Migrating Microsoft workloads: One of the biggest opportunities in IT?

 Digital cloud raining binary code
Digital cloud raining binary code

CTO’s have arguably never had so much innovative and transformational technology at their fingertips as they do today. From artificial intelligence and large language models (LLM) to cloud computing technology, the opportunity for organizations to deliver real transformational change has never been greater.

One of the biggest opportunities in IT today is in fact migrating from on-premise Microsoft workloads onto the cloud, with 48% of businesses forecasted to make the shift in the next two years.

While slightly less glamorous than AI and LLM, Microsoft workloads have been the backbone of organizations' IT strategies for decades. They supported the digital innovation of the noughties and 2010’s and have paved the way for the technology we have today.

Surprisingly, however, 70% of all Enterprise Applications are Microsoft-based and over three quarters of those are still running on-premise today. The impact of this on organizations is they will likely also be relying on legacy dotnet versions running on Windows Server and SQL Server databases licensed with an Enterprise Agreement – which is both costly and inefficient.

Businesses that remain running on these workloads on prem face a range of challenges; the inability to scale their IT infrastructure for peaks in demand (unless they’re willing to spend a lot to do it), typically high operational and maintenance costs for their growing on-premise technology, inability to be agile without wholesale code changes, and not being able to digitally transform quick enough, impacting their ability to remain competitive.

Despite these barriers for growth, the question of whether to migrate Microsoft workloads, particularly onto non-Microsoft cloud services like AWS, can be a difficult one for CTOs to answer. It may seem like the obvious choice to migrate to Microsoft Azure, but, AWS is running more Microsoft applications and at a better price.

So, what does migrating Microsoft workloads with AWS look like?

The first step is understanding what needs to be migrated and what workloads can be retired. Applications can then begin to be reallocated to EC2 Windows Servers and then ultimately to ECS/Lambda. This supports the lift and shift process, including SQL Server databases, which for most enterprises delivers immediate benefits, like reducing costs and increasing agility. The temptation for many organizations here, however, is to pause the transformation journey once they have realized the immediate return on investment of a successful lift and shift.

Like any journey onto the cloud, however, the true benefits of the technology comes following the modernization and platform optimization phase, unlocking benefits such as including improved agility, speed to market, reduced cost, better scalability and reduced energy consumption.

Achieving this can be done, to some extent, through re-platforming, whereby organisations migrate their applications without making wholesale changes to the architecture or code. This approach also means organisations can migrate their on-premise SQL Server databases to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). In doing so, businesses can continue using SQL Server but are no longer required to undertake time intensive tasks such as installation, patching, configuration and updates. However, the costly licensing fees attached to SQL Server will continue.

Taking it one step further

But for the full benefits of cloud, re-factoring and re-platforming, which typically involves application changes and entire re-architecture strategies, is the step which allows organizations to truly unlock the potential of cloud technology.

Here, businesses that no longer want to continue paying the licensing costs for SQL Server can move their database across to AWS Aurora, a fully-managed database built for the cloud, and AWS Babelfish, which allows Aurora to understand queries from applications written for SQL Server, completing the database modernization.

Meanwhile to re-platform a business’ applications, converting it to dotnet core and running the application on AWS’ Linux instead of Windows not only saves on the Windows Server license fee, but it also allows further re-architecture for greater modernization, and supports organizations in becoming fully cloud native. This means breaking down existing and legacy monoliths into more maintainable microservices, allowing each microservice to adapt and grow independently. Having a clean separation between microservices allows developers to focus on individual services without it impacting the broader system.

Crucially, microservices also allow applications to communicate with one another via events. Put simply, when one application or service emits an event, other applications can be notified and decide whether or not they need to do anything with that data.

Final thoughts

It’s easy for CTOs to look at the exciting innovations happening in our industry, such as AI, and be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and find ways of implementing it into their own businesses. But, where the biggest opportunity lies in making sure legacy systems are modernized to take advantage of benefits that support wider business growth. In doing so, CTOs are setting their businesses up for long-term future success.

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