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AWS Cloud Migration Guide: Tips, Strategies, and Best Practices

Digital transformation has radically impacted businesses and industries. In a rapidly evolving market, agility, scalability, and resilience are more important than ever. Since these are core benefits of cloud computing, companies are migrating their IT infrastructure and operations from on-premises systems to take advantage

January 10, 2024 13 mins read

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the biggest and most trusted cloud providers worldwide. Its scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency let companies adapt to change and innovate faster while optimizing resources.

An IDC study found that companies that met the challenges of the digital age with a public cloud platform lowered operating costs by 51% and deployed new features almost 3x faster on average.

But an on-premises to AWS cloud migration also involves navigating complex decisions around architecture, security, budgeting, and more.

This guide will help you understand the nuances of AWS migration, including:

  • Common reasons organizations choose to migrate to AWS
  • Potential barriers to AWS migration
  • Seven steps to a successful cloud journey
  • An exploration of infrastructure and application migration
  • Cross-industry AWS migration success stories: transformations and achievements

Why so many organizations are moving to AWS

on-premise infrastructure to the AWS cloud can drive innovation

Migrating your on-premise infrastructure to the AWS cloud can drive innovation, reduce costs, improve operational performance, and gain a competitive edge. Using real-world customer examples, let’s look at the top four reasons and why they’re so important to companies today.

Scalability

Netflix is a well-known AWS customer and a prime example of a company benefiting from the cloud’s scalability. Netflix streams petabytes of video daily, with spikes during peak viewing times. And their workloads aren’t just about streaming. They also involve massive data processing for content recommendations using machine learning and huge storage needs for high-definition content.

Using AWS, Netflix can launch thousands of server instances and petabytes of storage within minutes. When they release a new show and anticipate a surge in viewership, AWS’ scalable infrastructure allows them to automatically and quickly scale up. Likewise, they can scale down during off-peak times, ensuring cost efficiency. This elasticity ensures a seamless viewing experience for users while optimizing costs for Netflix.

Benefits

  • Dynamic resource scaling
  • Pay-as-you-go model
  • Quick resource deployment

How AWS provides scalability

  • Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) provides resizable, on-demand compute capacity in the cloud. You can quickly scale up or down EC2 instances based on the application’s needs.
  • Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets in one or more Availability Zones. This ensures applications can handle varying amounts of traffic without manual intervention.
  • Amazon Aurora is a managed relational database service that automatically adds up to 15 read replicas in seconds to help scale out read traffic. Aurora Serverless, a configuration of Amazon Aurora, offers automatic scaling of the database’s compute capacity up or down within configurable range limits based on actual usage.
  • AWS Auto Scaling monitors applications and automatically adjusts capacity to ensure steady, predictable performance. This service can be used with various AWS resources, including EC2 and Spot Fleets, to scale them in or out based on predefined conditions.
  • Amazon SageMaker enables scalable machine learning model training and deployment, allowing developers to manage large-scale machine learning projects efficiently.

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Reliability

Loacker, a leading international wafer and chocolate confections company, relies heavily on its IT infrastructure for its 24/7 production factory. Located in remote Alpine regions, the company faced challenges with onsite system access due to hardware limitations and extreme weather. Since lost production time means lost revenue and potentially reputation, Loacker decided to move to the cloud in 2021.

Since successfully migrating to AWS in 2021, the company’s infrastructure has experienced zero downtime. AWS’ Multiple Availability Zones (AZs) ensured that even if one zone faced issues, Loacker’s systems would remain operational. This bolstered reliability meant that Loacker could maintain its production seamlessly, safeguarding its business continuity. They saw a cost-savings on infrastructure of 32% at the same time!

Benefits

  • Business continuity
  • Data integrity
  • Meeting SLAs and customer expectations

How AWS provides reliability

  • Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) has features like multiple instance types, dedicated hosts, and spot Instances that allow for redundancy and fault tolerance.
  • Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is a highly durable and available object storage service designed to provide 99.999999999% (11 9’s) uptime.
  • Multi-AZ Deployments: Many AWS services, like Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) and Amazon Aurora, offer multiple availability-zone (AZ) deployments, which automatically provision and maintain a synchronous standby replica in a different AZ.
  • Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to users globally with low latency and high transfer speeds.
  • AWS Backup offers a centralized service to back up data across AWS services and on-premises, providing robust data protection.

