5 Strategies for Migrating Workloads to Microsoft Azure

Bob Breynaert
5 Strategies for Migrating Workloads to Microsoft Azure

At Equinix, we often see companies develop very sound digital transformation strategies that involve migrating workloads to hyperscale cloud providers. Yet without the right approach, those initiatives may fail to deliver results that are aligned with the commitments made to senior leadership and the board.

We have conducted over a thousand data center migration projects in partnership with leading hyperscale cloud providers over the last ten years, notably Microsoft Azure. Based on these real-world customer experiences, we have identified five best practices for successfully migrating workloads to Microsoft Azure. These approaches have proven to remove much of the complexity behind on-premises data center application and data migrations to the cloud.

Before we delve into these strategies, let’s explore the role that direct and secure private interconnection plays in ensuring data center migration projects achieve their expected results.

The role of interconnection

Many companies address cloud interconnectivity too late in the migration planning process. Addressing interconnection early in the project enables you to build a higher performing, more scalable, secure and cost-effective interconnected-cloud infrastructure. According to the second annual Global Interconnection Index (the GXI), interconnection between enterprises and Cloud and IT Providers is growing annually between 2017 – 2021 at the rapid rate of 98% – and for good reason.[i]

Interconnection enables faster lift and shift of workloads to hyperscale cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, creates more highly performant hybrid architectures, and enables large data sets to be migrated over much reduced timeframes. To ensure the best performance for our Microsoft customers, we work directly with them on a case-by-case basis to evaluate connectivity options to Azure for their specific applications and workloads. We help them leverage Equinix interconnection solutions using Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ best practices on Platform Equinix® and maximize our global footprint of Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers to enable high-speed, low-latency, secure communication across enterprise assets on a global basis.

Key data center migration considerations

As we help our customers’ plan their data center migrations, we discuss the following issues they should consider, all of which can be addressed by putting in place a sound interconnection strategy:

  • Data Migration Challenges: It is important to recognize and plan for the common challenges of moving to public cloud or to hybrid or multicloud architecture. These includes addressing data privacy and regulatory compliance (i.e., HIPPA, GDPR, etc.) requirements, as well as user experience and performance considerations.
  • Being Cloud Ready: Applications should be evaluated to determine if they can be re-platformed or modernized to run in the public cloud or in a hybrid architecture. These decisions are partly dependent on the latency and architecture of the existing network, which dictates whether it will allow for an efficient lift and shift or run effectively in hybrid cloud architectures.
  • Network Optimization: You also need to determine whether your existing network performance, particularly at remote sites, will enable the efficient transfer of large data sets to the cloud. Network optimization is often overlooked and contributes to data center migration project underperformance or failure.

Equinix Professional Services offers practical guidance and proven solutions to help enterprise customers make these evaluations and deliver successful data center migration projects.

5 data center migration use cases and strategies for success

In working with Microsoft customers, we find that data center migrations are typically accomplished via one of the following five use cases, with interconnection playing a key enabling factor in each:

  1. Lift and Shift: In this approach, an application or operation is moved from one environment to another, such as on-premises-to-cloud or cloud-to-cloud, without redesigning the application. You can see this strategy at work in the SAP HANA example below. We engage with customers to lift and shift their workloads to Microsoft Azure through Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute. This provides a low-latency, high-bandwidth private network environment that is optimal for pushing large data sets to Microsoft Azure over a much reduced time period than using the public internet.

Lift and Shift: SAP on Azure


  1. Hybrid Cloud Architectures: In these implementations, you interconnect the on-premises or colocation infrastructures to one or more hyperscale clouds. Equinix has engaged with Microsoft to develop a solution that outlines how to deploy Azure Stack in a high-performance, low-latency hybrid cloud environment, where modern applications can be deployed at the edge while meeting specific security and compliance requirements.

Equinix and Microsoft Azure Stack

  1. Large Data Set Import: Workloads and data sets are often too voluminous to be migrated to Microsoft Azure over a reasonable timeframe, even over a well-optimized network. This includes migration of data from offline media such as tapes, optical drives, hard disks, or film. For these cases, Equinix has developed a data import solution that enables organizations to migrate large data sets to Azure in days versus months. This involves customers loading data onto storage devices such as Azure Data Box, transporting it to an Equinix IBX data center, and then lifting that data to Azure over ECX Fabric and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute.

Equinix and Microsoft Azure Data Box


  1. Cloud-to-Cloud Migration: Multicloud is top of mind for most of today’s enterprise customers. According to the 2019 RightScale State of the Cloud report, 84% of enterprise customers have a multicloud strategy and, on average, organizations are leveraging almost five clouds.[ii] The benefits of a multicloud architecture include: redundancy, scalability and lack of customer lock-in. However, customers often lack the appropriate infrastructure for cloud-to-cloud migration.

Equinix provides customers with a secure, private connection to most cloud service providers (CSPs), significantly reducing the timeframe and associated costs of transferring data from cloud-to-cloud. The example below illustrates how deploying a network edge node in an Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center with ECX Fabric connections to Azure and another CSP enables cloud-to-cloud data transfer and supports primary/secondary storage applications.

Cloud-to-Cloud Big Data Ingest into Azure


  1. Legacy Workload Curation: Workloads that cannot be moved to a hyperscale cloud are curated on-premises or in a colocation environment until the applications are modernized and can be moved. When applications are modernized, they are migrated to Microsoft Azure over ECX Fabric and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute. Colocation with Equinix provides CAPEX and OPEX relief, while enabling enterprise IT organizations to control and phase the migration to Microsoft Azure at the rate in which applications are modernized and hardware goes end of life.

Modernized Application Migration to Microsoft Azure


Final thoughts – bringing it all together

Platform Equinix® – with its advanced interconnection solutions and unmatched global IBX data center footprint – provides an optimal location to anchor data center migration initiatives. The approaches outlined above enable enterprise customers to optimize their network architectures and migrate workloads to Microsoft Azure with speed and agility. Platform Equinix provides IT leaders with the solutions they need to:

  • Lift and shift modernized workloads to Azure and other hyperscale clouds
  • Create highly performant and secure Azure hybrid cloud architectures
  • Move large datasets to the cloud
  • Enable cloud-to-cloud data transfer, including support for primary/secondary storage applications
  • Curate workloads until applications are modernized and are ready to migrate to Azure

Platform Equinix also gives IT organizations the agility and reach they need to rapidly reprioritize projects or shift their geographic execution strategies when they need to adapt to the realities of IT changes, which can include: the pace of application transformation, people readiness and the funding of staged projects.

For more information about Equinix and Microsoft Azure data center migration, contact us at info.microsoft@equinix.com.

[i] A market study published by Equinix, “Global Interconnection Index Volume 2,” 2018.

[ii] RightScale, “Cloud Computing Trends: 2019 State of the Cloud Report,” 2019.

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