Three Phases of Colocation Migration to Azure

Many companies are beginning to look at moving workloads into a public cloud platform as they become familiar with the public cloud model and its many benefits. For a large number of these companies, that means moving off of co-located hardware as part of a cloud migration. In this blog, we will look at the phases of a migration from colocation (colo) to Azure and look at strategies to optimize the project for efficiency.

Phase 1: Internal environmental review

The first step in a colo to Azure migration project is an internal review of the environment targeted for migration. This review should consist of an exercise in which the environment is fully documented with particular attention to the following factors:

  • Resource specifications of each system
    • CPU – number or cores, CPU type
    • Memory – amount of memory, memory speed
    • Disks – size of each disk, type of storage used
  • OS platform and versions of each system
  • For virtualized environments
    • Hypervisor platform and version – for Hyper-V, VM generation(s)
    • Host hardware specifications
    • Storage specifications
  • Role/purpose for each system including installed applications
  • Application licensing details
  • Internet bandwidth
  • Egress traffic monthly average
  • Security systems in place
    • Firewalls
    • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) systems
    • Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware systems
  • OS update status of each system

The assessment tools discussed below will capture a great deal of these details as part of the assessment report, but it is important to ensure the validity of the report with the internal review.

Phase 2: Utilizing an Azure-readiness assessment tool

Upon completion of the internal review, you will be ready to run an assessment tool against the environment. Microsoft has created its own assessment tool called Azure Migrate. An Azure Pay-As-You-Go subscription is required to create an Azure Migrate project, but this is a very low-cost method. Microsoft also partners with several independent software vendors (ISVs) who have created their own assessment tools which have higher costs but offer a more comprehensive environment analysis. You may refer to Microsoft’s documentation for information about Azure Migrate and their partner offerings.

Whichever assessment tool is selected, the process is fairly standard; agent software is downloaded and then installed on all target systems. The agents require HTTPS outbound access to send telemetry data back to the vendor. Two weeks of telemetry data is normally the recommended amount to provide the most accurate analysis possible, so that is a factor to keep in mind. It is highly recommended that outbound traffic for the agents is limited to URLs provided by the vendor, especially for servers that contain sensitive data.

The report created for the assessment will detail the recommended Azure VM sizes to deploy and the approximate monthly cost. Some reports will include Reserved Instance pricing models along with Pay-As-You-Go pricing, but all will include Pay-As-You-Go pricing. Approximate bandwidth charges are also normally included.

Some necessary Azure resources may not be included in the pricing such as load balancers, VPN gateways, and firewall solutions among others. It is recommended that you take note of elements in your environment not captured by the assessment.

Phase 3: Selecting a migration partner

For companies new to Azure, it is highly recommended that you work with a partner to perform the migration. There are many intricacies involved with performing a migration that is not just successful but is completed with minimal interruption and results in a fully functional and performant environment.

The process of selecting a partner is different for every company, but it is highly recommended to look first at those that have passed the difficult audit process for the Microsoft Azure Expert MSP certification. By selecting a vendor with this certification, you can rest assured that they have deep experience performing migrations and supporting Azure workloads.

Your partner will be able to recommend a migration strategy and provide you a project plan fully detailing the timeline and work to be performed. This should include an extensive phase in which the partner deploys virtual networking for your new environment including any load balancers, VPN gateways and firewall solutions necessary.

Phase 3a: Remediation of non-cloud ready systems

Your assessment report may flag systems that will need some type of remediation in order to be cloud-ready. This normally applies to older operating systems and/or applications. A quality partner can help you understand these complexities and come up with a remediation plan, in addition to performing remediation steps in many cases.

Conclusion

Migrating out of a colo environment and into Azure can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach can be achieved efficiently and nearly transparently to your customers or end-users. A well-defined project plan detailing the phases discussed above with phase gates makes the process much easier to accomplish, while partnering with an experienced vendor relieves a significant burden on your IT staff.

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