Learn about migration to AWS cloud and DevOps excellence by Intellias that resulted in a product-led business growth

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Security

Southwest Airlines transports 130 million passengers annually, and it takes a vast network of integrated applications to support its operations. There’s a pressing need to maintain stringent security protocols to safeguard sensitive data and system operations. The security team needed high visibility into security operations to quickly detect, investigate, and respond to threats.

They adopted AWS Security Hub and other AWS security products when they moved to the cloud. These tools provide detailed security insights for all their AWS and third-party accounts. As a result, Southwest can now scan over 600,000 resources across multiple AWS accounts monthly. And an impressive 98% of these resources pass security checks.

Benefits

  • Protection of data and intellectual property
  • Regulatory and compliance needs
  • Operational continuity and resilience

How AWS provides security

  • AWS Security Hub provides a comprehensive view of your security alerts and security posture across your AWS accounts.
  • Amazon GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious or unauthorized behavior, helping protect your AWS accounts and workloads.
  • AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) allows you to control access to AWS resources securely. You can create and manage AWS users and groups, and use permissions to allow or deny their access to resources.
  • Amazon Inspector is an automated security assessment service that helps improve the security and compliance of applications deployed on AWS.
  • Amazon Detective analyzes, investigates, and identifies the root cause of potential security issues or suspicious activities.

Global reach

One of our previous examples, Netflix, is also the perfect case study for why companies rely on AWS’s global reach. AWS enables Netflix to deliver content efficiently worldwide. It leverages Amazon CloudFront, AWS’ content delivery network, to serve its content globally with reduced latency. It also ensures high availability and fault tolerance by distributing its application across three AWS regions globally and replicating databases across these regions. If one region fails, Netflix can redirect users to the nearest available region.

Benefits

  • Serving a global customer base
  • Data residency and compliance
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery (DR)

How AWS’s global reach helps

  • AWS has data centers across the globe, from North America and Europe to Asia and Australia. Deploying data and services closer to end-users reduces latency and provides a faster, more responsive user experience.
  • Multi-region deployments allow for redundancy and fault tolerance. If there’s a major disruption in one region, traffic can be quickly rerouted to another for continuous availability so the organization’s operations remain unaffected.
  • The AWS global footprint lets organizations store data where they want, ensuring compliance with local regulations (i.e., store data of European customers within the EU to comply with GDPR).
  • Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) service that distributes content globally (data, videos, applications, and APIs) with low latency.
  • AWS Global Accelerator is a networking service that sends user traffic through Amazon Web Service’s global network infrastructure, improving the availability and performance of applications for your global users.

Learn how 2.5 months of AWS cloud migration contributed to the bank’s business continuity and security

Read more

If the cloud’s so great, why would anyone hesitate?

Despite the massive benefits of adopting a cloud infrastructure, there are still barriers you might face when looking to adopt the cloud — both organizationally and from a technology perspective. The good news is that there are ways to combat these challenges.

Existing investments

Many organizations have invested heavily in legacy systems, including hardware, software, and training. Transitioning to the cloud could mean that these investments become underutilized or obsolete.

Conducting a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the ROI of shifting to the cloud versus continuing with on-premises infrastructure is essential. A hybrid approach can be adopted in some cases, where specific applications or services remain on-premises while others move to the cloud. This can maximize the value of existing investments.

Upfront costs

Migrating to the cloud often requires a significant initial investment in migration tools, consultancy, training, and potentially rewriting applications or systems to be cloud-compatible.

While there are initial expenses, the long-term savings due to the cloud’s scalability, flexibility, and reduced need for on-premises maintenance often outweigh these costs. Organizations should look at cloud adoption as a strategic move that can reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) in the long run.

