Introduction to the Azure Migration guide
Migrating your workloads and infrastructure to Microsoft Azure can provide immense benefits in terms of cost savings, performance, scalability, and efficiency. Microsoft Azure is one of the top cloud providers with a comprehensive set of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings to host solutions in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Migrating to Microsoft Azure will allow businesses to leverage the agility and scalability of cloud computing.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the end-to-end process of planning and executing a Migrating to Microsoft Azure, including steps like assessing your current environment, calculating costs, migrating resources and data, optimizing configurations, managing, and monitoring Azure, and completing the migration. Following this guide will help ensure a smooth transition to the cloud and achieve the full benefits of the Azure platform.
Overview of Cloud Migration
Migrating to the cloud refers to shifting some or all of your organization’s compute, storage, networking, database, and other workloads from on-premises data centers to a public cloud provider like Azure. It may involve migrating existing virtual machines (VMs), storage, apps, and data to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings as-is or optimizing them for the cloud. Applications can also be rebuilt on Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) using services like Azure App Service, Azure Functions, and Azure Container Instances to become cloud native.
A successful Microsoft Azure Migration requires planning, preparation, proper tools, and attention to details like security and compliance. Approaching a cloud migration with a phased, step-by-step process can help minimize disruptions and down time during the transition.
Benefits of Microsoft Azure Migration
Migrating to Microsoft Azure provides organizations a number of advantages over on-premises data centers:
- Cost Savings: Pay only for the resources used and scale up or down to meet changing needs, reducing wasted resources and capacity planning. Utilize options like reserved instances and Azure Hybrid Benefit for additional savings.
- Scalability: Scale resources like VMs, databases, and storage up or down on demand to meet usage spikes and fluctuations. Auto-scaling also dynamically scales resources based on load.
- Performance: Achieve faster performance leveraging Azure’s worldwide datacenter presence and purpose-built infrastructure for compute, storage, and networking.
- Availability: Build highly available applications utilizing Azure regions and availability zones for redundancy. Managed services like Azure Site Recovery also support disaster recovery strategies.
- Innovation: Access cutting edge services like serverless computing, AI, IoT, blockchain, quantum computing, and more to build innovative solutions. The platform is continuously updated with new capabilities.
- Security: State-of-the-art physical and network security leveraging threat protection tools like Azure Security Center. Meet demanding security and compliance requirements leveraging Azure’s broad compliance certifications.
Key Considerations for Microsoft Azure Migration
There are some key aspects to evaluate when planning an Azure migration:
- Identify all the applications, services, servers, databases, and other components currently running on-premises to be migrated. Inventory dependencies to determine groupings.
- Determine the optimal migration strategy for each workload – rehost (lift and shift), refactor, rearchitect, rebuild etc. Legacy apps may be rehosted while new apps are redesigned for cloud scalability.
- Evaluate Azure services like VMs, App Service, Azure SQL, Cosmos DB etc. and choose target deployment platforms and configurations.
- Perform assessments on current resources to size Azure capacity needs like VM and database sizes, storage space required.
- Identify network requirements and plan connectivity between on-prem and Azure including VPNs or ExpressRoute.
- Audit and determine security, access control, and compliance requirements per corporate policies and industry regulations. Develop strategies to meet them.
- Estimate workload migration costs using the Azure pricing calculator and determine timelines based on effort and business impact.
- Assign roles and responsibilities to team members and assemble necessary skill sets including cloud, networking, security, DevOps etc.
- Getting the above factors right will ensure your Microsoft Azure Migration is successful in meeting business, functional, and budgetary goals.
Preparing for Microsoft Azure Migration
Thorough planning and preparation set the foundation for a smooth transition to the cloud.
Assess Current On-Premises Workloads
- The first step is gaining a detailed understanding of your current on-premises environment. Review infrastructure inventories and architecture diagrams to catalog:
- All systems and applications in scope for migration including hardware specs, OS versions, configurations etc.
