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What is cloud migration?

Cloud migration is the transfer of the IT resources of a business or other complex organization from private servers and in-house data center facilities to public cloud architecture. The complexity of cloud migration depends on the number of resources supported in each project. Cloud migration includes productivity software, platforms for business services, enterprise databases, remote desktops, web/mobile applications, IoT, edge servers, CRM support systems, SD-WAN, and network administration tools.



The governing pattern of cloud migration is based on legacy enterprise data center architecture which must be continually maintained and upgraded for the operation of business services. Large organizations can save 40% to 50% of their traditional IT operating costs on average by transferring in-house data center facilities to a public cloud service provider. The public cloud host offers the required hardware for web servers with security, maintenance, upgrades, and stack configuration included in the service plans. Most public cloud hosts bill under a “pay as you go” approach to services.


Public cloud hosts provide rack servers with direct, high-speed fiber-optic connections to the internet backbone across multiple international data centers. By operating at hyperscale far beyond even the largest Fortune 500 companies, public cloud hosts like Google, Microsoft, AWS, IBM, and Oracle have reduced the costs for IT services required by the world’s largest organizations. Simultaneously, public cloud hosts have increased the number of programming, web development, and mobile application support resources available on their platforms. Cloud migration is a major aspect of legacy enterprise software modernization and now typically involves the use of virtualization with containers or VMs that make more efficient use of hardware allocations to support web business at scale.




What are the main types of cloud migration?

The three main types of cloud migration are:


  1. Full data center conversion
  2. Transfer of support for business process software
  3. Web/mobile application optimization


Full data center conversion is the most complex and time-consuming form of cloud migration. Under this model, a business, NGO, or government agency seeks to outsource all of its data center hardware to a public cloud host. This includes software that supports customer orders, shipping, logistics, manufacturing, and industrial production. Full data center conversion migrates both internal and external business processes away from an on-premises data center or private cloud to public cloud architecture. The complexity of this process leads to many companies adopting hybrid and multi-cloud constructs for daily operations.


Some businesses choose to only migrate a portion of their IT resources, software or databases to a public cloud host while maintaining private cloud and complex networking support for internal activities. Many corporate security policies do not permit mission-critical data to be hosted by third-parties off premises. Similarly, many companies cannot function with remote desktop hardware for daily use. In hybrid or multi-cloud approaches, public-facing web services are outsourced to cloud hosts to save costs and make operations more efficient, while internal services like legacy databases and CRMs are maintained locally by a corporate IT department.


The most straightforward form of cloud migration involves moving only a limited set of web or mobile applications to public cloud architecture for hosting and DevOps management. Public cloud hosts have many platform tools for programmers, web developers, and systems administrators to adopt that make the software development lifecycle more efficient. Enterprise software development teams must practice continuous integration and continuous delivery (CICD) that tests code from multiple programmers through sandboxes and version control. All of the public cloud hosts offer software tools that will assist the transfer of databases and software application resources to remote hardware.



Why are more companies moving to the cloud?

Cloud migration helps both large and small businesses move their software applications, databases, and other IT resources to remote servers in a seamless, secure, and transparent manner. This can help companies to manage the software development lifecycle process more efficiently. Businesses adopt cloud migration strategies for better scalability, availability, and faster deployment of software services. The costs of maintaining an on-premises data center are too high for most businesses to manage compared to the cost of services at public cloud hosts like Google, AWS, and Microsoft Azure.

Software modernization of legacy applications and databases is the main driving concern for most businesses undertaking cloud migration. Legacy code can be containerized and shifted from operations on private cloud hardware or mainframes to a public cloud facility. Enterprise databases can similarly be transferred from on-premises hardware to remote public cloud facilities for hosting. When accomplished, cloud migration leads to benefits in efficiency for the development of new software code for web and mobile applications, as well as cost savings on hardware and staff.

By using version control like Git and CICD software for automated security testing, Agile teams can introduce new features and functionality or security upgrades to existing applications more quickly. Cloud migration leads to better web/mobile app performance when it can be integrated with data centers and web server management tools such as load balancing, reverse-proxy caching, and CDNs. Most enterprise-level businesses require the autoscaling of nodes according to web traffic demands in production.



