Migrating applications to the cloud can be a challenging task.
Some businesses rely on their applications so much that moving them to a cloud environment safely takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.
The first step in any successful app migration is to choose the right migration strategy.
While there are many ways you can go about it, AWS cloud migrations can be encompassed in two main strategies – the forklift migration and the hybrid migration strategy.
These two strategies described by AWS in their cloud migration whitepaper simplify the process and provide useful frameworks for constructing actual migration plans.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that regardless of your strategy, it’s often best to start with an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) provided by AWS or an AWS Solution Provider. That way you’ll have a basis for AMIs you intend to use going forward.
The Forklift Migration Strategy
The forklift migration strategy consists of moving an application to the cloud all at once.
As a general rule, forklift migrations are straight-forward and don’t require much preparation. Moving applications this way doesn’t involve any major changes to the code beforehand. You simply take the application, make a few minor changes (for example, switching to Amazon RDS), and move it to the cloud to use AWS’s infrastructure.
This approach is ideal for stateless or self-contained applications that aren’t vital to your day-to-day operations.
While simple, this approach has a couple of drawbacks.
First, the lack of preparation and changes to the application’s code means there’s more risk involved. You need to be prepared with a backup plan if something doesn’t go your way. Also, while there’s usually only one downtime window with this approach, it’s often a large one.
Secondly, moving applications without making changes to the code means you won’t be able to take advantage of the cloud’s elasticity and scalability. After the migration, you’ll need to optimize the application to ensure you’re taking maximum advantage of the cloud’s capabilities.
Even with these drawbacks, the forklift strategy offers a tremendous opportunity to quickly reduce the size of your IT infrastructure footprint and let AWS do lots of the work.
If you pick the right application performing a forklift move shouldn’t be a problem from a technical and a risk-management standpoint.
The Hybrid Migration Strategy
A hybrid migration strategy involves migrating small parts of a system to the cloud separately.
Hybrid migrations are ideal if you want to reduce the risk to the bare minimum. With this approach, you can move each part and optimize it before migrating the rest. It’s kind of like a PoC test but with a different purpose.
The idea here is to test for unexpected behavior, bugs, or errors in the cloud environment. While you’re moving these smaller parts, the large portion of your systems stays in your data center as you confirm that everything’s functioning according to plan.
Hybrid migrations also tend to require need much smaller downtime windows.
Like forklift migrations hybrid migrations also have a downside.
You’ll need to build individual “wrappers” around each migrated part to enable communications between parts in your datacenter and those that will be in the AWS cloud. This process takes more time and resources since the amount of labor hours that hybrid migrations require is much higher than the amount needed for forklift migrations.
As you can see, there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about application migrations in general.
The beneficial approach for one business might be entirely wrong for another.
It all boils down to the application’s structure and its role in your operations.
If you can live with the risk forklifting on-premise applications to the cloud will save you time and effort. However, if you’re migrating vital applications and can’t afford any missteps, the hybrid approach is your best bet.
As a certified AWS Consulting Partner and Solution Provider, R&D Solutions can help you pick the right strategy for your app migration and execute it flawlessly. Learn how you can benefit from out AWS expertise here.