As corporates scrambled to adjust to the realities of lockdown, cloud providers witnessed a dramatic increase in demand for their services, with clients suddenly accelerating their cloud migration timelines, attempting to complete in weeks what they had originally envisaged executing over the course of months or even years.
But when weighing up the pros and cons of moving applications to the cloud, speed can be a double-edged sword: quick does not necessarily equate to correct.
The process can also be disruptive, so it’s vital for those leading the migration process to consider all available options and put in place a comprehensive strategy to ensure long-term success, choosing the approach that best fits one’s specific needs.
Rehosting – or lift and shift – has long been seen as the most straightforward method. Applications are taken from their old infrastructure and, without modification to the code, dropped into the cloud. While it is sometimes assumed this is the fastest, most cost-effective approach for organisations lacking time and resources, this is all too often a misconception.
“In reality, companies find they are not able to leverage the benefits of the cloud, which leads to a waste of resources and they actually end up spending more as they are being charged on a consumption basis,” explains Dheeraj Kumar, a cloud solution architect at global IT consulting and digital solutions provider Hexaware. What’s more, since the application’s architecture has not been optimised for the cloud, any pre-existing problems remain, leading to further performance issues.
Another option, refactoring, rebuilds the entire application from scratch, rewriting large chunks of code in order to fully harness new cloud-based features. However, this complex recoding takes a lot of time, skill and resources. With such extensive work, there is also a higher risk of error which could lead to delays or potential outages.
The third approach – a middle ground between rehosting and refactoring – is to replatform. Specific parts of code are altered to ensure applications are able to make the most of cloud-native functionality. Organisations are able to start on a small scale, experiment, and gradually scale up as needed.
Automation is transformative
If carried out manually, though, replatforming can be extremely time consuming and labour intensive. Making things even harder, for legacy applications built several years earlier, those who implemented the original code may not always still be on-hand and access to relevant design materials is not always guaranteed.
Here, automation is transformative. Code assessment – which is undertaken at the start of the migration process – can be carried out in a matter of hours when automated, instead of taking several days or weeks to complete manually.
“With the majority of applications, there’s a lot of useful code that has already been built,” says Kumar. “It simply isn’t necessary to rebuild everything, and ideally nobody would do that because of the risks.” Instead, he continues, there is a “sweet spot” where platforming meets automation, to leverage the advantages of the cloud, while minimising business disruption.
This is the founding principle on which Hexaware’s Amaze replatforming solution is based. To begin with, a thorough automated analysis is carried out to identify the changes the applications will need to undergo to reach the new target state. The assessment reveals how long it would take to carry out the migration manually, and how much time could be saved using the tool.
Once the results have been discussed with the client, the next stage is the replatforming itself, during which Amaze generates the code that has been identified as needing to change. Around 80% is converted automatically. “There will still always be a percentage of manual work required, during which our consultants will fine-tune the remaining code,” explains Kumar.
For customers that have invested a lot of time in writing their business logic, this part of the process can be nerve-racking. However, Kumar is keen to stress the importance of leaving the business logic intact and instead changing the framework around it, allaying any fears it could be damaged. As the application is modernised, the code is converted from a monolithic architecture into micro and macro services, enabling the cloud to be leveraged optimally for increased robustness and flexibility. There is also an opportunity to API-enable the entire application allowing information to be shared more easily.
This blend of automation with human expertise helps to ensure a smooth migration journey, increases functionality in the cloud, can cut completion time from six to nine months to four to six weeks, and, in turn, accelerates ROI. Those that are in a hurry to make the journey can now travel both quickly and in style.
“I have no doubt that soon there will be no company left without at least a cloud road map,” says Kumar. “It’s now a matter of different avenues – people need to know that there is a tool out there that can help them to accelerate their cloud journey.”