How to migrate to the cloud

Cloud migration can be done either by internal IT teams of trained professionals in systems administration, networking, programming, and web development or by hiring consultant companies as specialists for the process. Cloud migration can be implemented either by using platform tools provided by the public cloud hosting companies for database, file transfer, and account set-up or through the use of third-party software. Companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Google, and AWS have suites of onboarding tools that make cloud migration easier. Businesses that deploy internally using VMware, OpenStack, Nutanix, Mirantis, or other cloud orchestration and data center management software have access to powerful tools for automated cloud migration to public cloud hardware.

One of the fastest-growing trends in cloud migration is the inclusion of an option to “bring your own license”. This allows companies to install their proprietary software tools in unique configurations using the products that they have already purchased for daily operations, customer support, and manufacturing. Most enterprise businesses already manage multi-cloud constructs using SaaS products from third-party vendors as part of their departmental workflow. The inclusion of options for GPU and TPU servers on public cloud platforms increases the ability to build AI-driven options for data analytics or to build unique graphic art, video, auto-CAD, and digital animation systems. Remote hosted CRM, word processing, and spreadsheet applications are now common in enterprise with Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, and the Google Apps suite.

Companies need to build a unique cloud migration strategy based on their existing IT resources, daily workflow, customer support, and manufacturing requirements. Each business needs to build a cloud migration strategy that reflects where the company needs to grow in the future to accomplish core operational goals. IT professionals need to build a cloud migration plan in advance that transfers running processes to remote hardware for daily operations in a secure and cost-efficient manner. Network analytics can assist cloud migration, but administrators will also need to research the licensing and runtime costs of each public cloud service provider to ascertain the value of each platform vs. competitors.



The benefits of cloud migration

The benefits of cloud migration are lower costs for businesses in IT operations, more efficiency in the allocation of hardware, and greater innovation in the software development process. Using a public cloud or third-party integrator platform tools for cloud migration improves the discovery and assessment of existing network resources. Public cloud hosts have more resources available to dedicate to the data center and web server security than many private businesses, which includes the operation of facilities by the top computer science experts in the world.

The benefits of cloud hosting for web and mobile applications include the use of elastic web server platforms that improve the high availability of resources at scale. This increases the ability of companies to support web traffic and eCommerce customers while conducting online operations on domain properties. Combining Agile project management techniques with cloud hosting leads to the swifter introduction of new features in web/mobile applications with better security for web servers and online databases.



Cloud migration challenges 

Enterprises embarking on a migration journey will encounter their own unique challenges largely dependent on their company resources, business needs, and IT capabilities. Working through the migration framework in the following sections is a good start towards ensuring migrations are planned thoroughly, and any potential problems that could arise are minimized. 

These groups should weigh their company's needs against the benefits of each of the public, private, and hybrid cloud configurations. Choose the appropriate configuration that will satisfy current and near to long term requirements; in the longer term, advancing technology may factor into the company's cloud decisions.  

Despite each company's unique configurations, there are common challenges for all cloud migrations. 

The Six Biggest Cloud Migration Challenges 

  1. Incompatible infrastructure between clouds — Avoid the false approach of the lift and shift strategy, where different environments with different operating systems makes directly migrating your on-premise applications to the public cloud difficult if not impossible. VMware Cloud provides a hybrid cloud solution that integrates the public cloud using the same infrastructure as your data center, eliminating compatibility issues.  

  1. Lack of support for existing security policies — Security of Data, Compliance with Regulatory Mandates, and Control over IT Services are the top 3 security challenges, and may require your enterprise to reach deeper than your public host is capable. VMware Cloud meets a broad range of security and compliance standards, ensuring you meet current and required benchmarks and regulations.  

  1. Migrating apps with dependencies — 42 percent of enterprises making the move to the cloud experience latency in their critical applications due to dependences between infrastructure, operations, and applications. VMware Cloud enables you to visualize data flows across your hybrid infrastructure to identify interdependent apps and migrate them seamlessly. 

  1. Cost of refactoring and rewriting apps — Many enterprises approach cloud migration with the lift and shift strategy, inevitably embarking on rounds of refactoring their applications to suit their public cloud host configurations. VMware Cloud allows you to migrate mission-critical applications without costly refactoring or impact to performance. 

  1. Lack of strategic planning — More than one-third of enterprises do not use a documented cloud strategy, seriously jeopardizing their chances of a successful migration. Plan your migration by understanding app data flows and estimate ongoing costs of network egress with VMware Cloud. 

