What is cloud migration?

Cloud migration is the process of moving applications, infrastructure, data, and other workloads from on-premises locations—such as company data centers—to cloud environments, or from one cloud to another. The term is most commonly used to describe on-premises-to-cloud transitions, but cloud-to-cloud moves are increasingly important, too.

A cloud migration plan may designate a public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud as the destination for the assets in question. The types of cloud migration range from relatively simple rehosting (also known as lift-and-shift) operations, to more complex rearchitecting initiatives—during which apps are rebuilt to harness the power of cloud computing APIs—and several options in between.

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What is the purpose of cloud migration?

No matter the particular cloud environments or workloads involved, the goal of every migration strategy is essentially the same: to deliver some combination of increased operational scalability, flexibility, performance, and cost savings compared to the previous setup.

When a company moves to the cloud, it often does so to overcome limitations and burdens related to its use of legacy infrastructure, to pursue digital transformation initiatives, and to deliver new solutions and services to customers. By moving beyond legacy IT infrastructure, organizations can ensure better capacity planning without having to own and maintain the underlying hardware. More specifically, a cloud migration plan can address the following risks:

  • Aging IT infrastructure does not always deliver the features or performance necessary for reliably serving employees and customers (especially as they take up a hybrid work strategy), keeping up with competitors or generally enabling digital transformation.
  • Older hardware and software may also be likelier to expose sensitive data to harm than newer, cloud-based alternatives. That’s because they may lack the latest security updates or are simply built on older technologies that are inherently easier to attack.
  • Managing legacy systems can be costly, since virtually everything is done in-house. Servers must be updated, applications secured and patched, and capacity scaled—tasks that can require not only significant upfront capital expenditures but expensive ongoing maintenance, too.

Cloud migration lets organizations grow beyond such limits imposed by their on-site datacenters and the assets housed within them. For example, a cloud migration plan may be designed to enable more resilient disaster recovery than would be possible with self-hosted infrastructure, or to dependably deliver real-time SaaS collaboration applications to an increasingly remote workforce, instead of hosting business apps on-site.

What are the benefits of cloud migration?

With proper cloud migration planning and the right supporting solution services, a cloud migration strategy can set organizations up for more sustainable, cost-effective operations, with benefits across these main areas:

Operational flexibility

Successful cloud migration helps IT more easily deliver applications to end users, when and where they need them. Cloud-delivered applications can be scaled for reliable access around the world, without the distinct limits and unique complications of legacy infrastructure. Security updates and general maintenance are also much more streamlined. It all adds up to more flexible, sustainable operations that can better support customers, not to mention geographically distributed workforces.

Resource scalability

Whether due to a merger or acquisition, a sudden influx of new customers or a series of changes in workload requirements, an organization may need to provide additional IT resources to its users for their common use cases. Cloud computing platforms make it easier to procure and scale compute, storage, and networking resources on-demand, without having to procure and set up the physical infrastructure and connectivity contracts required in on-premises paradigms.

Cost savings

Cloud computing providers sell most of their services via operating expenditure business models, with customer spend tied to real consumption (prepayment commitments, like those for instance reservations, are also available on some platforms). This setup can save companies money by eliminating costly capital expenditures at a capacity that might not be fully utilized. Upgrades and maintenance are also bundled into the cost of cloud computing services, saving IT time and money.

Workload Performance

The scalable, versatile resources of cloud computing services can improve the performance of some workloads in multiple ways. First, cloud infrastructure may be delivered from multiple geographically distributed facilities, allowing applications to use whichever one(s) are closest to their end users, thereby reducing latency. Cloud applications will provide access to a deeper and broader pool of resources, APIs, and security protections than their on-premises counterparts, letting IT maintain performance even with heavy usage.


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How does cloud migration work?

A clear, detailed cloud migration plan is the starting point for any successful cloud migration strategy. It should map out all of the objectives and steps involved in moving assets to the cloud, or between clouds, setting the stage for the organization and its technology partners to begin adjusting the identified workloads.

