Cloud migration with Azure Migrate: A walkthrough

Migrating your business workloads to the cloud can be challenging. Cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google offer their own various migration tools for doing this. Many third-party vendors also offer toolsets and services for facilitating cloud migrations. For companies thinking of migrating server workloads, databases, web apps, or data into Microsoft Azure, there is a collection of cloud migration services available from Microsoft that can help you do this. Azure Migrate enables you to discover, assess, and migrate workloads to the cloud. To help us understand how it works and what it can do, I asked Sarah Lean, a senior cloud advocate at Microsoft, to give us a walkthrough. Sarah fell in love with technology at an early age and likes to focus on technology from an IT professional point of view. She maintains a blog called Techielass and you can follow her on Twitter: @techielass. Let’s turn the floor over to Sarah!

Sarah Lean

Hello! Migration or digital transformation to the cloud is at the forefront of every organization’s plans. It’s no longer a case of if that transformation is happening, it’s how. The how part is where organizations are getting stuck though, it’s the part that can seem the most daunting. Where do you start trying to transform your IT environment? What’s the end goal? For me, the migration of your IT environment to the cloud can be split into four key areas, Discovery, Assessment, Migration, and Operations.

Discovery

For me, the discovery phase of your project is the most pivotal. This is the phase where you will start to do the research into the technology you have within your organization but also understand how the end-users in your organization use that technology and where changes or improvements can be made. Often IT departments feel they can skip over this section, believing they have documentation that already covers it all, but for me, this is the wrong thing to do, as there will always be something that isn’t listed in the documentation that you’ll uncover.

You can help to gather the technology information you need by using discovery tools. There are a lot of discovery tools out on the market. Some use agents installed on your servers to discover the environment, others use network discovery, some store the data they gather in the cloud, and others store the data locally in your own environment. And then there is the pricing. So, it’s important to understand how the discovery tool works so you can pick the right one for your environment and needs.

One of the discovery tools on the market to help you move to Azure is Azure Migrate.

Azure Migrate will help to discover your server, SQL, virtual desktop, and web app environments. From your server environment, it will gather information from the basic information like server name to the network connections that it uses with devices and servers within your environment. Because let’s face it, it’s very rare that any server works independently.

Azure Migrate
Azure Migrate blade
Azure Migrate discovery information
Azure Migrate discovery information

What the tool can’t discover for you is the information from your end-users. Chats with them about how they use the technology are just as important as the technology discovery. By having conversations with the people who use the technology, you’ll learn what is working for them, what they’d love to change, when they can’t have outages, and maybe even if they are working on their own projects to replace technology without involving you (let’s face it, that happens far too often!).

You should also be starting to understand how much your current environment costs, what is the running costs of the servers, licenses, staff and engineer time, power, security, etc. This information might not be readily available to you given the way your organization runs; however, you can use the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculator by Microsoft to help get some idea of costs, which will help later when you are making decisions.

All the information you are gathering will help you in the next stage, assessment.

Assessment

At the assessment stage, you are starting to pull together all the information you’ve gathered. Pulling it together to help you make decisions about what is migrating to your cloud provider, what isn’t migrating, how it will move, and when it will move.

And those decisions are important ones, hence the reason you must collect so much data about your environment. One decision won’t fit all the workloads, servers, and business use-cases in your environment. Which is why I’m personally a fan of only making your strategy decisions once you know your environment fully.

The information you collected via Azure Migrate can be pulled together in a report that will help you understand if workloads are ready to move to Azure and the potential costs of hosting those workloads in Azure.

Azure Migrate report

There is still a lot of discussion and decisions that will need to be made within your team to understand the best course of action for your organization. It’s important to try to pull together a diverse team to help make those decisions, including stakeholders from different parts of your IT department and even from outside the IT department.

At this stage, you don’t necessarily have to have all the answers for how your organization is going to adopt the cloud, but you should have a good overall plan of what the strategy is, how you need your cloud landing zone to look, what the costings are, rough time scales, how you wish to govern your environment, and how you are going to help address the skills your staff need to run an environment in the cloud.

Migration

The migration stage is where you will put all that discovery and assessment work you did into practice. You’ll start to put your workloads into the cloud. This stage is going to look very different for every organization, depending on what path they’ve decided to embark on.

At this stage, you should be looking to understand what tooling is right to help you migrate. Much like picking the right tooling for your discovery. Azure Migrate can guide you again at this stage by helping you move your servers, SQL instances, virtual desktops, web apps, and data. Azure Migrate offers you the ability to test your server migrations and refine the process before migrating the live workload.

I would never recommend migrating your most critical or important workload first, and always say, where possible, start with something that isn’t as impactful to your organization in case something does go wrong. And you and the team can build up your migration experience before you migrate something very visible to your organization.

Operations

Once you have started to migrate workloads in the cloud and are either operating in an all-cloud situation or a hybrid model, you need to adjust to this new scenario. Adjusting to how faults are handled when they come into your helpdesk, how do you handle new workload requests, how do you handle your budget, how do you keep staff up to date with their cloud skillset, how do you adjust to changes in cloud services, new cloud services. These kinds of situations will start to become your business-as-usual activities.

Moving to the cloud can be a daunting project for a lot of organizations. However, I hope I’ve started to give you an idea of what the project stages will look like and how Azure Migrate might assist you at stages.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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