Migrating Critical Applications to Virtual Servers: 10 Best Practices

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2013-12-02 Print this article Print

Moving a critical enterprise application from a physical server to a virtual machine isn't something that you decide to do on a whim one day. A successful migration requires a careful plan, expert thought and preparation. This slide show checklist isn't meant to serve as a diagram for migration; it's meant to help guide your plan before it's crafted and also to serve as a final prelaunch list to make sure you haven't forgotten anything before takeoff. Depending on what you're migrating (virtual machines, applications or just data), you may or may not need to address every one of the following data points. Each best practice should be annotated with the aspect of the stack to which you should pay special attention. The following 10 steps, as provided by eWEEK and Indianapolis-based cloud services provider Bluelock, should be part of any migration to an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution. Whether moving from physical to virtual, private cloud to public cloud or even public cloud to public cloud, don't forget any of these crucial steps in your process. (Note: If you are migrating to PaaS or SaaS, there will be other considerations.)

  • Migrating Critical Applications to Virtual Servers: 10 Best Practices

    By Chris Preimesberger
    Migrating Critical Applications to Virtual Servers: 10 Best Practices
  • Determine Changing OS or App Licensing Provisions

    Depending on where you are migrating your application, you may need to reassess the licensing requirements for both your operating system and your application. This will apply when you are migrating the entire stack, the OS and/or the app. Make sure the location to which you are migrating supports running what you have. Bigger cloud providers may require different or special licensing according to their model. Take a look at your end-user license agreement to confirm any special scenarios or circumstances.
    Determine Changing OS or App Licensing Provisions
  • Assess Your Application's Data Gravity

    Data gravity will apply regardless of whether you are migrating the whole stack or just part of it. To assess the data gravity of your application, calculate the rate of change. As a general rule, if your rate of change is greater than, or equal to, your bandwidth, the migration likely will fail. That's because the rate of change refers to everything coming into the app; it's gaining gravity as the rate comes in. The bandwidth is like the escape velocity it requires to get off the ground to migrate. You need a high enough bandwidth to overtake that rate of change.
    Assess Your Application's Data Gravity
  • Understand How Your Application Is Connected to Other Apps

    Few apps are an island. Before you choose the application to migrate, check the coupling and connectivity of your application to other applications. Migrating "App A" may require migrating closely coupled "App B" and "App C" as well if they won't be able to handle the increased latency from being pulled apart. There's no magic formula for assessing this checkbox; just knowing your architecture, how everything connects and how closely those apps need to be coupled to run efficiently is key to a successful migration.
    Understand How Your Application Is Connected to Other Apps
  • Do Judge an App by Its Disk Format

    When migrating entire VMs, your disk format may need to be converted as you move from one cloud (or system) to another. AWS uses AMI, which is different from VMware VMDK, which is different from Microsoft VHD. Be sure you have converter tools and know how to do the conversion if you're migrating entire virtual disks.
    Do Judge an App by Its Disk Format
  • Network Services: Firewalls, Load Balancers and IPS

    Whether it's compliance or app scalability, moving to the cloud means you'll have to use whatever network services your cloud provider has available. If you're required to have an intrusion prevention system (IPS), make sure that your security vendor or your cloud provider has something for you to use. Be sure you are able to convert the data that you already have to the cloud provider's format.
    Network Services: Firewalls, Load Balancers and IPS
  • Software Services Updates Required

    This includes OS/app patching and antivirus. However you're doing these currently will likely need to be revisited for how you will check these off in the future. The tools and procedures you currently use and have documented will need to be updated. That's true not only if you're migrating to a new cloud, as your software services still need to be reassessed going from private physical to private cloud, cloud to cloud or physical to virtual.
    Software Services Updates Required
  • Backups Are an App's Best Friend

    Enterprises are used to a certain level or grade of backup policy. Those policies will be different in the cloud, so before migrating be sure to update your procedures and be ready for change. Your provider may have recommended best practices and/or unique options available based on the location to which you are migrating.
    Backups Are an App's Best Friend
  • Prevent Lock-In Before It's Too Late

    The general rule of thumb is to make sure that if you put your data somewhere that you still own the data. That place should be somewhere that you are able to exit at any time with your data. More than just the data, this should also apply to things like configurations, performance statistics and other metadata that could be useful if and when you leave the provider. Always have an exit strategy because you never know when you will need it.
    Prevent Lock-In Before It's Too Late
  • Connectivity Is Important

    As stated previously, few apps are an island. It's rare for enterprises not to have some sort of private connectivity to their cloud provider. Different cloud providers may have different connectivity options and restrictions available. Make sure that your new provider has the level of connectivity that you require. If the connectivity is particularly important, make sure it's part of the service-level agreement.
    Connectivity Is Important
  • Do Your P2V Homework

    When moving specifically from a physical system to a virtual system or a physical system to the cloud, always follow physical-to-virtual (P2V) best practices. This means reading up on any software tuning that needs to be done and removing any legacy software that pertains to the physical world. Don't forget things like battery backup software for your physical system. This should be done before the migration.
    Do Your P2V Homework
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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