Contributor(s): Ben Cole

In information technology (IT), migration is the process of moving from the use of one operating environment to another operating environment that is, in most cases, thought to be a better one. Migration can involve upgrading to new hardware, new software or both.

The migration process includes making sure the new environment's features are exploited, old settings do not require changing and that current applications continue to work. Companies can conduct small-scale migration projects that move a single system, or take on large-scale migration projects that involve many systems, new applications or a redesigned network.

Database and data migration

Database migration is the migration of data from one kind of database to another kind of database. This usually requires converting the data into a common format that can be output from the old database and input into the new database. Since the new database may be organized differently, it may be necessary to write a program that can process the migrating files.

Data migration is the transfer of data between data storage systems, data formats or computer systems. A data migration project is usually undertaken to replace or upgrade servers or storage equipment, for a website consolidation, to conduct server maintenance or to relocate a data center.

Factors to consider in a data migration project include the amount of downtime required to complete the migration, as well as business risks due to technical compatibility issues, data corruption, application performance problems and data loss.

Application migration

Application migration is the process of moving an application program from one environment to another, such as the migration from an on-premises enterprise server to a cloud provider's environment. This type of migration project may require the use of middleware products to bridge any gaps between technologies.

Application migration can be a complicated process due to the differences between the original and new environments. Elements such as operating systems, management tools, the networking architecture, the storage system and the virtual machine configuration can all differ from those in the environment where the application was developed or deployed.

Cloud migration

Cloud migration is the process of moving data, applications or other business elements from an organization's on-site computers to the cloud, or moving them from one cloud environment to another. Like application migration, moving company data to a cloud service provider's environment may require the use of middleware, such as a cloud integration tool, to bridge any gaps between the cloud vendor's and the customer's technologies.

Cloud-to-cloud migration projects are complicated because the data being moved is stored and managed remotely and controlled by external organizations that are often in multiple locations. As a result, special considerations must be made in regards to data privacy, interoperability, data and application portability, data integrity, business continuity, and security.

Other types of migration

Migration projects can also refer to smaller-scale projects that upgrade a specific technology or service. Some examples of these types of IT migration include:

  • Software migration is the transfer of a company's programs used to operate computers and related devices into a new, upgraded operating system.
  • System migration is the transfer of business process IT resources to a newer hardware infrastructure or a different software platform.
  • Digital migration is the process of replacing broadcasting services offered on analog technology with digital-based networks. The transition from analog television to digital television is referred to as a digital migration.
  • Content migration is the process of moving information that is currently stored on a web-based content management system, a digital asset management system, a document management system or an HTML based system and into a new, upgraded system.

In the digital age, other types of migration have been developed as companies adapt to the digitization of business processes and company data. Physical to virtual refers to the migration of operating systems or application programs and data from a computer's main hard disk to a virtual machine or a disk partition. Virtual to virtual is the migration of operating systems, application programs and data from a virtual machine or disk partition to another virtual machine or disk partition. Virtual to physical refers to the migration of operating systems, application programs and data from a virtual machine or disk partition to a computer's main hard disk.

This was last updated in October 2016

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