- Network topology, connectivity, firewall rules, and traffic patterns
- Data locations, sources, copies etc. along with storage volumes and performance profile
- Databases schemas, sizes, engine versions etc.
- Identity providers, access control policies, and security software
- Software versions, licensing details, usage patterns, and dependencies
- Use tools like Azure Migrate to perform assessments and gain insights through tracking, monitoring, dependency mapping etc.
Determine Microsoft Azure Migration Strategy
With information gathered from assessments, determine the optimal migration path for each workload:
- Rehost (Lift and shift): Migrate VM workloads to Azure VMs as-is. Simple and fast to execute while providing time to enhance apps later.
- Refactor (Lift, tinker, and shift): Make a few enhancements like SSL termination at the load balancer while migrating to optimize for cloud.
- Rearchitect (Lift, reshape and shift): Detach data and runtime tiers into PaaS services like SQL Database for scalability and manageability.
- Rebuild (Drop and shop): Fully reimagine legacy apps using cloud-native Azure PaaS like App Service, AKS etc. to become cloud optimized.
- Replace (Drop and shop): Swap legacy apps or buy ready SaaS services like Office 365 rather than migrate.
Hybrid approaches are common, combining rehost for some workloads and rearchitecting others based on business needs. Start with a POC or pilot migration first.
Evaluate Azure Services
Research services in Azure aligned to the functional and performance requirements of workloads being migrated. For example:
- Compute: Choose appropriate VM family, size, and storage. Evaluate features like scale sets, availability sets, spot/low priority VMs etc.
- Storage: Assess storage needs and pick managed disks or blob storage. Enable encryption, snapshots etc.
- Databases: Migrate databases to Azure SQL, choose right service tiers and sizes. Leverage PaaS services like Azure Database Migration Service.
- Networking: Determine network’s needs, connectivity models like VPN or ExpressRoute, NSG rules, routing etc.
- Web Apps: Assess PaaS solutions like App Service, Azure Functions, or containers to rearchitect web applications.
- Identity: Evaluate Azure AD, multi-factor authentication, single sign-on etc. for identity and access management.
- DevOps: Consider Azure DevOps for developer collaboration, release pipelines etc. plus monitoring tools.
Shortlist target deployment models and configuration options for each application and workload to migrate.
Calculate Migration Costs
Add up estimated costs for the various Azure resources and services to be used. The Azure pricing calculator helps model costs based on expected usage. Factor in:
- Base compute, storage, and networking costs for IaaS.
- Managed services, IP, transactions, and data costs for PaaS.
- Data ingress/egress charges.
- Licensing costs for Windows, SQL etc. as applicable.
- Tools and third-party services costs.
- Professional services fees if taking help from consultants.
Confirm the total costs align with budgets and cost reduction goals from moving to the cloud. Adjust configurations like VM or database sizing if needed to optimize costs.
Build a Migration Team
Identify key personnel across your organization to assemble a migration team representing the roles below:
- Program Managers: oversee entire end-to-end migration execution.
- Cloud Architects: design future state architectures and processes on Azure.
- Engineers/Developers: implement migration changes and enhance apps.
- Ops Managers: handle ops aspects like monitoring and troubleshooting.
- Security Staff: drive security and compliance related migration tasks.
- IT Leadership: sponsor migrations and align to business goals.
External consultants can also complement internal teams with specialized cloud and migration expertise.
Migrating Resources to Azure
With the groundwork completed, it’s time to migrate resources to Azure following best practices.
Migrate Networking Infrastructure
Network elements like VPNs, circuits, routers, switches etc. enable connectivity between your on-premises environment and Azure. Steps are:
- Set up Azure Virtual Networks to provide private address spaces, subnets, NSGs etc. Create test and production VNets with appropriate IP addressing and subnets.
