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7 Cloud Migration Strategies Every Company Should Know

Learning the pros and cons of each strategy will help you navigate this tricky process

Soon, nearly the entire tech world will live in the cloud. Gartner recently projected that global public-cloud spend will hit $500B in 2022 and that by 2024, 45% of IT spending will move from legacy IT architectures to the cloud

During this critical transition period, many companies are looking for the right cloud migration strategy for their tech stack. Here’s a deep dive into today’s most popular techniques.

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What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

The Top 7 Cloud Migration Strategies

Rehosting

Redeployment

Repackaging

Refactoring

Repurchasing

Retiring

Retaining

Accelerating Your Cloud Migration Process

What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

A cloud migration strategy is a software modernization process that moves on premises IT applications, infrastructure, and data to a cloud environment. A migration plan often consists of several strategies, each used to handle a different component of the existing IT architecture. There are seven cloud migration strategies: rehosting, redeployment, repackaging, refactoring, repurchasing, retiring, and retaining. These categories and definitions find their basis in an article Gartner wrote over a decade ago

Because each strategy has different strengths and weaknesses, companies must determine which they should use to migrate a given application depending on several factors. These factors include the availability of resources, the time frame allotted for the transition, the complexity of the application, the overall technology strategy, and the specific cloud migration challenges they face. Consequently, companies must evaluate their existing tech stack before committing to a migration initiative. 

That said, some approaches — like automation — can help speed up this process regardless of the migration plan. Read our recent white paper to learn how you can use automation to accelerate your cloud migration:

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The Top 7 Cloud Migration Strategies

Rehosting

The rehosting strategy (or “lift and shift”) involves copying the on premises tech stack and transferring it essentially as is into a cloud environment. This approach is often used by enterprises and companies that need to move significant data assets. 

  • Advantages: Relative to the other cloud migration techniques on this list, rehosting is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest. While usually not an option for every component of your IT architecture, this strategy is remarkably effective when deployed correctly.  
  • Disadvantages: Because this approach doesn’t include any rebuilding or cloud optimization, your new cloud-based asset won’t have the flexibility or features that a native application would. This aspect of the approach limits the application’s capabilities in the short-term — and can cause problems with upkeep down the line.

Redeployment

Redeployment also falls in the “lift and shift” category. Like rehosting, redeployment leaves the application untouched in terms of capabilities, configurations, etc. — but it does use a cloud-native virtual machine (VM) setup to modernize the architecture. This approach is also good for larger companies.

  • Advantages: Like rehosting, redeployment is an extremely efficient strategy that enables organizations to quickly transition assets to the cloud. 
  • Disadvantages: While it may use a VM, the application is likely not cloud native. It also will require regular manual maintenance. 

Repackaging

Repackaging (or re-platforming) is yet another “lift-and-shift” strategy. In this case, the migration team will do some customization during the transfer process to ensure the new cloud-based application can reap more benefits from the new hosting environment. This strategy is preferred by companies whose IT departments are comfortable with containerization and infrastructure management. 

  • Advantages: Repackaging provides some of the tech-forward benefits of refactoring (see below) — without high development costs. It also allows your team to continue to use code, programming languages, and development frameworks they’re comfortable with. 
  • Disadvantages: The disadvantages of this strategy are the mirror image of its advantages: Less development work may save on resources, but it also takes away from the immediate or long-run potential of the application.

Refactoring

The refactoring (or re-architecting) strategy involves developing a completely new cloud application to replace your existing on premises tech. This strategy is great for nimble, smaller, or midsize organizations whose IT architecture might not be as sprawling or complex as larger enterprise companies. 

  • Advantages: Unlike rehosting or repackaging, the end-product of refactoring is a wholly modern and adaptable application that will be able to support your company’s needs over the long haul. 
  • Disadvantages: Because it takes considerable time and resources to execute successfully, refactoring is typically the most expensive strategy of the seven. It can also necessitate some employee education as the transition also means moving away from the old code and development frameworks. 

Repurchasing

Repurchasing entails completely replacing your legacy software with a cloud application purchased from a cloud service provider. This strategy is best for companies with an adaptable culture that can embrace rapid technological upgrades. 

  • Advantages: In many circumstances, repurchasing is much cheaper than refactoring — while providing equivalent or better features. It also cuts down on IT labor. 
  • Disadvantages: Using a third-party application can cause interoperability issues with the rest of your architecture, create confusion due to inconsistent naming conventions, and tie you to a vendor.

Retiring

Retiring is when a company decides that part of their IT architecture doesn’t need a cloud analog (or it isn’t worth the migration effort), so they decommission the application. Companies with extensive legacy software often use this strategy. 

  • Advantages: Retiring applications can significantly reduce IT spending, allowing the organization to direct more resources to better tech initiatives.
  • Disadvantages: To retire an application, the company must be sure they’re not losing anything substantial.  

Retaining

Retaining (or revisiting) means a company cannot currently migrate the application, but they do not want to retire it because it has meaningful business value. Consequently, they will postpone that portion of the migration. Retaining is a good choice for organizations with deep IT resources and budgetary room.

  • Advantages: Retaining an application can help you navigate resource constraints, regulatory issues, and other cloud migration challenges during the process.  
  • Disadvantages: Because you haven’t retired the application, it will still incur some IT costs. You also haven’t come to a true solution for migrating this asset, which entails future IT work.

Accelerating Your Cloud Migration Process

Cloud migration is a tricky process. To transition successfully, companies need a sound understanding of each cloud migration strategy and use the one best suited to each core component of their IT architecture. They also need to leverage emerging technologies, such as automation, to ensure the process goes as smoothly (and quickly) as possible. To learn how you can use this powerful approach, read our white paper, “Dissecting Cloud Migrations and the Role of Automation.”

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