improved disaster recovery and geographical distribution.

The process typically requires coordination with cloud service providers to ensure compatibility and support for the virtualization technologies used in the existing setup. This approach may not address deeper performance or scalability issues inherent in the application design, requiring further optimization or refactoring post-migration.

Refactor (Rearchitect) 

Refactoring, or rearchitecting, involves making significant changes to an application’s code to fully exploit cloud-native features and capabilities. This strategy is aimed at enhancing the application’s scalability, performance, and cost-efficiency by leveraging services such as serverless computing, microservices architectures, and dynamic scaling. 

Refactoring offers the ability to optimize applications for the cloud environment fully. The process can be complex and time-consuming but offers substantial long-term benefits. It requires a deep understanding of cloud technologies and might involve substantial redevelopment work. 

Replatform 

Replatforming involves making moderate adjustments to the application’s configuration or code to adapt it to the cloud environment without a complete overhaul. This strategy strikes a balance between the minimal changes of rehosting and the extensive modifications of refactoring. 

The goal is to optimize certain aspects of the application to benefit from cloud capabilities, such as improved database management, enhanced scalability, or cost optimizations through managed services.

However, it requires careful planning to identify which components should be modified for optimal cloud integration without introducing unnecessary complexity or potential disruptions to existing workflows.

Repurchase 

Repurchasing involves identifying obsolete or redundant applications within an organization’s portfolio and replacing them with cloud-based solutions, often through Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. This allows organizations to decommission legacy systems that no longer provide value and adopt modern, cloud-native applications that offer improved functionality.

By retiring unnecessary applications and repurchasing newer solutions, organizations can quickly benefit from advanced features, regular updates, and enhanced security provided by cloud vendors.

However, this strategy requires thorough assessment to identify which applications should be retired versus those that need migration or rearchitecting. Additionally, transitioning to SaaS solutions may involve adapting business processes to fit the new application’s workflows and functionalities.

Retain 

Retaining involves choosing not to migrate certain applications to the cloud, either temporarily or permanently. This decision is typically based on business, technical, or regulatory considerations that make migration impractical or unnecessary. For example, applications with stringent latency requirements that cannot be met in the cloud, or legacy systems that are difficult to decouple from existing infrastructure. 

Retaining applications avoids unnecessary migration costs and complexities for systems that are unsuitable for cloud environments or provide no clear benefit from migration. However, it requires ongoing maintenance of retained systems and may prevent organizations from realizing the operational efficiencies and cost savings associated with the cloud. 

Retire 

Retiring applications involves the strategic decision to decommission systems that are no longer useful or cost-effective to maintain. This process identifies applications that do not contribute to business objectives, are redundant, or have been replaced by more efficient cloud-based solutions. 

By retiring these applications, organizations can reduce IT clutter, minimize maintenance costs, and reallocate resources. However, the decision to retire an application must be carefully considered, taking into account potential impacts on business operations and ensuring that all data from retired systems is appropriately archived or migrated to other platforms as needed.

Process for Evaluating Applications and Selecting Your Migration Strategy

Choosing the right application migration strategy involves careful analysis and planning to align with both technical and business objectives. Here are key considerations to guide this decision:

  1. Assess your application portfolio: Evaluate all applications in your portfolio to determine their criticality, usage patterns, and dependencies. Classify applications based on their importance to business operations, identifying those that are candidates for migration versus those that should be retained or retired.
  2. Understand business objectives: Align migration strategies with your business goals. Whether the aim is to reduce costs, enhance scalability, improve performance, or innovate with new capabilities, your chosen strategy should support these objectives. For instance, refactoring might be ideal for applications where performance and scalability are critical, while rehosting could be suitable for reducing on-premises costs.
  3. Analyze technical requirements: Consider the technical aspects of each application, including its architecture, performance requirements, and integration points. Evaluate whether the application can easily be migrated with minimal changes (rehosting or relocating) or if it requires significant modifications. Consider using application dependency mapping to better understand the current application topology.
  4. Evaluate cost implications: Perform a cost-benefit analysis to understand both the immediate and long-term financial impacts of each strategy. Include factors such as migration costs, ongoing cloud service fees, potential savings from decommissioning on-premises infrastructure, and any necessary investments in training or new tools.
  5. Ensure compliance and security: Ensure that your migration strategy complies with relevant regulatory and security requirements. Assess the risks associated with data transfer and storage in the cloud, especially for sensitive or regulated data, and choose strategies that provide robust security and compliance measures.
  6. Consider time constraints: Determine the timeline for your migration project. If rapid migration is a priority, strategies like rehosting might be more appropriate. Conversely, if there is more flexibility in timing, strategies like refactoring that offer long-term benefits might be feasible.
  7. Plan for future growth: Select strategies that not only meet current needs but also support future growth and scalability. For example, replatforming or refactoring can prepare applications to leverage cloud-native features, ensuring they can scale efficiently as demand increases.
  8. Leverage cloud provider capabilities: Take into account the specific capabilities and services offered by your chosen cloud provider. Some providers offer tools and support for specific migration strategies, which can simplify the process and enhance the outcomes.
  9. Pilot and iterate: Consider starting with a pilot migration of less critical applications to refine your approach and address any unforeseen challenges. Use the insights gained to inform the broader migration strategy and ensure smoother execution.

Related content: Read our guide to IT migration strategy

Pre-Migration Application Mapping with Faddom

Faddom is an agentless IT infrastructure discovery and mapping solution which makes sure that every device, object, and dependency is visible before Active Directory migrations. This is critical to prevent outages, which can occur when some servers are still using the old AD server. Faddom provides the data necessary for a smooth migration, with ongoing visibility of on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure. 

Faddom offers the fastest mapping capabilities in the market: it takes under an hour to map your entire infrastructure. It is fully agentless, making it highly secure, and is also affordable, starting at $10K/year.

Start a free trial of Faddom today!

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