  1. Staff efficiency — Factors like digital transformation have spurred a skills shortage for cloud experience staff. Reduce the impact of a potential skill shortage with VMware Cloud, allowing you to use the VMware environment your team is already familiar with. 



Cloud migration tools 

No matter where you are along the journey of migration, VMware provides the solutions that help you migrate with ease. VMware tools extend your on-premise cloud by leveraging your preferred public cloud partner. 

  • VMware Cloud on AWS — Accelerate your cloud migration with consistent vSphere-based infrastructure delivered on AWS, the world’s leading public cloud. 

  • Azure VMware Solution — Seamlessly extend or migrate your existing on-premises VMware environment to Azure VMware Solution. 

  • Google Cloud VMware Engine — Use the tools, policies and processes you know to rapidly extend into Google Cloud. 

  • Oracle Cloud VMware Solution — Support a fully functional VMware environment in the secure, high-performance Oracle Cloud. 

  • IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions — Simplify your path to cloud, and go further once you're there. 

  • VMWare Cloud Foundation — Access integrated cloud infrastructure and cloud management services to run enterprise applications in both private and public environments. 

  • VMware HCX — Leverage an application mobility platform to quickly and easily migrate applications to the public cloud. 



How does an on-premises to cloud migration work? 

Cloud migrations are not simple operations; however, online content often reduces the matter to a handful of straightforward tasks. Enterprises should thoroughly plan and consult with IT professionals who possess the relevant experience if they do not have the expertise themselves. The misleading belief that cloud operations are the same as on-premises operations is a misleading contributor to much oversimplification in how IT teams approach migrations. This can lead to mistakes and errors, ultimately setting back operations and inflating costs. 

For example, enterprises securing their on-premises infrastructure likely adhere to a fortress model, where firewalls, reverse proxies, DMZs, and more protect the company network. This style of security creates a single trust zone that exists within the perimeter of the network. However, because of the asymmetric nature of public clouds and hybrid clouds, this is not a sufficient security strategy.  

Contrastingly, public cloud networks do not share the same fortress model but must create a zero-trust security model that demands users and devices intelligently authenticate themselves before accessing resources. Beyond the traditional one-time login trust model, zero-trust models use contextual policies, continuous network monitoring, multifactor identification, identity access management (IAM), and advanced endpoint security to enforce an environment that continuously validates users in real-time. 

The basics steps below outline the general concerns before, during, and after cloud migrations.  

  1. Establish Goals — The ultimate aim of cloud migrations is business performance. Defining metrics to determine a successful cloud migration is necessary. 

  1. Devise a Security Strategy — As illustrated above, security in the cloud requires an evolution in protective thinking. While the public cloud enables agility and scalability for enterprise operations, threat points in the public cloud have also multiplied. 

  1. Data Migration — A reliable cloud partner can ease much apprehension and frustration, especially when safeguarding the integrity of your proprietary data. Partners should be able to replicate with fidelity the enterprise database and keep it up-to-date. 

  1. Migrating Business Intelligence — Migrating applications intended for the cloud need interoperability consideration. Do your enterprise applications require refactoring or rewriting for the cloud environment? See the strategies below. 

  1. Final Switch Over — Depending on the complexity of the cloud configuration, all in the public cloud or a hybrid configuration, enterprises may simply be able to switch off on-premises legacy systems. Others will need to ramp down legacy systems while introducing their cloud apps, while other on-premises systems may remain in use to handle sensitive company data. 



Which cloud migration strategy works the best for enterprise companies? 

How will your enterprise address legacy apps in the cloud environment? Cloud-native capabilities may be superior in many ways to legacy capabilities. If this is the case, companies can make several choices in how they approach migrating their apps and data. Below are the common strategies for migrating to the cloud. 

  • Rehost — Rehosting is the most common approach to cloud migration. By simply moving their codebase to a cloud environment, businesses can carry on with minor configuration changes. If their legacy apps are incompatible or outdated, they can choose one of the following routes. 

  • Revising or Re-platforming — If an organization's apps are incompatible with the cloud environment, a partial rewrite of the codebase or optimization for the cloud environment may be in order. After re-platforming, the app is then rehosted on a cloud vendor's environment. 

