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Cloud Migration

Modernize your apps with Migrate for Anthos

December 9, 2019
Xiaowen Xin

Product Manager

Yuri Grinshteyn

Site Reliability Engineer, CRE

In a perfect cloud world, you would host all your applications in containers running on Kubernetes and Istio, benefitting from the portability and improved resource utilization of containers, plus a robust orchestration platform with advanced application management, networking, and security functionality. This is easy to do if you’re developing a new application, but it can be hard for existing applications to take advantage of those capabilities.

Many of the applications that you may want to move to the cloud have been around a long time, and you may not have the application-specific knowledge that would be required to rewrite them to be more cloud-native—or it would be incredibly time-consuming to do so. Another option is to lift-and-shift to a virtual machine (VM) hosting platform like Compute Engine, but that means you still need to maintain the VMs. Even if you're not able to fully modernize an existing app, it would still be great to get some of the benefits of containers and Kubernetes.

What is Migrate for Anthos?

Enter Migrate for Anthos, a fast and easy way to modernize your existing applications with a service that encapsulates them in a container. Moving your physical servers or existing VMs into Kubernetes containers gives you crucial portability and resource utilization benefits without having to rewrite the underlying application. Since Migrate for Anthos is built for Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), you also automatically capture the scaling and flexibility benefits of a managed Kubernetes environment in the cloud. Migrate for Anthos recently became generally available.

Converting an application with Migrate for Anthos happens in two phases. First, it creates a generic container wrapper around your application that makes it seem like it is still running in a full VM environment. Then, you launch Migrate for Anthos software on your Kubernetes cluster that runs the containerized application. You can find more details about this in the documentation and in our blog post: Migrating from Compute Engine to Kubernetes Engine with Migrate for Anthos.

As the name suggests, Migrate for Anthos works with Anthos GKE. However, you can also use Migrate for Anthos with only GKE—all it  requires is your application and a GKE cluster running the Migrate for Anthos software. 

Getting started with Migrate for Anthos

Migrate for Anthos works with a variety of workloads, but not all. It’s particularly adept at migrating legacy applications, stand-alone applications, and monolithic applications. As you start start the modernization process, here are some questions to ask to determine whether to use Migrate for Anthos with your applications:

1. Should this app be in the cloud?
By its nature, the cloud may not be able to support some characteristics of your on-prem environment, such as geography and legal compliance. The best way to find out whether the cloud will work for each of your applications is to plan out a full migration. That will allow you to identify groups of applications that can benefit from cloud offerings such as a global network and ease of resizing resources. After that, try out a proof of concept by testing the apps in the cloud to see if it fits your business needs.

2. Should this app be in Kubernetes?
Containerizing an application simplifies workload administration, improves scalability (both up and down), and increases host utilization. Kubernetes orchestrates the containers and GKE handles node upgrades, while add-ons like Istio let you manage network and security policies independently of your application.

With those advantages it's easy to think that containers are always the right way to go, but there are some cases where it may make sense to stick with VMs. Strict hardware requirements, specialized kernel modules, and license constraints may be harder to run with containers, negating their advantages.

3. Should this app migration use Migrate for Anthos?
Migrating your apps or workloads to the cloud isn’t just about shifting where the compute resources run; it's also an opportunity to modernize them with containers. Using Migrate for Anthos (or Migrate for Compute Engine) gives you the ability to get your workloads in the cloud quickly, with minimal upfront downtime that’s easy to plan for. 

However, even if you use the Migrate for Anthos wrapper, your application is still the same application. The benefits of the modern platform may not outweigh a legacy application and a rewrite may be the only way to meet your business needs. There are also some specific services from your VM that may not work with Migrate for Anthos, for example licensing requirements.

Migrate for Anthos can also be the first step on a larger migration effort. Once you’ve migrated the application to GKE, you can gradually break up a monolithic app into microservices by manually rewriting parts. Spreading out the migration effort gets you in the cloud sooner, giving you more time to modernize.

Next steps

A successful modernization starts with creating a full migration plan, testing the workloads, and monitoring them. You can experience the benefits of modernization with Migrate for Anthos by picking a small workload and trying it out for yourself!

As you test different workloads for your migration, be sure to reference the documentation. And keep an eye out for an upcoming blog series on the migration process. Our first blog steps through how to modernize a Compute Engine instance and host it on GKE.

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