Plan ahead when moving a virtual or physical workload to Azure

In order to smoothly move either a virtualized or physical workload to a public cloud, a lot of planning is required before the migration.

Apart from adopting virtualization to reduce the cost of infrastructure hardware, organizations are also looking for options to migrate physical workloads to public clouds, such as Amazon ECS and Windows Azure.

One of the primary reasons to move a physical workload to a public cloud is that you don't need to procure new hardware when you want to deploy new virtual server instances that can't be accommodated on the existing virtualization infrastructure. Another reason is public clouds provide flexibility in scaling up and scaling down workloads as needed. Apart from reducing the infrastructure cost, IT workloads migrated to a public cloud will be available to all business users over the Internet and be accessible from anywhere in the world.

Can all physical workloads be moved to public cloud?

According to a Gartner report, 80% of organizations will move some workloads to public clouds by the end of 2017 to form a hybrid cloud. But that doesn't necessarily mean that organizations will move all IT workloads to the public cloud by end of 2017. Organizations are leaning toward moving all physical workloads to public clouds, but not all workloads can be considered good candidates for the move.

Since public clouds can run only virtual instances, moving physical workloads to a public cloud would require you to convert physical instances to virtual instances. There are a number of tools available that do the job of converting a physical server to a virtual machine. These tools would also assist in retaining all OS settings and software installed on the physical instances. Some tools would also help in moving workloads to a public cloud. It is important to note that these tools can be used solely for the conversion purposes. Conversion tools are not designed to provide a report to understand if the applications running on these physical servers are eligible to be migrated to a public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure.

As for moving virtualized workloads to a public cloud, there are a few organizations that are still running line-of-business applications on local virtualization hosts that cannot be moved for several reasons. However, there are a number of virtual machines (VMs) that can be moved to a public cloud without impacting the business. Here's a list of the best candidates to be moved to a public cloud:

  • VMs that are non-critical
  • VMs that are not adversely affected by network latency
  • VMs that do not require frequent connectivity to the on-premises network
  • VMs that host a web role and need to be available to users around the world
  • VMs that are running non-resource intensive applications

All in all, a non-critical application, whether it is running on a physical or virtual instance, can be easily taken to the cloud without much planning, but what about the resource-intensive applications such as SQL, Active Directory and SharePoint applications? You would be required to take several things into consideration before these critical applications can be moved to Microsoft Azure.

Planning is key

Preparing a list of workloads and deciding whether those can be moved to Microsoft Azure requires an assessment of the existing environment. A manual assessment might take a considerable amount of time. Even if you are able to prepare a list of workloads to be migrated to Microsoft Azure, you would need to consider Azure's requirements. For example, Microsoft Azure does not support migrating virtualized workloads that are using the VHDX virtual hard disk format. Similarly, a VHD disk that is more than 1 TB in size and a VM that is using more than 16 cores is not supported by Microsoft Azure.

Before you decide to convert physical instances to virtual instances, you would need to make sure that physical instances are running an operating system that is supported by Microsoft Azure. It is also important to note that all your data residing on the D drive will be lost, as Microsoft Azure will use that drive for pagefile and temporary operations. Most of the organizations have BitLocker enabled on the Windows OS drives, but keep in mind that Microsoft Azure does not support BitLocker on System drives. It is also worth mentioning that VMs running on Azure do not support some Windows Server roles and features such as DHCP, Hyper-V, Routing and Remote Access Service, Windows Failover Clustering, Windows Internet Naming Service, Network Load Balancing and Simple Network Management Protocol. So, before obtaining a tool for converting physical to virtual machines, you would need to adhere to the requirements imposed by Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft offers Azure Readiness Tools

Microsoft offers necessary tools that provide you the flexibility in assessing the physical and virtual environment before deciding to move the workloads to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft offers several tools for planning and doing an assessment of the current environment, as well as readiness reports on the workloads eligible to be moved to Microsoft Azure. There are two important tools provided by Microsoft that can be handy when deciding to move workloads to Microsoft Azure: Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines Readiness Assessment Tool and Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. These tools would assist in inspecting your on-premises environment and provide a detailed report on the steps that you need to take before you be ready to move workloads to Microsoft Azure.

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