It might be hard to picture it sometimes, but the decisions we make today, the decisions we make every day in fact, will be the ones that go on to shape the future of our organisations for years to come.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the decisions we make around our IT infrastructure.
Systems that have become legacy, once the bedrock of our operational stability, are now huge roadblocks to progress, innovation and cutting-edge competitiveness in this new, AI-led, data age.
The Imperative Of Modernisation
Modernisation and transformation can’t just be buzzwords anymore; they’re instead, an absolute strategic necessity.
Legacy systems, whilst no doubt robust in their time, weren’t designed to meet the demands of the contemporary business environment. They just can’t:
- Stay Competitive: Legacy systems often lack the agility required to keep pace with rapidly changing market dynamics. In contrast, modern cloud-based solutions like Azure empower organisations to adapt, innovate and stay ahead of competitors.
- Enhance Efficiency: Legacy systems are often siloed and difficult to integrate with newer technologies, leading to inefficiencies, increased operational costs and missed opportunities for process optimisation.
- Harness Data Insights: Data is the lifeblood of any modern business but legacy systems are now struggling to handle the vast volumes of data that gets generated on a day-today basis.
The Challenges Of Legacy Systems
Whilst the imperative for change may seem clear to most; I thought it might be important to stop a second and take a minute to discuss the challenges being created by legacy systems.
The challenges that will eventually hinder an organisation's growth and competitiveness in their chosen sector:
- Technical Debt: Legacy systems will have accumulated massive amounts of technical debt over their life cycle, making them increasingly expensive and complex to maintain, diverting resources away from innovation to mundane maintenance activities.
- Security Risks: Outdated software and unsupported hardware present huge security vulnerabilities. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, legacy systems have become prime targets. That’s why Azure includes robust security features right out-of-the-box to protect all your data and applications.
- Scalability Limitations: Legacy systems struggle to scale efficiently with ever-growing workloads, whilst Azure capabilities such as serverless functions and elastic Virtual Machines allow your business to scale resources up or down as needed, ensuring you're always prepared for changes in demand.
Written By: Michael McGranaghan
Senior Software Consultant, FormusPro
Why Choose Microsoft Azure For A Legacy Migration?
The decision to migrate away from a legacy system is never one taken lightly, but past a certain point the false economy of investing more and more into it can’t be denied.
However, that makes choosing the right platform for the transformation even more crucial, so as not to be in the exact same position five or ten years from now.
Now I obviously think that, with its comprehensive suite of services and capabilities, Microsoft Azure should be any organisation’s first stop for a legacy migration journey.
But I work for a Microsoft Partner, so I would say that, right?
Azure's Reliability And Scalability
Let’s look at reliability first.
Azure’s built on Microsoft’s global network of data centres, meaning, short of an actual apocalypse, you’re always going to have high availability and fault tolerance.
All your critical applications and data will be hosted in a robust infrastructure that was designed to minimise downtime and ensure business continuity. And with a 99.9% uptime service-level agreement (SLA), Azure is always there to keep systems up and running.
Moving on to scalability, a common complaint of legacy systems is that they often struggle to adapt to changing workloads.
That’s where Azure steps in, offering unparalleled scalability to let you ramp resources up or down as needed. It won’t matter if you’re experiencing rapid growth or seasonal fluctuations, Azure's flexibility means your infrastructure will be able to handle it without overprovisioning or overspending (something your CFO will love).
Cost-Efficiency And ROI
Speaking of CFO’s… We should probably take a minute to look at the money side of things.
Migrating to Azure almost always leads to a huge reduction in costs.
As you’re only paying for the resources you use, you eliminate the need for costly upfront investments in hardware and infrastructure.
Azure's pay-as-you-go pricing model means your IT expenses become aligned with actual usage, making it a cost-effective solution that doesn’t deprecate over time. However, if yours is the kind of infrastructure that needs constant, provisioned computing services, then Azure’s got you covered for that too.
But it’s not just about the cost savings; it's also about the investment in an organisation's future.
By digitally transforming legacy systems, you can begin to unlock the potential for improved productivity, agility and innovation.
Any CFO worth their salt will tell you that those things very quickly translate to higher ROI as your organisation becomes more competitive and efficient.
Security And Compliance
As I’ve already pointed out… Microsoft take security seriously.
Microsoft Azure offers a huge array of built-in security features, including threat detection, identity and access management, API management services, firewalls, key vaults, DDoS protection, data encryption, application gateways… I honestly could go on.
