Planning for Server Upgrade, Consolidation, Migration or Decommissioning

Chances are you’ve landed here because you are currently on Microsoft 365 and are looking to optimize your resources, reduce costs, improve performance, and even possibly benefit from Azure services through server consolidation and migration. However, more often than not, this endeavor can cause downtime, compatibility issues, data loss, and even face user resistance. In this article, we take you through how best you can plan for said upgrade, consolidation, migration, or decommissioning.

Understanding the Full Cost

Before delving into how you can upgrade, consolidate, migrate, or decommission servers, it’s best that we first examine the full cost of said endeavor.

Software Licensing

Right off the gate, it’s important to mention that software licensing requirements are subject to, among others, the specific software and technologies you’re currently using, the licensing agreements you have going on, and the compliance requirements specific to the industry you are in. Still, there are general considerations that you ought to keep in mind:

  • Operating System Licenses
    The first consideration would be the operating system (OS). Let’s consider a situation where you are migrating from Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019. As a requirement, you are going to need an additional license for this new version.

Oftentimes, you find that businesses are concerned over how much it would cost for the Azure license in comparison to what they are currently paying for in on-prem.

  • Microsoft Server Licensing
    It wouldn’t be too presumptuous to assume that you want to achieve compliance and cost-effectiveness. As such, these are the Microsoft Server Licensing considerations you’ll need to make.

On the Microsoft Server Licensing front, you want to first determine whether you have the flexibility to move your licensing between your on-prem servers to your virtual environment.

  • Microsoft Client Access Licensing (CALs)
    It goes without mentioning that for Microsoft products like Windows Server and SQL Server, you are going to need CALS to access the server resources. It is important to note that the licensing model will vary depending on user/device CALs.

The first step is to update your Windows Server CALS. The intention is to match this to the version you are upgrading to. This applies to when you want to upgrade or migrate your Exchange Server as well.

  • Other Server and User Licensing
    A consideration to make would be whether you need virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) licensing. This is a requirement if your server upgrade does involve virtual desktop infrastructure.

Physical Footprint

A cost implication to consider when planning for the migration is the physical footprint.

At this juncture, it is important to mention that there are several arguments related to the physical footprint that support migration to the cloud.

For starters, you get to reduce the physical hardware footprint of your on premise infrastructure. Further, migrating to the cloud provides scalable resources on-demand meaning you can adjust your server capacity as the need arises.

Additional arguments for migration include just how energy-efficient migrating to the cloud can be as you essentially reduce the cooling requirements on your business. Further, you no longer have to deal with geographical redundancies or grapple with disaster recovery.

What Does It Look Like When All the Licensing is in Azure?

Suppose all your server licensing is in Azure. Essentially, this should make server migration a breeze as the entire process becomes not only streamlined but also straightforward. This is because Azure provides a cohesive environment from where you can manage both your infrastructure and licensing.

Typically, migration will involve:

  • Assessment and planning where you’ll conduct an inventory analysis of your on-prem servers to identify which servers and workloads need to migrate. At this point, you’ll also carry out Azure cost estimation where you’ll be gauging the expected expenses of said migration.

  • Inspection of current Azure subscriptions and licensing. You want to ensure that you have the right Azure subscription in place. This can either be Enterprise Agreements, Pay-As-You-Go or other licensing arrangement. An insider tip would be to take advantage of the Azure Hybrid Benefit program as this would mean your existing Windows Server licenses could be transferred.

When it comes to the migration tools and methods, you can leverage Azure Site Recovery (ASR) as it is a comprehensive solution for all things migration. You can also use Azure Migrate to help you evaluate your on-premises environment to find the best resources for said migration. Finally, you have available to you Azure Database Migration services which you could use for various database platforms including SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and more.

It’s prudent to highlight that since your licensing is already in Azure, your Azure VMs should automatically be licensed as part of the Azure services. Further note that if you’re currently on Azure Hybrid Benefit or you are considering deploying Windows Server VMs, then the Windows Server licensing will be automatically applied.