- Create virtual network gateways in Azure to establish site-to-site connectivity. Choose between VPN gateways for IPSec tunnels or ExpressRoute gateways for private connections.
- Use Azure Migrates Site Recovery tools to replicate on-premises VM networking configurations like NICs, IP addresses etc. to simplify migration.
- Set up peering connections between Azure virtual networks as needed to route traffic between them. Test access across VNets post peering.
- Migrate internal DNS servers like on-prem Active Directory integrated DNS to Azure IaaS and integrate with Azure DNS private zones. This maintains name resolution for migrated workloads.
- Migrate DHCP servers or implement Azure native DHCP services for assigning IP addresses to VMs within subnets. Configure DHCP scopes.
- Replicate NAT rules and port forwarding configurations using Azure Load Balancers and NAT rules. This enables Internet access for non-public facing VMs.
- Migrate network monitoring tools and systems like SNMP monitoring, packet capture tools etc. to monitor Azure virtual networks. Use Azure Network Watcher for monitoring and diagnostics.
- Implement Azure Application Gateway or Azure Front Door service for features like Web Application Firewall (WAF), intelligent traffic routing, TLS termination etc.
Migrate Virtual Machines
There are a few options to migrate virtual machine workloads to Azure IaaS:
- Use Azure Migrate to replicate and migrate VMs to Azure VMs. Agents installed on-premises replicate VM data to Azure storage. When ready, VMs can be quickly cutover with minimum downtime.
- Back up VMs using solutions like Azure Backup and restore backups to Azure VMs. Allows lift and shift migrations with backup as fallback.
- Move VHDs via external disks/appliances to Azure storage accounts and provision Azure VMs using uploaded VHDs. Requires installation of Azure VM agents etc.
- For physical servers, use Azure Migrate physical server migration process to replicate them as Azure VMs.
- Copy large amounts of file data to Azure Blob storage over HTTPS REST API or using tools like Azure Storage Explorer or AzCopy.
- Evaluate VM sizing, storage, and network needs in Azure to provision resources ahead of time. Test migrations with non-critical workloads first.
Migrate Storage Resources
To migrate large volumes of storage to Azure:
- Inventory existing on-prem storage environment including capacity, performance, uptime requirements.
- Choose optimal storage options like blob storage, premium and standard managed disks based on usage.
- Create target storage accounts in Azure. Copy data from on-prem using Azure Data Box appliances if volumes are huge.
- Alternatively use Azure Import/Export service to ship disk drives for import to Azure.
- Migrate files directly to Azure Files or Azure NetApp Files using SMB protocol.
- Migrate disks by shutting down VMs locally, copying VHDs to Azure storage using appliances or AzCopy and restarting the VM in Azure pointing to new disks.
- For structured data, use Azure Data Factory to migrate data from on-prem sources to Azure Storage.
- Take advantage of lifecycle management capabilities through Azure blob tiering and Azure Backup services.
Database migration options are:
- Use Azure Database Migration Service (DMS) to migrate on-prem SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB databases to Azure counterparts like Azure SQL DB with minimal downtime.
- Back up databases on-prem and restore to Azure SQL DB, Azure MySQL etc. Test integrity after migration.
- For MySQL, use native backup and restore to migrate to Azure DB for MySQL.
- Export database objects and data to BACPAC files and import to target Azure database through SSDT, DMA or other migration tools.
- Rebuild schemas and migrate data to Azure SQL DB/DW through SQL scripts and DTSX packages.
- If rearchitecting, transform and load data to modern Azure data platforms like Cosmos DB using ETL tools.
- Perform incremental data syncs post-migration to keep target DB updated.
Migrate Identity Systems
To move identity management and access control to the cloud:
- Extend on-prem Active Directory infrastructure to Azure using AD Connect tool to sync identities.
- Migrate AD accounts, credentials, and group policies to Azure AD which applications can integrate with for authentication.
- Shift application authentication and authorization to Azure AD and enable single sign-on for seamless access across apps and workloads.
