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How to Choose the Right AWS Cloud Migration Strategy

By: Luke Britton


Close up of various computer monitors on desktop with digital glowing polygonal cloud mesh on blurry background. Storage technology concepts transfer data to cloud computing platforms

Increasingly more organizations across industries are switching to the cloud to cut IT costs and improve productivity. According to PwC’s 2023 Cloud Business Survey, 78% of organizations have already adopted cloud into their tech stacks. 100% of the adopters report improved decision-making due to cloud transformation. This is why choosing the right AWS cloud migration strategy so important.

Migrating to AWS is one of the most popular choices among future cloud adopters. As the world’s leading cloud platform, AWS provides organizations with advanced flexibility, security, and performance, as well as plenty of powerful services and tools.

This article covers the main AWS migration strategies and provides some tips on picking the right one.

What are the AWS cloud migration strategies?

In a nutshell, an AWS migration strategy is a plan for migrating an organization’s applications, data, and other digital assets to the AWS cloud. There are seven official AWS migration strategies, typically referred to as 7Rs, each with a unique migration approach and varying in complexity, time, and cost:

  1. Retiring

Being one of the most straightforward and cost-effective strategies, retiring implies the removal of those digital assets that are no longer required. For example, an organization can retire applications that are incompatible with the AWS environment and, therefore, cannot be used effectively in the new infrastructure.

One of the main advantages of retiring is the ability to free up computing resources for more important workloads. However, if an organization does not have the necessary documentation for legacy systems, it would be difficult to retire them safely.

  1. Retaining

Unlike the previous strategy, this one involves keeping applications intact in their existing local environment, typically on-premises. At first glance, this strategy seems inefficient, since retained applications would still use some corporate IT resources. However, retaining allows organizations to cut down on cloud costs particularly and reduce cloud waste.

  1. Relocating

Relocating is the most recent AWS migration strategy that only emerged in 2017 when Amazon released VMware Cloud. With VMware Cloud, organizations can seamlessly migrate their applications to AWS without spending time and effort on code rewrites.

Relocating, however, is applicable only for some types of applications and systems, as only workloads based on VMware vSphere can be relocated to AWS.

  1. Rehosting

When an organization decides to rehost its digital assets, it migrates them to the AWS cloud with little to no change. While speed and low cost are undeniable advantages of this strategy, it’s not the most effective one in the long run due to potential performance issues. After all, organizations will sooner or later have to optimize their workloads for AWS to avoid unexpected failures and lagging.

  1. Repurchasing

Within this strategy, an organization switches from its legacy on-premise software to a cloud-based solution. For example, an organization stops using an on-premise ERP system and instead adopts a cloud-based ERP like SAP, Odoo, or Kinetic.

  1. Replatforming

When opting for replatforming, organizations tailor their on-premises apps to the cloud without changing their architectures. Thus, with only minor modifications to the software code, organizations can quickly and smoothly move workloads to AWS. However, even optimized, legacy apps can still malfunction in an AWS environment, so companies need to follow up replatforming with continuous performance monitoring.

  1. Refactoring

Refactoring is the most invasive and, as a result, the most demanding AWS migration strategy. Within this strategy, organizations are fully redesigning their applications for the AWS cloud, which can require significant changes to the software code.

This strategy is the best choice when an organization’s infrastructure has reached its limits in terms of performance and scalability. In practice, refactoring can also be used when an organization splits its monolithic solution into multiple distributed databases and microservices.

How to pick the best AWS migration strategy

Assess the existing IT infrastructure and resources

Before choosing a migration strategy, companies need to analyze their existing IT infrastructure and all its separate elements. After all, you won’t be able to choose the right strategy without understanding what exactly you are going to migrate.

By evaluating their IT infrastructures, organizations can determine the following:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of its legacy infrastructure and what improvements are required?
  • Which applications, data, and workloads should be migrated?
  • When is the best time to start the migration process?

Based on this analysis, an organization can already get an understanding of the strategy they need. However, we would recommend taking a few more steps to make a sounder choice.

An organization can also calculate the TCO of the existing infrastructure, which includes the costs of all digital assets together with their total operating costs. An organization can then calculate how these costs will change if they execute this or that strategy.

In addition, a company should evaluate its IT human resources to ensure the availability of solid cloud expertise. If cloud skills are insufficient, then strategies such as replatforming and refactoring should not be prioritized.

Additionally, organizations should conduct business process mapping to understand which workflows will be affected by the cloud transformation, as this information can also help to choose a relevant migration strategy. These defined workflows can come in handy later for building an effective change management strategy to ensure high user adoption of the AWS infrastructure.

Consider a mixed approach to AWS migration

Organizations do not have to choose only one AWS migration strategy. To achieve the best results and maximize the value of AWS implementation, organizations should consider developing unique strategies that are tailored to their businesses and include various elements of different 7Rs at the same time.

Of course, giving universal advice on how to build such a unique strategy is impossible. However, make sure that the resulting cloud migration approach is tailored to your business, financial, and technology requirements. In addition, the unique strategy should still take into account the limitations and specifics of the existing IT infrastructure.

Consult AWS experts

Finally, we recommend turning to AWS professionals early in the migration process. First and foremost, AWS experts can help an organization determine the best migration strategy, validate it, and create an actionable migration plan. On-demand, they can also execute the migration, helping an organization seamlessly migrate to the AWS cloud without business process interruptions.

Final thoughts

Each day, more and more organizations are switching to the cloud to improve their scalability, performance, decision-making, and, consequently, competitiveness. Implementing such a powerful platform as Amazon Web Services is one of the best ways to access the advantages of the cloud.

Still, AWS implementation success is nearly impossible without the right strategy that would guide an organization’s cloud transformation. By familiarizing themselves with the peculiarities of seven migration strategies and taking the steps described above, an organization can determine the best migration approach or develop its own, fully tailored to unique business needs.

Published: October 9, 2023

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