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In my last post, I noted how Microsoft IT’s cloud migration strategy evolved several times during its journey to the cloud, and how the hybrid approach eventually won out.

While our migration resulted in faster application development, enhanced operational efficiency, and cost savings, every cloud migration is unique and comes with certain tradeoffs. Inspired by the ongoing video series, “Expedition Cloud; Microsoft’s Journey to the Cloud,” I want to share some insights from Microsoft’s strategy in the context of efficiency, simplification, and cost.

The Microsoft IT strategy

As you build your cloud strategy, make sure to look not only at the application portfolio, but also at what the portfolio is using in the current environments. This allows you to rationalize, reduce, and retire as you go to cut costs when you get to the cloud.

In the latest video on developing Microsoft IT’s cloud strategy, Senior Service Rep for Microsoft IT Mel Lowe compared the migration process to moving to a new home.

“It’s as if you have 20–30 years of things you’ve accumulated in your house and you decide that you’re going to downsize and move into this cool condo,” she said. “But if you take all that stuff and you squeeze it into that condo, it’s just going to get in your way. It’s not going to be efficient, and you need to clean it up.”

Half the portfolio Microsoft IT managed consisted of line-of-business applications that required more engineering and analysis before deciding whether and how to move to the cloud. During this analysis is when the cloud application models (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) really came into play.

Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS is the easiest, fastest, and usually the least costly migration model. Initially, Microsoft IT experimented with the simplest applications that also had the lowest business impact. To test these apps in Azure, they lifted and shifted pre-production versions using IaaS, where only the virtual machines (VMs) are moved to the cloud. This allowed the Microsoft team to do low-risk research and testing while establishing policies for migration, management, and monitoring of the app in a hybrid environment.

Platform as a Service

For existing apps with planned investments, Microsoft IT chose to use Azure PaaS, where the organization had to convert its application code to an Azure PaaS solution and deploy it on the PaaS machines.
Like IaaS, PaaS removes the responsibility of maintaining the datacenter and the burden of patches and upgrades from the customer, but it usually requires some redesign of the application. The PaaS approach has other benefits, including scalability, resiliency and the robust identity management provided by Azure Active Directory.

Software as a Service

To truly transform to a cloud-centric model, you need to design your applications specifically for the cloud as SaaS apps. Microsoft IT chose this method for commoditized services such as Dynamics CRM Online, SharePoint, and Exchange, where all the system software and application components are handled by the service provider.
With the SaaS approach, you essentially rent an application from a vendor, and the subscribed service can integrate with the customer’s line-of-business apps. Re-engineering applications for the cloud on your own requires more investment, but it can expose new functionality and efficiencies, reducing costs in the long-term.

Containers

Meanwhile, here’s a new application architecture model that promises to further increase efficiencies. With the container model, apps are packaged in standardized software containers that are highly portable and quickly deployed. Microsoft IT ported several applications to Docker containers running on Azure as a proof of concept. By doing so, the overall infrastructure was reduced by 300 percent.

Microsoft is now well on its way to full cloud adoption with tens of thousands of VMs migrated, a portfolio that runs mostly on the cloud, increasing automation, decreasing support costs and infrastructure incidents. To learn how you can get the most out of your own cloud migration, download the Enterprise Cloud Strategy e-book.

Share your experiences with the Microsoft Partner Community here. Tell us how you planned for new efficiencies while simplifying applications and lowering costs.

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