Although migration projects vary greatly in type and scope, they usually include some or all of the following actions, which will be outlined in the cloud migration plan:

  • Goal setting: What should the cloud migration achieve, and what KPIs will be used in evaluating its success? Is it meant to lower costs, improve performance, support digital transformation, or some combination thereof?
  • Cost and time calculations: It’s important to determine how much the migration may cost and how long it will take. These determinations help inform the choice of vendors and migration solutions.
  • Security and performance due diligence: Since cloud environments have distinct security and performance characteristics, cloud migration planning must address changes to how workloads will run and be secured, with a focus on what new hardware and software may need to be deployed.
  • Data migration: Existing databases will be moved into cloud environments, to databases of the same or a different type. Cloud service providers may offer specialized services and tools to minimize database downtime and simplify the overall transition.
  • Network transformation with SD-WAN: SD-WANs will replace hub-and-spoke MPLS WANs with complex, inefficient architectures that backhaul all their traffic through data centers for inspection. An SD-WAN can use any type of transport (broadband, MPLS, cellular, satellite) and enables direct internet access (DIA) between end-users and applications in the cloud for a better experience.
  • Additional moves, adds, and changes: Beyond databases, other infrastructure and applications will need to be moved, possibly as-is or with some more in-depth changes so that they work optimally in their new cloud computing environments.

Once all of these steps are completed, production can shift from the on-premises environment to the cloud.

What are the different types of cloud migrations?

Cloud migration may take several forms. Because cloud migration can seem so daunting at first—with lots of servers, configurations, and apps to move across environments and the success of the company hanging in the balance—it’s common for organizations to start small, with a workload that doesn’t need to be completely architected.

From there, they may pursue more complicated migration paths. Alternatively, a company may choose a complex migration strategy from the start due to its particular business requirements and the nature of the assets being moved.

The primary types of cloud migration are:

  • Rehosting: An existing app, server, or OS is moved as-is to a cloud server offered by an IaaS provider. This is the most straightforward migration path.
  • Re-platforming: The asset is moved while some minor optimizations are made to its middleware, APIs, OS, or other attributes to make it run better in the cloud.
  • Refactoring: The asset’s existing code is modified to run better in the cloud, with possible support from technologies such as containers and PaaS solutions.
  • Rebuilding: Teams completely rebuilt the app or workload from scratch using PaaS, so that it is cloud native.
  • Retiring: An unneeded legacy app is retired in favor of a more convenient SaaS equivalent.
  • Retaining: An on-premises app is retained, run alongside, and/or connected to cloud computing services as part of a hybrid approach.

What are the common challenges of cloud migration?

Challenges in cloud migrations encompass various issues in data integrity and security, business continuity, cost overruns, interoperability, and portability:

Data integrity and security

When data is moved from an on-premises environment into the cloud, it needs to maintain its integrity after arriving at its destination. Moreover, it must not leak or be intercepted along the way. Ensuring such data integrity and security is more challenging in light of the vast scope of migration projects, which often involve the movement of very large databases.

Business continuity

Business-critical systems need to remain available during cloud migrations, to avoid having the benefits of the cloud upgrade canceled out by costly downtime. Creating redundancy and moving assets one by one, instead of all at once, is a typical approach for ensuring that cloud migrations don’t jeopardize business continuity.

Cost overruns

If workloads are moved to the cloud without proper planning, they can cause sticker shock. For example, an on-premises app that runs all the time in the datacenter would rack up major operating expenditure charges if shifted to the cloud without any significant changes. Overprovisioning is another major source of cost overrun in the cloud.

Interoperability and portability

As multi-cloud environments become more common, organizations have to ensure that the workloads they want to move can actually be moved. Cloud service providers may maintain different requirements and paths for migrated applications, making it important to find migration solutions guaranteed to work with the targeted cloud(s).

Citrix solutions for cloud migration

Citrix offers multiple solutions for making cloud migrations as streamlined as possible. With a focus on security, scalability, reliability, and performance, organizations can easily migrate to major clouds such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Specific offerings include the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop Standard for Azure, Citrix ADC, and the Citrix Automated Configuration Management Tool.

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