  • Refactor — Sometimes, legacy software is simply too old to run on current cloud technology. This will require a complete rewrite. Not always a setback, refactoring provides an opportunity for enterprises to update their apps using advantageous and efficient cloud-native capabilities that could likely be superior to the old environment. 

  • Repurchasing or Replacing — If refactoring is time-consuming and costly, a cloud-native SaaS app could replace the legacy app. For common applications, such as accounting or sales, this may prove a better use of budget. For specialized software, enterprises may be pressed to refactor their proprietary apps for the cloud. 

  • Revisiting and Retiring — Migrating to the cloud may be an opportunity for a spring cleaning within the company. By reprioritizing the apps they use, redundant and out-of-date software can be retired, eliminating costly legacy maintenance. 

Process of Cloud Migration 

As noted previously, every enterprise takes its own unique journey to the cloud. But, each journey has a beginning, middle, and end.  

Before Migration 

  • Define your strategy — Take into account all stakeholders involved, migration strategy, partners, and business intent. 

  • Plan your migration — Assess what apps, databases, and infrastructure your business truly needs; a migration can be a powerful opportunity to reassess the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your IT infrastructure.  

During Migration 

  • Prepare the organization for migration — Even when recruiting cloud migration specialists' efforts, in-house IT personnel need to learn the skills to keep them abreast of cloud technologies and tools. 

  • Adopt the cloud environment — Adoption in waves is an approach to cloud migration that uses automated tools to migrate appropriately sized workloads. Adopting in waves reduces IT and business risk and ensuring the manageability of the migration process. 

After Migration 

  • Secure and manage your workloads — Visibility is paramount in managing control and security; by using a single control to simplify management, enterprises can detect and respond to threats across their hybrid environs. 

  • Govern and cost optimize your cloud environments — Companies move to cloud environments for their superior agility and scalability. These features allow enterprises to control their costs at a granular level when they need to ramp up or down resources in response to demand. 



Cloud migration steps (checklist) 

VMware provides a step-by-step guide describing how to migrate projects to VMware Cloud on AWS for those embarking on their data migration journey. The guide will take you through migrating virtual machines from your on-premises data center to VMware Cloud on AWS.  

The migration process contains three stages: Plan, Build and Migrate. Each stage is divided into a series of steps that build on each other to guide you through a successful migration.  

  1. Plan — A critical first step, in the plan stage you will determine the networking, security, and other resources required to support your enterprise demands, steps include: 

  • Get to know VMware Cloud on AWS 

  • Create VMware Cloud on AWS account 

  • Analyze on-premises workloads 

  • Analyze network dependencies (optional) 

  • Size your workloads 

  • Prepare AWS resources 

  • Prepare network ranges 

  • Prepare DNS strategy 

  • Prepare for network connection 

  1. Build — Using the parameters that you determined in the Plan stage, you will create a cloud SDDC and configure it to run your workloads. 

  • Create SDDC 

  • Configure network 

  • Configure intra AWS connectivity 

  • Download HLM Gateway (Optional) 

  • Enable vRealize Log Insight Cloud (Optional) 

  1. Migrate — Configure HCX, create a tunnel to migrate workloads, and test your results.  

  • Planning for migration 

  • Installing and Testing HCX 

  • Migrate by wave 


Related Topics
Application Modernization
Private Cloud
Multi-Cloud
Hybrid Cloud
Cloud Networking
Cloud Security
Cloud Infrastructure
Cloud Architecture
Cloud Automation
Cloud Server
Cloud Storage
Cloud Elasticity
Cloud as a Service


VMware cloud migration: Products, solutions, and resources

VMwares's flagship products like VMware Cloud Foundation specializes in hybrid and multi-cloud integration, that can automate the transfer of IT resources from a private data center to a public cloud host like AWS, GCP, or Azure with seamless automation and security. The VMware Cloud for AWS allows business organizations to rapidly extend, migrate and protect their VMware environment to the AWS Cloud, VMware’s preferred hybrid cloud option for vSphere workloads.

vSphere platforms are the industry's premier data center virtualization and cloud orchestration software platforms that can be used to automate the cloud migration process as well as to create new hybrid and multi-cloud architecture across many service providers. VMware's HCX is VMware's application migration and mobility platform that provides any to any mobility support for large-scale movement of workloads across all VMware platforms.