Skeptical stakeholders

Convincing all stakeholders, especially those used to traditional IT environments, can be challenging. Some may have concerns about security, loss of control, or simply a resistance to change.

Effective communication will help you here. Demonstrating clear benefits, sharing case studies, and providing training sessions can alleviate concerns. Make sure that all stakeholders understand the strategic importance and potential ROI of cloud adoption. And when all else fails, you can always consider a private cloud.

Application interdependencies

Legacy applications often have complex interdependencies, making moving them to the cloud without disruptions challenging. There’s also the risk of certain features or integrations not working as intended in a cloud environment.

During your AWS migration planning, you should thoroughly assess the application landscape. Dependency mapping tools can help identify how applications interact. Based on this, you or your migration services partner can devise a phased migration strategy that ensures minimal disruption. Some legacy applications might also need refactoring or re-architecting to be cloud-ready.

Concerns of downtime during migration

Downtime during migration can disrupt business operations, leading to financial losses and negative user experiences. But with proper planning, it’s possible to migrate with little to no downtime. Using migration tools, following best practices, and opting for a phased migration can help reduce downtime. It’s also beneficial to schedule migrations during off-peak hours and to communicate expected downtimes to stakeholders well in advance.

Lack of cloud expertise

Many organizations don’t have in-house cloud expertise, making the migration process daunting and increasing the risk of costly mistakes. Upskilling existing teams through training and certifications is essential.

You can partner with cloud consultancy firms to supplement your efforts, especially in the beginning. Over time, as your team gains experience, your organization becomes more self-reliant in its cloud endeavors.

Seven steps to a successful cloud journey

Aside from the recommendations above, there is a set of overarching best practices that can set you up for success in your journey to the cloud.

1. Get executive buy-in and sponsorship

With leadership from the top, it will be easier to gain cross-organizational support. Executive stakeholders can also help align cloud initiatives to business requirements.

2. Adopt a cloud-first strategy

Prioritize cloud services over traditional computing methods whenever a new IT project is initiated. More than moving infrastructure to the cloud, you’ll also want to reimagine how processes and systems work in a cloud-centric environment.

3. Invest in organizational change

Cloud adoption is a cultural change as much as it is technical. It requires a mindset shift, where teams collaborate more, value agility, and accept continuous learning. This means defining new operating models, policies, business processes, and economics. It may also mean restructuring teams or redefining job roles — and will definitely require upskilling and training.

4. Create an adoption roadmap

An adoption roadmap is the blueprint for your organization’s cloud journey. It outlines phases, milestones, potential challenges, and the intended final state. But it doesn’t have to include your entire migration journey. Start small and iterate, measure, manage, and update your plan.

5. Establish a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

A CCoE is a centralized team, often cross-functional, that leads the organization’s cloud efforts. It comprises experts who offer guidance, best practices, and governance structures that guide decentralized cloud initiatives. The CCoE can also champion the cloud-first strategy and ensure that cloud initiatives align with business objectives so stakeholders see value from cloud investments.

6. Publish principles & standards

Establishing and publishing clear guidance and guardrails helps guide the adoption process. These standards can cover everything from security protocols to software selection. Adhering to best practices ensures that cloud deployments are secure, compliant, and optimized for performance.

7. Champion experimentation

The cloud offers a platform where organizations can test new ideas without a massive upfront investment. By allowing for experimentation, organizations can innovate faster, learn from failures without huge repercussions, and find the most efficient solutions tailored to their needs.

An exploration of infrastructure and application migration to the cloud

Migrating to the cloud is a multifaceted process that involves shifting digital assets, services, and applications from on-premises or legacy infrastructure to a cloud-based environment. This includes all your IT resources: servers, networking, storage systems, software applications and middleware, data, and beyond.

When migrating to AWS, tools like AWS Migration Hub, AWS Application Discovery Service, and AWS Server Migration Service can help with discovery, tracking, and migration.

AWS cloud migration best practices

Whether migrating data, applications, or infrastructure, following these AWS cloud migration best practices will help ensure a smooth journey:

Build a skilled team: Ensure you have a team experienced in cloud technologies and migration strategies. Consider training, hiring, or partnering with expert consultants.

