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What is IT migration?

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An IT migration is the shifting of data or software from one system to another. Depending on the project, an IT migration could involve one or more kinds of movement: Data migration, application migration, operating system migration, and cloud migration.

A few common examples of IT migration include:

  • Upgrading an application or operating system (OS)
  • Moving data from one kind of database to another
  • Replacing one data storage system with another
  • Moving from on-premise infrastructure to cloud infrastructure
  • Replacing a monolithic application with containerized services

IT migration projects commonly involve many moving parts and requirements that are highly specific to an organization’s needs. Careful planning, combined with an infrastructure automation strategy, can make IT migrations easier.

Data migration is moving data from one kind of storage to another. This is often done as part of an upgrade to expand storage capacity, improve performance, streamline data management, reduce costs, reduce physical footprint, or add new capabilities.

Data migrations unfold in three phases: planning, execution, and validation. They can involve transferring large amounts of data across a network, or physically moving drives from one place to another. 

Every migration is going to be different depending on the amount of data involved, how quickly the migration has to be completed, the types of workloads involved, and security considerations.

Data migration sometimes means moving from on-premise data storage to cloud storage, or from one data platform to another. Generally, data can be migrated one of two ways:

  • Online migration transfers data across the Internet or a private network.
  • Offline migration transfers data by physically shipping a storage device from one place to another.

Database migration

Database migration is a specialized kind of data migration. Organizations might move data from one database to another as part of a database upgrade, because they’ve changed vendors, or because they’re moving to new infrastructure, such as the cloud.

Moving from one database to another can require making sure the source database’s schema is compatible with the target database, and converting it if necessary. Many cloud database providers offer tools that can automate this process.

As with a standard data migration, a database migration requires planning before the migration and validation after the migration.

Application migration is moving software applications from one IT system to another.

Just as there are many ways to build and host applications, there’s no single catch-all method for migrating them. Application migrations usually fall into one of four categories:

  • Rehost, also called lift-and-shift, which involves moving an application from one platform to another (such as an on-premise server to a virtual machine) without making significant changes.
  • Refactor, or re-architect, which means making significant changes to an application to run in a new environment. For example, this could mean breaking a monolithic application into containerized microservices so it can scale better in a cloud environment.
  • Replatform, which is a migration to a new environment requiring some changes to the application, but less involved than a complete refactoring or rearchitecing.
  • Retire, or replace, in which an application is abandoned in favor of something else, such as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution.

Migrating apps to modern architecture

Many IT organizations today are seeking to migrate applications to the modern infrastructure of the cloud, often adopting containerized services and implementing DevOps processes along the way.

This can be a daunting task. Developers have to update to newer libraries and APIs, address new frameworks, infrastructures, and architectures, and bring new features and versions online, all simultaneously.

Tools such as those in the Red Hat® Application Migration Toolkit (RHAMT) can ease this process. These utilities allow you to quickly gain insights into thousands of your applications simultaneously. They identify migration challenges and code or dependencies shared between applications, and they accelerate making the necessary code changes to have your applications run in the latest middleware platforms.

Operating system migration is moving an IT system managed by one OS to another OS. This can mean upgrading to a newer version, as when an older version reaches end-of-support. It can also mean moving from one OS to another, such as migrating from Windows to Linux.

OS migration projects can be time-intensive, and can introduce risks like potential downtime, application incompatibility, and loss of customizations. As with other kinds of migrations, OS migrations involve a series of deliberate steps:

  • Prepare. A pre-migration analysis can identify potential complications with workloads, configurations, or applications and use guidance on how to proactively remediate issues.
  • Automate. Using automated controls can reduce the risk of a migration project and help ensure existing configurations, customizations, and preferences carry over.
  • Migrate. Follow the process that works best for your environment, whether it’s an in-place upgrade or a full redemployment.

Many operating systems, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux®, provide tools and support to make an OS migration as smooth as possible.

Cloud migration means shifting IT systems from traditional on-premise data centers to cloud environments, or from one cloud environment to another. It can also involve building a hybrid cloud, through which applications and data can scale across multiple infrastructures. Cloud infrastructure has many appeals, including easy scalability and cost savings.

Public cloud providers offer a pool of virtual resources as a service, with infrastructure that’s automatically provisioned through a self-service interface. It’s a straightforward way to scale out workloads that experience unexpected demand fluctuations.

Today’s public clouds are usually part of a heterogeneous mix of environments that leads to higher security and performance, lower cost, and a wider availability of infrastructure, services, and applications.

Hybrid cloud is an IT architecture that incorporates some degree of workload portability, orchestration, and management across 2 or more environments, which can include public cloud.

A cloud migration doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Many times a cloud migration involves a pilot process to test systems on a limited basis.

Process of a successful cloud migration

1. Map your journey. This planning state involves an analysis of your current infrastructure and applications.

2. Run a pilot. Testing a production-ready environment over a period of several months can allow time to make sure the new environment meets your requirements.

3. Make the move. The actual migration means bringing existing workloads over to the new environment, based on a schedule that meets the needs of your users.

Some IT migrations are driven by the need to accommodate new requirements from software vendors. SAP®, the major ERP software provider, is requiring customers to adopt SAP HANA® and SAP S/4HANA® by 2027 in order to continue receiving support.

SAP S/4HANA runs exclusively on the SAP HANA database, which runs on Linux®. For many customers, this upgrade requires migrating their SAP systems to new IT environments, which can be a long and complex process. It requires creating and correctly configuring target infrastructure, replicating data, testing and validating the new setup, and redirecting workloads to the new environment.

Automation has become the key to making this kind of migration happen rapidly, efficiently, and reliably.

In an IT migration, automation can contribute to faster and smoother projects, reducing the errors that can result from repetitive manual processes.

Automation with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform takes you through the process of automating your migrations with a recommended 3-step process: Define, deploy, and discover.

  • Define: Determine each component to be automated separately, accounting for order/process along the way.
  • Deploy: Use your component definitions/automations to do a deployment and test it out.
  • Discover: Each time you apply your automations, test the app or software as it has been deployed, and discover what gaps there are. Then you can go back and redefine that particular aspect, and then start the 3-step cycle over again.

This automation cycle becomes faster each time as you learn to identify what will and won’t work and how to fix each problem that arises.

Once you define each component and step in the migration process, you can string them together in a repeatable Ansible playbook and start applying it to the new environment. Ansible playbooks can record and execute configuration, deployment, and orchestration functions. They offer a repeatable, reusable, simple configuration management and multi-machine deployment system that lets you effectively record the migration process and repeat it as necessary. 

The end result is that you end up with a much more fluid process to pick up the pieces of your system and move them wherever you want.

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