Why run Windows Workloads in the Cloud?

Actually the question is not “why?” but “when?


Microsoft workloads have, for a long time, formed the basis of enterprise business, and will continue to do so into the future. However, the days of owning assets with a limited lifespan are coming to an end. Why constantly buy, refresh and manage IT assets when you can just consume the required IT services on a pay as you go model?


In the same way we don’t grow our own food - we buy and consume what we need as we need it. This is not only practical, but it also delivers significant benefits: highly reliable, food security, broader choice, a better experience, lots of purchasing options and definitely much lower overall cost.


Six Very Good Reasons


When transitioning from an IT ownership to IT service model, a recent survey* from IDC distilled and quantified the Six Very Good Reasons to move Windows workloads, specifically to the AWS Cloud. In summary, they are:

  1. Higher Reliability & Performance

  2. Greater Security & Identity Management

  3. More Integration Experience

  4. Broadest & Deepest Capabilities

  5. Lower Total Cost of ‘Ownership’

  6. Flexible Windows Licensing Options


*Business Value of Efficiently Running High-Performing Windows Workloads in the AWS Cloud, IDC Whitepaper, June 2019. You can read the full digest here and download the full report.


What is the process?


There are four stages on the Journey: Assessment > Migration > Optimisation > Modernisation - and the good news is:

a) you can take them all at your own pace,

b) PolarSeven is able to help you every step of the way, and

c) Modernisation can completely release you from the Windows-ecosphere.



Assessment


The first stage is to assess the value that you will get by migrating to the Cloud, and as you might expect, there is a tool for that. Over a 4-6 week period we create a clear picture of how the components of your environment interact with each other. After this collection period, the data can be exported and analysed with you to help you better understand your workloads and provide an estimate of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of running on AWS. The data is tagged and grouped into applications with three distinct benefits:

  • It helps to organise AWS migration planning.

  • Loaded into AWS Migration Hub, it can be used to track progress as servers are migrated to AWS.

  • In association with Migrator Evaluator, the information helps build a data-driven business case for migration.

Once you are convinced of the advantages of moving to the Cloud, you can start planning the journey in earnest, and if half the effort of migration is technology-related - the other half is people-related. Read our Six Perspectives on Planning for Cloud Migration to ensure you are as ready as you can be from an organisational perspective.


Migration

It is worthwhile learning about the different migration strategies and investigating whether a Cloud Centre of Excellence is right for your organisation. Time invested in working out how to exploit Cloud native technologies and implement these as part of the migration will pay dividends in the long run.


However, if you are on a burning platform (so to speak) or you cannot afford to change existing code, start with a straightforward re-host (lift and shift) and run everything in Virtual Machines (VM) and initially enjoy the benefits of scalable infrastructure and a licensing model where you consume only what you need. The key objective of this stage is to get everything into the AWS Cloud enabling you to release all that technical debt.


If you rely on Active Directory (AD) for identity and access management you can use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft AD, a managed Microsoft Active Directory in the AWS Cloud, to manage directory-aware workloads on Amazon EC2 and RDS for SQL Server.


There are a number of licensing options available: Bring your own license (BYOL), Pay as you go, and dedicated licensing for bespoke environments. A full licensing review is completed as part of the assessment, and you may find for example that you no longer require an SQL enterprise license and can save yourself a small fortune. This is discussed in greater detail in our p7-OLA Blog.


Optimisation


Now you have all your “stuff” in the Cloud, you’ll want to take away some of the management overhead, and exploit the elasticity, availability and agility that Cloud services provide. One of the easiest ways to do this, and one which still requires no code changes, is to re-platform from VMs to Containers.


Think of a container as a small bespoke, but empty, rocket - which contains everything you need to launch a payload. The AWS Container is complete with App, bins and libraries, but doesn’t do anything until you give it a workload and launch it. You can set AWS to launch as many or a few Containers as your particular workload demands at any given time.


This optimisation empowers you with:

  • Elasticity: the ability to respond to spikes in customer demand

  • Availability: the ability to serve customers’ requests wherever and whenever

  • Agility: the ability to quickly fix a problem or deploy new functionality that customers want

For developers, containers allow them to focus on building the application, and for IT Management containers provide the lowest cost model of operation, as you only pay for what you use.


Another optimisation step is to move to a Managed Database Service such as Amazon RDS-SQL. You can use Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to turn your Microsoft SQL Server deployment into a managed service—AWS will handle administrative tasks such as hardware provisioning, patching, backups, and more - saving you further administrative time, and infrastructure costs.


Modernisation

Having moved your Windows Workloads off your on-premise servers, the final step is to refactor your applications into a serverless model, and move to an open source platform such as Linux. In most cases, you will want to move through these steps so that your IT Strategy remains aligned to your Business Strategy and in practice modernisation might initially be designated as a ‘future project’. Below is an example of use cases for migrating and modernising Microsoft Workloads - which might typically take place over a number of years.



When you are ready, AWS provides an open-source framework for building serverless applications called AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM). It provides shorthand syntax to express functions, APIs, databases, and event source mappings. With just a few lines per resource, you can define the application you want and model it using YAML. Like all open-source environments, you can find and leverage new applications in the AWS Serverless Application Repository and contribute your own.


You can of course, also continue to develop and enhance bespoke Windows applications by using .NET-Core to re-code components to take advantage of Cloud-native services for performance improvement. Building .NET applications on AWS using .NET-Core allows you to leverage Cloud agility and automation to complete and deploy projects faster, with lower risk. All the same tools you use on-premises are available, including a broad range of APIs, toolkits for Microsoft Visual Studio and PowerShell, and a .NET Developer Center.


On the database side, you can move from the all-purpose SQL Server to a scalable, high performance Cloud-native database purpose-built for the objects being stored. For example:

  • Amazon Aurora: a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database.

  • Amazon DynamoDB: a key-value and document database that delivers low latency at scale.

  • Amazon Neptune: a fast, reliable, fully managed graph database service.

  • Amazon Redshift: a data warehouse that makes it easy to gain new insights from all your data.


How to get started?


Everyone’s journey to the Cloud will be different, but whatever stage you are at on your journey, PolarSeven can help you progress from one stage to the next.


Or, if you don’t know where to start, PolarSeven can help you take your first step with a p7-OLA - PolarSeven’s Optimisation & Licensing Assessment - which can tell you how much you stand to gain by moving your Windows Workloads.


Read more about p7-OLA, or book a meeting where we can discuss your unique circumstances.