As AWS consultants, we have helped a wide variety of clients make the transition to Amazon Web Services (AWS) through a migration. Inevitably, one of the more complex and time consuming phases of AWS cloud architecture planning is helping the enterprise get its arms around the assets it intends to migrate and making a plan based upon that data. Luckily, Amazon recently announced a new service called Application Discovery that helps expedite the process and make it much easier to dig in and begin planning.
AWS Application Discovery
This new service discovers both the software and network dependencies of applications that an organization plans to migrate to AWS. Using an installed agent, it scans for software dependencies and lists network communications that the system under test engages. Using this information, it provides a view of dependencies the application(s) may have on other components in the infrastructure. From here, a detailed migration plan can be generated which provides:
- a view of what infrastructure and software is needed in AWS and
- what type of on-premise connectivity (firewall rules and bandwidth requirements) may be required for the target app to run in the cloud.
Who Needs Discovery?
Enterprises with a complex mesh of applications written over a longer period of time or companies where hundreds of applications have been developed over decades to support day to day operations are ideal users for AWS Application Discovery. These organizations often have lost the original coders, and with them the knowledge of an application’s exact dependencies. In this all-too-often common case, AWS Application Discovery can be a boon in helping identify critical dependencies needed to facilitate cloud migration.
Taking it to a Plan
It is worth noting that the Application Discovery service assumes that your plan is to conduct a lift-and-shift without involving a major transformation of the application -- that is, without conducting an upgrade to the technology (e.g. from old operating systems to new); or tooling (adding automated deployment); or modifying the application to leverage elasticity (e.g., removing local state and storing it in a dedicated session store); or adopting new paradises like microservices.
Application Discovery is a great tool for organizations looking to lift-and-shift. However, for those of you looking to make an application transformation in the process, we recommend a deeper understanding. Having done 100+ AWS assessments, for a successful transformation we have repeatedly seen how pivotal it is to have a deep understanding of the application within the organization. Failing that, we recommend that deep engineering scrutiny of code be required to fully understand the application. Experience tells us that transitions often require human intelligence and deeper insights than software or network dependencies. All that said,a lift-and-shift approach is very common for cloud migration, and a successful trend has been to migrate first and transform second. We agree with this agile approach and feel that AWS’ new Application Discovery service can cover a broad set of customers looking for lift-and-shift.
Lift-and-Shift In Action
Working with a publicly traded oil & gas client in Houston earlier this year, we found ourselves in the middle of a pure lift-and-shift scenario. There were tens and tens of Windows ‘boxes’ in closet data centers spread all over the world. They were supporting different corporate applications and running on disparate versions of software, all with dependencies on each other. This customer had a primary goal of consolidating these services in the cloud and since little was known about the applications, the primary objective was to centralize and govern, not to transform the individual applications.
AWS Application Discovery would have been a boon in this scenario where building a dependency report of all the applications would have facilitated creating a migration plan. Instead, we collected the needed information by inspection or gathering tribal knowledge by indirectly interviewing the relevant individuals through our point of contact.
Related Information: See our blog on AWS Server Migration Service
A Broader Trend
As 2016 started, at Flux7 we noticed an important change among inbound calls from potential clients seeking cloud migration services. In 2014, most calls were from startups founded post 2010 looking for us to retool and transform their infrastructure and make it ready for prime time. In 2015, the request was similar in that potential customers were calling to get help to migrate to AWS, on strategy and with IT transformation, but the caller was quite different. Most were large Fortune 1000 companies. In 2016, we’ve seen a new breed of customers with requests from organizations of all sizes who want to use cloud as an infrastructure replacement. For example, the CIO has a plan to close a data center and thus wants to move the apps in the DC to the cloud. Typically, the goal here is lift-and-shift with minimal or no transformation as agility and DevOps are not the top goals.
Amazon's recent investments in the Application Discovery service, and knowing that AWS makes investments around customer feedback and demand, adds another +1 to our intuition that such ‘cloud as infrastructure’ projects will only continue to trend in the near future. Flux7 takes a unique approach to these migrations, coupling our roots in extreme automation with our critical mission to teach our customers how to fish.
Indeed,our approach is not to just migrate apps to the cloud for our customers, but to build a customized, automated service catalog and then coach our customers how to migrate the apps themselves.Our award-winning approach leads to a smoother organizational change than many other third parties who may do a great job of tactical migrations but forget about the organization’s need to manage the infrastructure moving forward. If you are looking to migrate apps into the cloud and would like to learn more about the success rate of our approach, reach out to us today.
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