- Take advantage of modern identity capabilities in Azure AD like Privileged Identity Management, Multi-Factor Authentication and Conditional Access policies.
- For apps using federated identity, recreate federation trusts in Azure AD to retain SSO access from on-prem identities.
Migrate Other Application Services
Beyond core infrastructure, many business applications rely on supporting services surrounding them:
- Monitoring/Management: Migrate systems management tools to Azure Monitor for consolidated insights into health, performance, usage across migrated resources.
- DevOps: Shift source code repositories in Azure Repos and build/release pipelines to Azure Pipelines for cloud-based CI/CD activities.
- Messaging: Move messaging queues and topics to Azure Storage Queues or Service Bus for reliable asynchronous messaging.
- Infrastructure Monitoring: Replace on-prem network or infrastructure monitoring with Azure Network Watcher and Azure Monitor for VMs.
- Directory Services: Synchronize on-prem Active Directories to Azure AD Domain Services to provide managed directory services.
- Web Apps: Refactor web apps for Azure App Service or container orchestration with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).
Optimizing Apps and Infrastructure on Azure
After migration, there are further steps to secure, enhance, and optimize the applications and infrastructure on Azure.
Configure Azure Policies and RBAC
- Define and enforce standards for resources using Azure Policy – like VM types, app configurations, encryption etc.
- Control access to resources using role-based access control (RBAC), assigning roles and permissions to users/groups.
- Implement Azure Update Management to patch and maintain VMs using approved updates.
- Turn on diagnostic logging across resources like VMs, databases, containers etc. centralizing logs in Azure Monitor.
Optimize VMs on Azure
- Right size underutilized VMs and scale up overloaded VMs based on performance data in Azure Monitor. Shut down unused VMs.
- Migrate VMs to use managed disks for easier management and backup.
- Extend on-premises Active Directory domain to Azure VMs using Azure Site Recovery.
- Install the Azure VM agent and extensions like antimalware, backup, monitoring etc.
- Configure auto-scaling rules to scale VM instances horizontally based on demand.
- Migrate VHD based VMs to managed disks to simplify management.
Enhance Security Posture
Some best practices for securing your Azure environment:
- Remove direct internet exposure and implement DMZ architecture using Azure Firewalls and WAF.
- Limit external traffic to VMs using Network Security Groups and service endpoints.
- Enable Azure Security Center and Azure Sentinel to continuously monitor all Azure resources and activities for threats.
- Scan migrated apps and resources for vulnerabilities using tools like Azure Defender.
- Implement least privilege controls using tools like Privileged Identity Management.
- Use Azure Key Vault to securely store secrets, keys and certificates.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication and conditional access policies for users.
- Handle DDoS protection using Azure DDoS Protection Standard.
Validate Performance and Compliance
- Stress test apps and resources to validate performance meets requirements under simulated loads using tools like Azure Load Testing.
- Run security penetration testing and audits to uncover residual risks. Test compliance against regulatory controls like HIPAA, PCI etc. if applicable.
- Tune and optimize databases to Azure following best practices around indexing, partitioning, caching etc.
- Optimize storage performance configuring blobs across different access tiers. Enable CDN caching for heavy workloads.
Managing, Monitoring and Backup in Azure
Ongoing management, monitoring and backup is critical for migrated workloads.
Monitoring Usage and Performance
- Implement Azure Monitor across various layers like apps, guest OS, Azure resources etc. for holistic monitoring.
- Analyze metrics and logs in Azure Monitor dashboards for easy visualization and alerting.
- Monitor app health, performance, failures etc. using Application Insights.
- Log network traffic to Network Watcher for analysis to diagnose connectivity issues.
- Monitor web app performance with tools like Azure Application Insights.
- View subscription and resource usage through Cost Management and create budgets.
Automating Azure Administration
Administer Azure programmatically and at scale using:
- Azure Portal for point-and-click management through a UI.