Conduct assessment and discovery: Before deciding on a migration strategy, thoroughly assess the current application portfolio to understand dependencies, complexities, and business importance.

Prioritize applications: Not all infrastructure, applications, or data workloads are equally critical. Prioritize migrations based on business needs, technical feasibility, and ROI.

Ensure security: Consider data encryption, compliance, identity and access management, and other security best practices to ensure that the application is secure during and after migration.

Performance test: Before and after migration, conduct performance tests to make sure that applications meet or exceed pre-migration performance levels.

Continuously monitor and optimize: Once migrated, continuously monitor applications for performance, security, and cost. Optimize based on these insights.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Keep stakeholders informed about migration plans, potential downtimes, benefits, and any risks.

Have a rollback strategy: Always have a plan to revert changes in case the migration faces unexpected issues.

Verify data integrity: Especially for data-intensive applications, ensure data integrity during migration. Test and verify that data remains consistent pre and post-migration.

Take a phased approach: Instead of migrating everything simultaneously, consider a phased approach. Migrate one or a set of data or applications at a time. This reduces risks and allows lessons learned from earlier phases to be applied to later ones.

Make your applications cloud-ready: To truly capitalize on the cloud’s potential, applications need to be refactored/rearchitected to align with cloud-native principles and services. Simply “lifting and shifting” an on-premises application to the cloud does not automatically translate to the improved performance, scalability, or reduced costs that cloud platforms offer.

Let’s explore these migration methods a bit further.

Application migration methods: Rehosting, replatforming, rearchitecting

During the assessment and application prioritization phase, you’ll want to decide what migration method to use for each application. There are three primary approaches you can take when you migrate an application to AWS:

Rehosting, aka “lift and shift,” is the fastest and easiest way to migrate to the cloud. You take your existing on-premises application and move it to the cloud without making any changes. Keeping things as they are removes the need for development work (saves money) and minimizes the risk of disruption during migration.

But while this method is quick, it can also lead to performance issues since the application isn’t optimized for the cloud environment. Additionally, you’ll miss out on many benefits of the cloud, like scalability and flexibility.

Replatforming, aka “lift, tinker, and shift,” is a middle-ground migration approach. With this method, you optimize your application to take advantage of some cloud capabilities but don’t completely rewrite it. For example, make minimal code changes to let the application benefit from automation and an elastic database.

Since you keep modifications minimal, replatforming is relatively cost-effective while allowing applications to access some benefits of the cloud. However, you’ll likely only be able to take advantage of common cloud components.

Rearchitecting, or refactoring, involves modifying or extending the application’s architecture to be cloud-native. There are several options, including transitioning applications to run on event-driven, serverless, or microservices architectures. This is the most resource-intensive option but also provides the best returns. If you want to future-proof an application or are digitally transforming your business, this approach is your best option to unlock the full scalability, resilience, and agility of the cloud. It can also reduce costs over the long term.

The drawbacks to refactoring include cost and time. Rebuilding your application to be cloud-native doesn’t happen overnight. It takes specialized skills, and you won’t start seeing value from your migration as quickly as you might from rehosting or replatforming.

Cross-industry AWS migration success stories: Transformations and achievements

From assessment to adoption, Intellias has helped many companies across industries successfully migrate to AWS over the years.

When a national telecommunications provider with an on-premises data warehouse was facing skyrocketing maintenance costs and scalability issues, it wanted to explore an AWS cloud migration to help control costs and be more resource-efficient.

Intellias built a custom cloud solution architecture, measured performance, assessed resource requirements, and calculated expected infrastructure costs in a two-month proof of concept that let the team validate their AWS migration strategy. And since they also wanted to accelerate growth and innovation, we upgraded their underlying data and analytics infrastructure.

With performance benchmarking from Intellias, the client is confident they will considerably cut infrastructure expenses, increase revenue, and easily scale their business by moving to AWS. Read the whole story.


Are you considering a move to AWS? Talk to one of our experts today to see how we can help.

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