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Yes We Scan. A New Approach to Cloud Migration

Written by James Weir - 14 may 2013

Yes We ScanIf you are familiar with our products, then you will know that our core competency lies in helping users onboard custom software by modelling their stack and then generating templates to their favourite platform (whether that is a virtual datacenter or cloud environment). However, one question our customers keep asking is: "how can I use UForge with my current workloads?"  In other words, how can they leverage UForge's ability to generate images for any environment to migrate these workloads to other environments without having to re-model the stacks from scratch?

Cloud migration is not new but remains a big topic of conversation. As the battle between public cloud players rages, the ability to allow users to move "legacy" applications to a specific cloud vendor, as well as move workloads from one cloud to another, is increasingly relevant.  Even AWS sees this as an important feature. As early as 2010 they brought out a VM import tool to be able to move VMware VM instances to AWS EC2.

There are many things to consider when migrating applications to the cloud: which application should be moved? Should all or only part of the service be moved (leaving some of the service behind the corporate firewall within a VPN)? The migration path will be different for each organisation and application. So much so that many companies are now providing services to help you through this process, for example, MomentumSI's migration framework.

When you boil it down, you typically have three options:

  1. Migrate your data to an existing SaaS solution.
  2. Re-build from scratch.
  3. Migrate "As Is".

This blog from GoGrid's partner - Racemi, goes into these approaches in more detail.

If you choose #2, then UForge is ideal for building software stacks for your target environment. Today, however, we're going to look at #3 in more detail: migrating "as is". There are many tools on the market that will help you migrate your current systems. Some tools scoop up only the application/middleware layer, effectively removing the dependency on the operating system and the underlying hypervisors.  Other tools copy your machine byte by byte, converting the disk to the new environment as they go and re-deploying.

In both cases, the following issues need to be resolved:

  1. Networking configuration information needs to be removed or reset to correctly boot in the new environment (unless you wish to keep the old network configuration as you have set up a private VPN).
  2. Specific drivers/tools of environment A (e.g. VMware tools) must be removed and new drivers/tools added for environment B (e.g. AMI tools).
  3. Specific disk partitioning/storage differences from each environment need to be handled.

Furthermore, if you wish to move from a public cloud provider that uses para-virtualization (e.g. AWS) then the tool needs to be sophisticated enough to re-inject the correct kernel back into the image. We're currently working on a new migration service that aims to address some of these issues.

Migration: A New Approach

The current crop of migration tools has varying degrees of success with the above problems.  Some of the more sophisticated migration tools on the market, including Racemi and AppZero do a good job at migrating existing systems.  "Traditional" migration tools such as these effectively move a "black box" instance from one platform to another. Consequently you are still none the wiser on the internal packages and licensing of the workload you're migrating. That's where UShareSoft's new migration service really comes into its own: leveraging our existing expertise in software modelling.

It will "deep scan" a live system and report back the meta-data of every file and package that makes up the running workload.

Migration Process

Now in some cases such traceability may not be a real issue, but having the capability to re-capture the workload’s package meta-data opens the doors to new interesting use-cases. One that pops to mind is in the space of managed hosting.

Many hosting providers are now rolling out new public cloud services. One of their goals is to capture new customers, but with a longer-term objective of switching these customers to their managed hosting service.  Currently, when a customer decides to make the switch, then the hosting provider must re-create the customer's stack from scratch, and include the necessary tools for ongoing management, monitoring and maintenance.

The ability to scan a live system, understand its contents and be able to change or add individual components prior to the final migration can save a lot of time and effort.

Understanding the meta-data and package content of the stack you are migrating opens up new possibilities, for example you can:

  • Determine if there are any new OS package updates to apply before the migration
  • Add or inject extra packages to help in management and maintenance prior to the migration
  • Import the scan as a model, allowing you to share it with colleagues or commercially through a marketplace
  • Carry out incremental scans and compare the two scans for any changes – helping to detect if someone has accidentally (manually) changed something on the system.
  • Equalise this scan with another live system for disaster recovery and back-up

These are some of the areas that the UShareSoft team is exploring.  As the migration service is rolled out over the next few months, we'll be starting to add some of these features.  I hope to share more with you in a future post.

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Classified in : Cloud Computing, Technology - Tags : migration, vm import, cloud migration, scan, UForge

1 comment

tuesday 04 june 2013 @ 12:14 Eddie Mayan said : #1

Cloud Migration BY is really helpful tips for me and again I found more useful ideas by you.

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