Discovery and Assessment for Cloud Migration (Ten Factors Series #6)

November 15, 2016 Raj Dhingra

Discovery versus Assessment for Cloud Migration

This is the 6th post in the blog series > “10 Critical Cloud Migration Planning Factors”.

A recent CIO survey by JP Morgan projects “41.6% of corporate workloads at big companies are expected to be running in the public cloud within the next five years, up from 16.2% today.”  This level of cloud migration marks a MASSIVE shift.  Enterprises face a daunting challenge to migrate their on-premises workloads into the cloud. However, unlike the famed and perilous wildebeest migration on the Serengeti plains, enterprise workloads can smoothly and securely migrate to the cloud if Enterprise IT considers the following critical planning factors:

1.  Why Migrate Your Applications To The Cloud?

2.  Three Different Paths to Cloud Migration: Different Time/Cost/Skills

3.  Selecting Applications: Good Candidates for Migration

4.  Selecting Applications: Bad Candidates for Migration

5.  Pitfalls in Migrating Complex Apps to the Cloud

6.  Discovery versus Assessment for Cloud Migration

7.  Software Licensing: Can I run this app in the cloud?

8.  Manual versus Automation: Pros and Cons for Cloud Migration

9   Cost Analysis: On Premises vs Cloud

10. Critical People Factors: Right Stakeholders? Right Skills?

In this post, we will cover:

#6: Discovery and Assessment for Cloud Migration

Some enterprises have a clear idea on which applications they would like to migrate or protect in the cloud.

There are others who want to move their brownfield applications to the cloud, but have one or more of the following questions:

  • Where should I start?
  • How do I get an accurate inventory of my applications/VMs running in my datacenter?
  • Is there any dependency between the various applications or servers?

In this post, we will discuss how application discovery tools can augment the planning and execution of a cloud migration project.

What’s the Role of An Application Discovery Tool?

Most application discovery tools provide the following key functions:

1. An inventory of datacenter assets

An application discovery tool will scan your datacenter to identify and list key assets such as servers, applications and networking devices. It can identify the  OS version information, physical or virtual servers, server manufacturer, CPU, memory, disk information and network information, VM-related information, installed applications information, etc. In addition it can also identify the different type of network devices such as switches, routers, ports and more detailed network device information.

2. A dependency mapping and grouping of applications

One of the key benefits of an application discovery tool is to get an itemized  (and in many cases visual) dependency mapping of which application/system communicated with which other application system.  As a result, you can create groups of inter-dependent applications that need to be seen as a “system”. Information on communications can be as detailed as which protocol is used to communicate and which server/VM may be communicating with which other servers.  This type of grouping/classification can allow you to plan which groups of applications will need to be migrated together such that application compatibility and interdependency is preserved when it runs in the cloud.  With such planning you can create migration waves and migration plans which can be fed as input to a cloud migration tool.

3. Dynamic Characteristics of Applications

In addition to the static characteristics such as OS version, CPU, memory etc, it is also useful to understand the dynamic characteristics of applications. Discovery tools can collect sample data on a) resource utilization and b) network traffic for applications.  For example, time series data on CPU utilization for a server/VM can show what average and peak utilization trends are. This information can be used by migration solutions to right size the cloud compute requirements and match the workload to the right compute instance on the cloud. Similarly, an understanding of network traffic size and trends can also appropriately size bandwidth requirements in the cloud.  Gaining an understanding of these dynamic characteristics can allow for better tradeoffs between performance, availability and cost.

4. Cloud Cost Modeling

Having completed an inventory of assets, discovery tools may offer the option of building a cost model for running the workload in the cloud. The tools can combine inventory information with utilization information to determine pricing for various clouds.

This type of model can allow IT to analyze a) Usage-based cloud costs and b) Costs for various clouds to better understand cost savings compared to running the workload in the datacenter. 

How Do Discovery Tools Discover?

Many discovery tools claim to be agentless i.e. no software agent is required to be installed on servers/hosts/VMs/switches to do their job. So how do they discover the systems?

Discovery tools require you to provide certain types of information to initiate the discovery process. Types of information needed:  Credentials for your Windows Domain Admin, Virtualization Management Console such as vCenter login, Root login for your servers, login for your network devices such as Cisco or Juniper switches/routers. Additional discovery techniques include scanning using protocols such as SNMP, ICMP, WMI etc.

Key Considerations When Evaluating Application Discovery Tools:

  • Is it agent-less or requires the installation of agents?
  • Is it cloud-based or can the discovery software collector be deployed in your datacenter?
  • Is the discovery information stored on-premises or in the cloud?
  • How long does it need to run to capture the static characteristics? How long for dynamic characteristics such as utilization?
  • For the inventory of discovered apps, does the discovery tool classify whether the app can be re-hosted or refactored or re-platformed? Or does this classification have to be done manually?
  • Which cloud costs can be modeled? How is the cloud cost information collected?  How often is it updated?
  • Can you export the discovery information to a cloud migration solution? What type of information and what formats are supported?

Finally, you can either use the Application Discovery tool yourself, check whether the Discovery solution provider offers professional services to help with the assessment or work with a cloud integrator or Global Systems Integrator to help you with the overall discovery, assessment and migration project.

The next blog in the series will be #7: Software Licensing: Can I run this app in the cloud?

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