- REST APIs and Azure CLI for managing through scripts and tools.
- Azure PowerShell for administration tasks both interactively and via automation.
- Azure Resource Manager Templates allowing declarative infrastructure-as-code.
- Azure Logic Apps to connect systems and orchestrate workflows.
Backup and Recovery
- Set up Azure Backup service to backup Azure VMs at specified intervals. Allows creating on-demand backups too.
- Configure geo-redundant storage (GRS) replication for Azure Storage for geographic DR protection.
- Implement Azure Site Recovery to replicate entire VM disks to DR regions for disaster recovery.
- Databases services like Azure SQL DB have in-built backup capabilities to backup and restore.
- Use Azure Automation runbooks and Desired State Configuration for recoverability of system configurations.
Microsoft Azure Migration Completion and Cutover
With testing complete, it’s time for the final migration.
The cutover phase shifts production workloads from source on-prem systems to destination Azure environments. Steps are:
- Schedule a maintenance window for the migration cutover.
- Disable inbound traffic to source systems to freeze changes during cutover.
- Final data sync to ensure latest data is migrated, without further updates on-prem.
- Trigger migration of the remaining VMs, data, traffic etc. to Azure.
- Update DNS entries and load balancers to redirect traffic to Azure resources.
- Monitor systems closely for first few day’s post-migration to verify stability.
Clean Up Resources
After successful cutover, clean up residual artifacts from the migration process:
- Remove temporary migrations tools, scripts, automation etc.
- Delete on-prem resources decommissioned after migration like VMs, databases etc.
- Cancel any temporary environments, services created for migration purposes.
- Switch off source servers/apps used for migration but not needed anymore.
- Hand off administration of Azure resources to respective ops teams.
Even after migration, there are further optimizations that can improve performance, costs, and manageability:
- Continue refactoring apps e.g. decomposing monoliths into microservices based architectures.
- Replace more legacy systems with advanced Azure PaaS alternatives like Azure Cognitive Services.
- Develop new solutions like bots, collaboration apps etc. leveraging cloud capabilities.
- Refine autoscaling rules based on actual usage and traffic patterns post-migration.
- Tune databases on Azure using query optimizations, indexing, caching, and partitioning.
- Migrate any residual IaaS resources to PaaS to reduce management overhead.
- Apply additional security controls based on periodic risk assessments. Implement a cloud security posture management program.
- Train admins and developers on best practices for cloud development, debugging, monitoring etc.
- Right size underutilized resources using consumption data from Azure Cost Management.
- Migrate remaining legacy systems in next waves to retire technical debt.
Post Implementation Review
Conduct a post implementation review workshop on the Microsoft Azure Migration process and outcomes:
- Review migration timeline, milestones, and variances from plan.
- Discuss total costs incurred during migration across resources, tools, services etc.
- Document issues faced, resolutions, workarounds and lessons learned.
- Note feedback from users on new Azure environments and applications.
- Identify additional pain points to be addressed in subsequent phases.
- Measure migration outcomes – performance gains, availability, scalability etc.
- Use insights from the review to improve future migration initiatives and optimize the Azure environment further.
Concluding Thoughts on Migrating to Microsoft Azure
Migrating to Microsoft Azure provides significant advantages over on-premises data centers like lower TCO, elastic scalability, enterprise-grade security, and cutting-edge innovations. With careful planning, execution, testing and attention to details, organizations can transition to the cloud smoothly while modernizing their technical infrastructure. Our guide covered end-to-end considerations and best practices for a successful Microsoft Azure Migration. With robust monitoring, governance and continuous optimization, companies can realize the full benefits of the Azure cloud in powering their business forward.
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Amelie Lamb is an experienced technical content writer at SoftwareStack.co who specializes in distilling complex software topics into clear, concise explanations. She has a talent for taking dense technical jargon and making it engaging and understandable for readers through her informative, lively writing style.