How to build an effective data migration project for a successful journey

Blogger Series - Effective Data Migration Project

Moving to the cloud can help move your business into the future. It means you can take advantage of new technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s easy to as scale your business grows and it also makes adapting to changing market environments easier. By not relying on on-premises infrastructure, your organisation also becomes more resilient while reducing spend on IT. I regularly have conversations with customers about migrating from their on-premises environments and it can often depend on two major factors; how and how much.

Often the key time to consider migration to the cloud is when you’re on the verge of an expansion or upgrade. For instance, when your server hardware is at the end of its life cycle or you need to grow your data centre.

The first step to planning how to migrate to the cloud is understanding what your current environment looks like, what are your servers, how are they interconnected, and how are they currently running and key questions. Without this kind of information organisations can struggle to plan and deliver a successful migration.

Cost benefits of moving to the cloud

A data-centre migration has an obvious initial cost, both in terms of money and effort. Moving to the cloud can save money in the long term. On-premises data centres can be expensive to maintain, incurring costs via upgrades, maintenance, and staff time and energy. A data centre has an average lifespan of about 10–15 years.

The cloud doesn’t have these limitations. It scales to your output, so you use only the servers you need, when you need them. It also eliminates on-premises costs, such as power and cooling, while freeing your employees to focus on business value. Moreover, things like hardware upgrades are taken care of by the cloud provider and gives you access to cloud-only technology such as artificial intelligence (AI).

To conduct an assessment of your environment there are several methods that can be used, these vary from making use of spreadsheet software to dedicated tooling. In this article I will take you through the methods I have used with customers:

  • A simple spreadsheet calculation
  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit
  • Azure Migrate
  • Third Party Tool (Movere, Turbonomics, Cloudamize, Corent, etc)

Spreadsheet calculation

If you want a general idea of the cost of migration, a spreadsheet calculation is a good way to do it. For example, if you have a VMware environment, you can easily export the configuration information from there into an Excel spreadsheet and use that data to gain a pricing insight for them.

There are two projects that have been created by Microsoft employees that will take that spreadsheet data and output a ‘like for like’ hosting pricing for you:

Using this method is also a great way of starting the conversation with your leadership team without much effort or investment.

However, using this kind of pricing gives you only a general idea as it provides a like-for-like view of what running the estate in Azure would cost. It doesn’t take into consideration any performance-based optimisation that a purpose-built assessment tool can provide. It’s also worth noting this pricing exercise only prices up the servers—it doesn’t include pricing for networking costs, monitoring, backup, or any extras.

When to use: If you need to quickly show the value of moving your environment to Azure.

Assessment tools

Using an assessment tool is a good way to get a complete overview of the costs of data-centre migration. Here’s a few tools I’ve had experience with:

Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is a free inventory, assessment, and reporting tool. It collects environmental data and inventories, computer hardware, software, and operating systems without installing any agent software on the target computers.

The MAP toolkit gathers information about any type of server—virtual or physical—within your environment and gives you some actionable information about your environment’s Azure readiness, sizing, and cost.

It provides a suggested virtual machine size if the server was to be hosted within Azure, but it doesn’t provide the cost of that virtual machine, so that step would need to be carried out manually—maybe using one of the calculators mentioned above.

When to use: If you can’t access the virtualisation layer to deploy a migration tool—that is, if your virtual servers are hosted on a managed shared VMware environment by a third-party provider.

MAP Overview

MAP overview




Azure Migrate

Azure Migrate is used to assess VMware and Hyper-V (currently in private preview) environments but cannot assess physical servers. It is appliance based, so there is no requirement to pre-set or pre-configure servers.

Meaning you can get up and running quickly by simply downloading an .ova or .vhd file and importing it into your environment. It has two levels of discovery, which I refer to aslight and deep.

Light discovery

The light discovery method helps to discover:

  • Cores
  • Memory
  • Disks
  • Disk sizes
  • Network adaptors
  • CPU usage
  • Memory usage
  • Disk IOPS
  • Disk throughput (MBps)
  • Network output (MBps)
  • VM name
  • IP address

This part of the discovery is done agentless. The Azure Migrate appliance simply plugs into the VMware or Hyper-V virtualisation technology and gathers the information it needs.

From this, you get a report that gives information about the servers’ suitability to be hosted within Azure, VM size (either based on like-for-like configuration or performance-based configuration), and the monthly cost of having to run the server within Azure. Use of Azure Migrate in the light discovery mode is free.

Assessment Output

Assessment Output

VM information output

VM information output

Deep discovery

For deep discovery, two agents need to be installed on each server: Microsoft Dependency Agent and Microsoft Monitoring Agent.

When you install the agents, they can pull out detailed information about the servers and how they communicate with other services both within and outside the environment.

This deep discovery phase can help you understand which servers rely on each other and need to be moved together or how you could potentially look at modernising them into a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. It is also great at helping to fill the gaps that might be missing due to lack of documentation, staff attrition, or other factors. This makes the migration a lot simpler and reduces the risk of moving large numbers of servers.

Deep discovery uses the Service Map technology within Log Analytics. Note: there are associated costs with using Log Analytics.

Dependency Mapping example output

Dependency Mapping example output

Dependency Mapping example output

Dependency Mapping example output

When to use: If you are looking to price up and understand what the migration path would be within your environment and start planning your migration path.

Third-Party Tool

There are also a variety of third-party tools that are available to help assess your environment. Each of the tools have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some require a licence per server that is being assessed, others incur a one-off cost.

When to use: If you have a specific use case that Microsoft’s own tools can’t fully evaluate.

Start your digital transformation with migration

Kick start your digital transformation journey by using a tool to help assess your environment and understand what your migration would look like.  Moving to the cloud not only saves money in the long run, but you’ll also benefit from a strengthened security posture. The cloud offers multi-layered, built-in security controls and unique threat intelligence to help identify and protect against rapidly evolving threats. Plus, you’ll benefit from becoming more innovative from access to fully managed services and cloud-only technology.

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About the author

Sarah LeanSarah has worked in IT for over 13 years. She’s been a subject matter expert in various solutions through my career including Microsoft Exchange, System Centre Configuration Manager and Patch Management, to name a few. As a STEM Ambassador, she enjoys sharing her story with the next generation to inspire them into a STEM career. She is the founder of the Glasgow Azure User Group.