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Containers and Kubernetes, Cloud Migration

Kubernetes How To's: Migrating Applications in Kubernetes

By Stephen Piccarella | August 25, 2021

For an ever-growing number of companies, cloud migration is quickly becoming a question of when not if. The potential benefits of cloud migration are undeniable, from long-term cost-cutting to better performance across key metrics. However, cloud migration is not a simple process. Many strategies are available for companies opting to migrate to the cloud, and each comes with its ideal conditions, potential benefits, and risks.

Cloud migration also involves different considerations depending on the prospective cloud environment. As a result, choosing to migrate to Kubernetes will entail unique implications for a company's migrating resources. Read on for more information about the different cloud migration strategies and the key points to consider when preparing to migrate to Kubernetes.


What is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

A cloud migration strategy is a plan employed by an organization or a team to migrate applications and enterprise data from the original hosting system to the cloud.


Cloud Migration Types

Cloud migration can be broken down into six different types: Rehost, Re-Platform, Repurchase, Retain, Refactor, and Retire. The cloud migration type you choose depends heavily on several factors. For one, it should reflect the type of data you need to migrate. Additionally, teams also need to consider the size of the organization and workload level and the current digital environment. Then, once that data and those applications have been successfully migrated onto the cloud, teams can create a Kubernetes migration strategy to manage cluster traffic effectively.



Rehosting is one of the most specific cloud migration types, best suited for placing virtual machines and operating systems onto a cloud infrastructure without any changes. Rehosting refers to "lifting" from the hosting environment and "shifting" to a public cloud infrastructure. When rehosted, resources can be recreated as IaaS analogs so that software will run on these resources on the new platform as before.

Rehosting is an expected initial step for organizations starting a new migration. This migration strategy is low-resistance and well suited to specific constraints or deadlines or a circumstance that requires completing the job quickly. It can be fast and efficient in these circumstances. However, migrated applications often require re-architecture once rehosted, and sometimes applications rehosted wholesale retain poor configuration.



Re-platforming apps and data requires optimization of APIs and operating systems. For example, suppose teams are using multiple virtual machines to manage applications. In that case, a re-platforming migration strategy could allow them to switch to a platform with the ability to manage multiple workloads simultaneously, like Kubernetes.   

Replatforming to Kubernetes involves breaking resources down into distinct functions and separating them into their containers. Unique containers can be designed for each service. Containerizing these resources prepares them for optimal performance in the cloud environment, which can't be achieved as part of the rehosting process.



Repurchasing is a similar migration strategy to rehosting and re-platforming but more focused. Repurchasing involves optimizing individual components of applications that otherwise migrate as-is. For example, switching an application from self-hosted infrastructure to managed services or from commercial software to open-source is common. Resources should be tested and then deployed and monitored for crucial performance metrics if migrated this way.



After assessing the current state of your legacy systems and in-use application, your team may determine that maintaining hybridity makes the most sense for modernizing application development and hosting. In this case, teams can employ a retention cloud migration model or a hybrid model to optimize in-use applications that need improvement without disrupting the systems performing effectively. 



Refactoring rearchitects software during the migration process to optimize it for performance in the cloud environment once migrated. While re-platforming cuts down on the architecture that will need to occur after migration, refactoring integrates the re-architecture into the migration process as completely as possible. Refactoring requires significant resource investment on the front end. However, it yields a greater return on investment in the long run: the resources invested upfront end up cutting down on costs once the migration is complete and software is performing at optimal levels. Applications also continually modify to adjust to new requirements.



When certain applications are not being put to valuable use, or if they have been made redundant by applications that provide the same services, these applications can be retired before cloud migration. This can be a step in the migration process. Preparing for migration via one of the migration strategies described above may require retiring specific applications. Assessing available software before migration and determining which applications can and can't be withdrawn can be beneficial when possible and convenient.


Managing Applications With Kubernetes

Creating these multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments requires modernizing application management and the adoption of DevOps. Many organizations and teams with a cloud strategy manage their applications, workloads, deployments, and data with open source tools like Docker and Kubernetes. 

And while choosing Docker vs. Kubernetes is entirely dependent on the preference of the DevOps team, Kubernetes offers a level of scalability and flexibility that makes it one of the most popular container orchestration tools on the market. However, that's not to say that issues managing cluster traffic and migration don't occasionally occur, in which case creating a Kubernetes migration strategy can help. 


Creating a Kubernetes Migration Strategy to Avoid Downtimes

Creating a Kubernetes migration strategy is similar to choosing a cloud migration strategy - the key to avoiding downtime when migrating applications is to act with awareness gradually. However, moving applications within a cloud-native architecture is not as simple as rehosting applications. There are a few key considerations to make to craft an effective Kubernetes migration strategy.


Determine the Goal of the Migration

To determine cloud migration goals, identify specific business drivers, and assess applications for migration based on priority. Cloud migration can yield all kinds of benefits, but some common goals of migration include increased speed and scalability of operations, better resources, lower costs, and improved customer service. In addition, for migrating to Kubernetes, it's essential to determine what should be modified - the application or the new environment. Thus, assessing the application for possible modifications, how it would benefit from Kubernetes, and the effort.  


Gather Information About Legacy Applications

When migrating applications, it's essential to take inventory of filesystems and network compatibility of existing applications. Any system migrating to a new cloud environment will host legacy applications of different values. Some of these applications will be worth retaining for the historical significance of their information, while others will need to be retired. Many applications can be modernized to perform more dynamically on the cloud and bring unique benefits to the cloud environment. Migrating these applications to the cloud can increase their speed and scalability and improve their intelligence and analytics. Individual legacy applications will likely need to be modernized differently, so each should be assessed to determine which cloud migration strategy will suit it best.


Determine the Value of the Migration

It's possible that after assessing the goal of the Kubernetes migration strategy and the compatibility of in-use applications, you determine that migration is not worth the effort. Coming to this conclusion requires a deep understanding of legacy applications and unpacking the data at hand. In addition, any cloud migration will involve some costs, so calculating these costs to determine the potential value of the migration is crucial. 

When preparing for migration, determine the cost of the migrated resources and evaluate eliminating expenses after migrating to the cloud. Before migrating, however, choose the potential value of legacy applications and what can be modernized or retired. An architecture like Kubernetes may not support some of these legacy applications, so knowing so beforehand will help minimize costs and maximize potential value down the line.


Kubernetes is a powerful tool for modernizing applications and adopting cloud-native architecture to help some processes run more smoothly. Still, it's first essential to determine the feasibility of migration and whether or not the outcome is worth the effort. Many organizations have updated their systems with platforms like Kubernetes, but we're interested to hear what you have to say! Join more discussions just like this with the C2C Community.

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