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4 Tips for Migrating Servers to Azure

James Lee
James Lee

Thinking of migrating servers to Azure and looking for some tips to achieve a successful migration? Here are some key considerations to help you with your migration — and the ways the Azure Migrate service can help you out.

I’m going to include tips I’ve picked up from my time consulting with organizations migrating to Azure, as well as some content I share when instructing students on Azure architecture and migrations.

1. Plan where you land

It’s so easy to build things in the cloud these days. And it’s becoming increasingly easy to migrate applications, data, and servers to Azure. Whether that’s from your on-premises environment, other cloud platforms, or even your Hyper-V or VMware lab in your garage!

With so many tools to help you migrate, it’s simple to start small. And that’s a great idea. Migrate a small workload to Azure, and build your confidence and processes before larger migrations.

Before you know it, you have several workloads migrated to Azure. So what’s the problem?

Fast-forward six months down the track. Maybe you have resource groups with different naming conventions, servers with “TEST” in the name, and management asking you to get the bill under control. You have so much stuff here now, and no-one knows who is responsible for what.

So before you begin, plan where you land. Take some time to agree on what the environment needs to look like in the future. Use Azure Policy to enforce standards. Maybe set up a hub-and-spoke virtual network with a centralized firewall. Configure custom RBAC roles to support your individual security access requirements.

I’ve seen this step missed in many environments, and it’s a lot of work to try tack it on at the end. It’s much easier to do right at the beginning before any production workloads exist.

2. Keep an eye on dependencies

OK. So you’ve planned and configured your environment. You know where you’ll land. Let’s get started with migrating some small workloads, and get this show on the road.

Maybe you start with a low-risk, low-priority marketing application. You’re pretty sure that it’s hosted on SERVER1 all by itself. It’s a standalone solution.

Or is it? Wasn’t there that other server someone built to integrate data from the finance team?

When you’re migrating servers to Azure, server interdependencies matter. Fortunately, the Azure Migrate Assessment tool helps you find them. With the Dependency Analysis feature, we can gain visual data about processes and connections running within your environment.

Ah-hah! SERVER1 has a connection over port 1433 to SERVER2 as well. Looks like we need to migrate these servers together as a group.

3. Assess and predict pricing

You’ve created a group within using the Assessment tool, and it now includes all the servers you need to migrate for your marketing application. You want to know if it’s possible to migrate, and management wants to know the cost. Using the Azure Migrate: Server Assessment tool, we can answer both of these questions.

Firstly, the readiness assessment is going to calculate the suitability of the machines we want to migrate to Azure. This will help identify whether there are any issues such as unsupported operating systems, disk stores which are too large, or network interface limits. 

Secondly, we can use intelligent features of the Assessment tool in order to predict the costs of running these machines within Azure. This will take into consideration a range of factors such as the pricing model you use, and whether you have hybrid licensing. Using Performance-Based sizing, you can even monitor your machines over days to get a high-confidence recommendation for the VM family, and resources (cores, RAM, storage) that you will need.  

4. Remember: To a hammer, everything is a nail

Now that you know what you’re going to migrate, how much it will cost, and you have the green-light to migrate, you’re ready to go.

Using the Azure Migrate: Server Migration tool, you can enable replication of your machines to Azure, perform test fail-overs, and then migrate the machine once all your testing is complete.

So there’s no denying: the Azure Migrate service is incredibly powerful at helping you successfully migrate to Azure. Azure Migrate supports many tasks you would normally undertake as part of a migration project, but just understand that Microsoft built this tool around the typical needs of migration projects. We shouldn’t build our projects solely around the tool.

What does this really mean? It means that, especially for complex migrations, you’ll achieve the best results by starting with migration planning first and then looking at how the tool (Azure Migrate) can help you achieve your goals. Not the other way around.

Fortunately, Microsoft provides a wealth of valuable information on cloud migrations, and you can find more of that information within the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework. For example, you can learn about activities such as establishing migration goals, engaging key stakeholders, performing acceptance testing, and handing over to operations once everything is complete.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to get started and interested in learning more about the Azure Migrate services to migrate Azure, A Cloud Guru’s Migrating Servers to Azure course is a solid place to start.

Looking for a more foundational overview of Azure or a dive into the design principals that form the basis of Solution Architecture? Check out two of our currently free (and always awesome) Azure courses: Azure Concepts and Azure Architecture Design Concepts.

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