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3 common pitfalls when migrating to AWS


More and more companies are adopting a Cloud-first strategy for their businesses; the benefits of a Cloud-first approach are now clear and proven. A study performed by IDC in 2018 demonstrated that on average, businesses see a 31% savings on their infrastructure costs and their businesses are more efficient and agile as a result.

However, these benefits are not automatically generated just by moving to AWS. Businesses frequently run into common pitfalls that can have a negative impact on their objectives and lead to disappointing results. In this article, we will explore some of the 3 most common pitfalls businesses face and hopefully help you to avoid them.

Before any work can be done, businesses need to invest time and effort into ensuring they have a solid business case that demonstrates the objectives and drivers of the project. A solid business case helps to ensure that stakeholders are aligned on the vision and can mobilize their teams efficiently. This can also help support any requests for resources such as time and money from the business. Without sufficient commitment from the business, a migration project can often falter as teams often have competing priorities and fail to fulfill the commitment to ambitious plans.

During this phase, it’s also essential for your business case to include detailed cost forecasts. Comprehensive documentation of your IT infrastructure enables you to create TCO calculations of your existing infrastructure compared to a future state in AWS. Without this, you are essentially moving forward in the dark and have no way of knowing—and anticipating— your future costs.

Finally, completing a Cloud maturity assessment helps to understand the organization’s preparedness for a future where Cloud is the default. A Cloud maturity assessment will evaluate aspects of your business, including:

  • People – What skills do you have, and what’s required for the future?
  • Process – What processes do you have in place, and what do you need to develop?
  • Policy – What policies are already in place or need to be created to ensure your business’ security and compliance requirements?
  • Technology – What technology is required to deliver on and take full advantage of the benefits of Cloud native?
  • Business Outcomes – What are the expected business outcomes and how is this communicated?

Getting started on AWS is very simple. All you need is a credit card. However, doing this in a sustainable way requires planning and structure. It’s essential to define your operating model before doing any actual work.

A best practice is to establish a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE). The mandate of a CCoE is to act as a cross-functional team that helps to ensure governance on the Cloud by defining things such as organizational standards, guardrails, architectural standards & best practices, security policies, and finally FinOps practices.

FinOps is an important element of a successful migration. Many organizations fail to establish a FinOps practice and end up with issues such as overspending, wasted resources, and a disappointed CFO who was promised cost savings but now has a huge (and growing) monthly bill they can’t understand. Significant cost savings by moving to AWS are possible, but without a FinOps practice, it’s left up to chance.

It’s inevitable that any business that has been in existence for more than a few years will have legacy software. This may be custom in-house developed or commercial off-the-shelf software. Most businesses also take a lift-and-shift approach when migrating to AWS. This in itself is not a wrong approach, but if you simply move everything to AWS as-is, then all you’ve done is successfully replace your data center—without enjoying the benefits (or strengths) of the Cloud. You may suffer some downsides such as run-away costs or outages if your workloads are not well-architected.

Therefore, it’s essential that once you’ve migrated to AWS, you begin to modernize your workloads to be Cloud-native or at the very least, Cloud-optimized. In concrete terms, this means re-factoring your applications to use services such as Amazon RDS for databases, or Amazon EKS to containerize your workloads where possible. You may also consider using AWS’s serverless offerings such as AWS Lambda, AWS Fargate, or integration services such as AWS Step Functions or Amazon API Gateway.

The effort in refactoring your applications can pay dividends in the total cost of ownership by lowering your management overhead. In the case of serverless architectures, you only pay when it’s in use. A serverless application that is dormant costs virtually nothing. Comparing this to an application running on EC2, you pay constantly while the virtual machine is up and running, regardless of whether there is any active use or not.

Another important item to consider is licensed software such as Windows workloads or Microsoft SQL servers. Typically, licensing is more expensive than the compute and storage it consumes. By moving this as-is to AWS, you miss out on many of the cost savings AWS has to offer. One way customers can ensure they’re optimized for AWS is to complete an Optimization and Licensing Assessment prior to migrating, which can provide recommendations on the right instance types or licenses to consume when moving to AWS. Another option is to move to an open-source database. AWS offers a number of tools to help make this process as easy as possible, such as Babelfish which allows you to run Microsoft SQL server applications on PostgreSQL with minimal code changes.

Another set of tools is the Schema Conversion Tool (SCT) and Database Migration Service (DMS) which allows you to migrate databases to AWS, including from the same database engine (homogenous), or to migrate and convert from a source database engine to a new database engine (heterogeneous). For example, Oracle to PostgreSQL.

By moving from legacy licensed database technologies to managed and open-source database technologies, businesses can yield significant cost savings.

Regardless of where you are in your Cloud journey, it’s important to ensure that you’re considering all the important factors to avoid some of the common pitfalls discussed above. It’s not uncommon for a business to go through such a digital transformation every 10 years or less.

Devoteam is an AWS Premier partner with Migration Competency and a proven track record of AWS Migrations. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you in your Cloud journey, reach out at the link below.