Azure Services - VPN, LOB Transition

When planning for a server upgrade or migration, it is best that you consider various Azure services, including Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Line of Business (LOB) applications.

The first step would be to conduct an inventory assessment whereby you’ll be conducting an inventory of your existing servers, LOB applications, and network infrastructure. Here, the goal will be to identify which servers and applications you’d like migrated.

An additional step during the assessment and planning would be network assessment. Here, you’ll be looking at your existing network infrastructure to determine whether you meet the network requirements for VPN connectivity.

The next step would be to carry out Azure VPN configuration which might require either site-to-site VPN or point-to-site VPN subject to your current setup.

A vital step is also LOB application assessment where you’ll be checking for application compatibility, licensing, and data dependency.

The final step would be the server migration where you can leverage Azure migration tools such as Azure Site Recovery or Azure Migrate.

Considerations for Server Upgrade, Consolidation, Migration or Decommissioning

Server Upgrade

If you want to upgrade your server, there are a few considerations you need to keep in mind:

  • Hardware Assessment where you’ll evaluate your existing server hardware to determine if it’s capable of supporting the upgrade you are going for.
  • Software compatibility whereby you want to ensure your existing operating system and software applications are compatible with your planned upgrade.
  • Backup and recovery requires that you implement a robust backup and recovery plan to safeguard your data throughout the process.

Server Consolidation

When it comes to server consolidation, consider:

  • Workload Analysis which involves identifying servers and workloads that are suitable for consolidation.
  • Virtualization which should help with resource utilization.
  • Resource allocation is where you’ll be seeking to determine how CPU, memory, and storage resources will be allocated during the consolidation.

Server Migration

For migration, you’ll need to consider:

  • Inventory and dependency mapping that involves creating a detailed inventory of servers and their dependencies.
  • Migration strategy which could be, among others, rehosting, re-platforming, or rearchitecting.
  • Data migration where you’ll select the most suitable tools and methods for the transfer of your data to the target environment.

Server Decommissioning

  • Data backup and retention happen before you embark on the decommissioning of your servers.
  • Application retirement which should involve letting stakeholders and users know about the discontinuation.
  • Resource cleanup which involves removing server hardware, storage, and network components from the infrastructure.

Streamlining Your Migration Journey with Microsoft

Microsoft offers a number of tools that you can leverage to streamline the server migration, upgrade, or decommissioning process. These include:

  • Azure Site Recovery (ASR)
    This is a comprehensive service that can streamline your migration by replicating physical or virtual servers to Azure. Whatever the setup, you should find it quite convenient working with ASR.

  • Azure Migrate
    This is a planning and assessment tool that can help assess your servers’ suitability for migration.

  • Azure Resource Mover
    This is a service that can simplify cross-region and cross-subscription server migration with Azure. With this tool, you should find it easy to move resources.

  • Windows Admin Center
    This is a centralized management tool that comes in handy when it comes to managing your servers.

  • Azure Update Management
    If you are looking for a tool that can help with server upgrades and patch management, then Azure Update Management is the right tool for you. It can automate the process of deploying any updates to Azure VMs while also streamlining any patching process.

  • Azure Policy and Blueprints
    This tool allows you to enforce governance and compliance standards across your entire Azure environment. Leveraging this should help streamline the configuration of servers as well as the enforcement of specified settings.

  • Azure Automation
    If you are looking to automate routine server management tasks, Azure Automation is the right tool for you. With this, the tech admins can create runbooks that will handle any provisioning, configuration changes, and decommissioning processes you embark on.

As a fast-track ready Microsoft partner, Agile IT can help with any server upgrades, consolidation, migration, or decommissioning. Our experts work with you to determine the best course of action, subject to your business. To learn more, check out our webinar, or get in touch for a tailored solution.

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