They also invest heavily in developing the very latest in cybersecurity technology, ensuring that your data and applications are protected from constantly evolving threats.
We also need to consider the compliance angle.
Many people reading this will live in, and work for an organisation that operates in a regulated sector.
For those people and companies, Azure provides a range of compliance certifications, such as HIPAA, GDPR, and ISO 27001, meaning you can confidently migrate your sensitive data and still maintain compliance with industry-specific regulations, reducing the risk of costly fines, penalties or reputational damage.
The Azure Migration Framework
To ensure a smooth transition, it’s important when migrating legacy systems to Azure, that you follow a structured approach to maximise benefits as quickly as possible.
The Azure Migration Framework was created to do just that.
It’s a comprehensive methodology designed to guide organisations through every step of the migration journey and consists of four key phases, (all of which FormusPro and I will happily undertake for you if you need us to):
Assess: Understanding Your Legacy Ecosystem
Before embarking on a migration project, you need to ensure you’ve a deep understanding of your existing legacy ecosystem.
With that in mind, this phase involves:
Inventory and Assessment
- Inventory: You need to make a comprehensive catalogue of all existing hardware, software and applications within the legacy environment(s).
- Dependency Mapping: You then need to understand and document how different components of your legacy system are interconnected.
- Performance Analysis: Finally, you need to evaluate the performance of legacy applications to identify bottlenecks and urgent areas for improvement.
Risk And Compliance Assessment
- Security: Assess the security posture of your legacy systems and identify any possible vulnerabilities.
- Compliance: Determine if your legacy systems meet industry-specific compliance requirements.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): Calculate the ongoing costs of maintaining your legacy systems compared to the expected costs of migration to Azure. Not sure how much Azure will cost you? Microsoft have built a Pricing Calculator for that exact reason.
Plan: Crafting a Migration Strategy
Once you’ve a clear picture of your legacy ecosystem, the planning phase will involve creating a detailed migration strategy which should include:
- Objectives: Define clear migration goals, such as improving agility, reducing costs or enhancing scalability. This will be vital down the line when you come to measure the ROI/success of your migration.
Choosing The Right Azure Services
- Service Selection: Identify the Azure services that best align with your legacy applications and business objectives. Again, it might be best at this point to consult a Microsoft Partner for some expert guidance.
- Contingency Planning: Develop contingency plans to address potential challenges and minimise disruptions during the upcoming migration. Azure comes with several tools and strategies for this already, such as Azure Site Recovery and Azure Traffic Manager, to let you migrate applications with minimal downtime.
Timeline and Resource Allocation
- Project Timeline: Establish a realistic timeline for the migration project, taking into account such things as dependencies and potential downtime.
- Resource Allocation: Allocate the necessary budget, personnel and resources for a successful migration.
Migrate: The Transition Phase
With a well-crafted plan in place the next phase, migration phase, involves actually executing the transition to Azure:
Data And Application Migration:
- Data Migration: Transfer data from legacy systems to Azure with a plan for minimal downtime and data loss or corruption.
- Application Migration: Replicate, redevelop or refactor legacy applications for Azure compatibility.
Testing and Validation
- Testing: Rigorously test migrated applications and data to ensure that they function as expected in an Azure environment.
- Validation: Verify that the migrated systems meet security, compliance and performance standards.
Monitoring and Optimisation
- Monitoring: Implement monitoring tools to track the performance and health of your Azure-hosted systems.
- Optimisation: Continuously optimise resource utilisation and costs based on real-world usage.
Optimise: Post-Migration Enhancements
However, migrating all your legacy apps to Azure isn’t just about the transition; it's also about continuous improvement after the fact:
- Feedback Loop: Establish mechanisms for collecting feedback from users and stakeholders to make ongoing enhancements.
- Agile Development: Embrace agile methodologies to iterate and improve applications based on evolving business needs.
- Cost Tracking: Monitor and optimise your Azure costs to ensure you’re getting the very best return on investment.
- Resource Scaling: Adjust resource allocations based on actual usage to avoid over-provisioning.
Security and Compliance
- Security Updates: Stay vigilant with security updates and enhancements to protect your Azure-hosted systems.
- Compliance Maintenance: Ensure ongoing compliance with industry-specific regulations.
Summing things up, Azure isn’t just a platform for the present. As corny as it might sound, you need to consider it your ‘gateway to the future’.
Once in place you’ll be exponentially more agile and can start to explore the rest of the Microsoft stack for AI, ML CRM and IoT solutions, amongst others…