Understanding the 7Rs of AWS Migration: A Quick Guide for Aspiring Solutions Architects

Cloud migration is a pivotal process for businesses adapting to the digital age, where moving applications, data, and other elements to a cloud environment like AWS can drive efficiency and innovation.

This transition, however, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each organization's needs and resources dictate a unique approach to migration. Enter the 7Rs of Migration on AWS – a comprehensive set of strategies that guide you through the various options for cloud migration.

Understanding the 7Rs framework is crucial for anyone looking to harness the full potential of AWS cloud services as they provide a straightforward roadmap toward optimizing, modernizing, and transforming applications in line with your chosen business objectives.

Therefore, this quick guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the 7Rs as an aspiring cloud practitioner.

The Evolution of Migration Strategies

Cloud migration strategies have significantly evolved over the past decade, shaping how businesses transition to the cloud.

In 2011, Gartner laid the foundation with the identification of the original 5 Rs – a set of strategies that provided a basic framework for approaching cloud migration. These 5 Rs, Rehost, Refactor, Revise, Rebuild, and Replace, offered various pathways for organizations to move their operations to cloud environments, each with distinct approaches and implications.

As cloud technologies advanced and the demands of businesses grew more complex, the need for a more nuanced set of strategies became apparent. This led to the expansion to the 7Rs, as recognized by AWS.

The additional two Rs – Retain and Retire – address the practicalities of dealing with legacy systems and applications that may not immediately fit into the cloud migration journey. Their addition reflects the need for a more nuanced understanding of the needs and challenges of today’s businesses and underscores the importance of taking a tailored approach to cloud migration.

So, without further ado, let’s describe and explain each of the 7Rs.

A Quick Look at the 7Rs of AWS

The 7Rs of Migration on AWS offer a strategic framework to optimize cloud migration processes. Each 'R' represents a different approach, catering to the varied needs of organizations transitioning to the cloud.

Let's do a quick dive into each strategy:


Refactoring or re-architecting involves a thorough transformation of an application to leverage cloud-native features fully. This strategy aims to enhance agility, performance, and scalability. For instance, a company might refactor a legacy .NET application, optimizing it for AWS Lambda to enhance scalability and reduce operational costs.

Replatform (Lift and Reshape)

Replatforming means migrating an application with minor optimizations to benefit from the cloud's capabilities. A typical example could be updating an existing Java application to run on a managed AWS Elastic Beanstalk environment, reducing the overhead of managing underlying servers.

Repurchase (Drop and Shop)

This strategy involves switching to a different product, often adopting a SaaS model. An example could be moving from an on-premises Human Resource Management system to a cloud-based solution like Workday, harnessing the efficiencies of a SaaS model.

Rehost (Lift and Shift)

Rehosting is moving an application to the cloud without any modifications. It's like lifting your application from an on-premises server and shifting it to an AWS instance – for example, migrating a PHP web application from an in-house server to run on an AWS EC2 instance.

Relocate (Hypervisor-level Lift and Shift)

Relocating involves moving your entire infrastructure to the cloud without significant changes. A practical example is moving VMware-based virtual machines from an on-premises data center to VMware Cloud on AWS, maintaining the same VMware environment.

Retain (Revisit)

Retention means keeping specific applications in the existing environment, either due to technical complexities or lack of immediate business justification for migration. This could involve maintaining a legacy mainframe application in-house due to its specific dependencies and complexities.


Finally, retiring is about decommissioning applications that are no longer useful. For instance, an organization might retire an outdated internal communications platform in favor of a more modern, cloud-based alternative.

Choosing the Right Migration Strategy

Choosing the right AWS migration strategy involves aligning business objectives with technical requirements. It's about understanding where your application stands today and where you want it to be in the future.

Key considerations include the complexity of the application, compliance requirements, cost implications, and the desired level of cloud integration.

Let’s very quickly run you through real-world factors that might influence your decision-making process for which “R” of the framework to pursue

Real-World Applications of the 7Rs

In practice, each migration strategy has found its place in diverse scenarios.

For instance, startups often prefer Rehosting for its speed and simplicity, quickly moving their applications to the cloud with minimal disruption. On the other hand, enterprises looking to optimize legacy applications for the cloud tend to go for Refactoring/Re-architecting, especially when they need to scale and enhance performance.

Companies facing contractual or licensing limitations might choose Repurchasing, moving to a SaaS model to reduce overhead and gain access to regular updates and support. Replatforming often suits businesses seeking to benefit from cloud capabilities without a complete overhaul, like switching to managed database services for better efficiency.

Relocating becomes relevant in sectors where compliance and data sovereignty are crucial, especially for organizations heavily invested in VMware technologies. Retaining certain applications is a strategic choice for systems deeply intertwined with business operations, where migration offers limited immediate value or poses significant risks.

Lastly, Retiring redundant applications is a critical step in decluttering the IT landscape, often leading to cost savings and streamlined operations.

Navigating Cloud Migration: The Power of the 7Rs

In conclusion, the 7Rs of Migration are pivotal for anyone aspiring to excel in AWS cloud environments. They provide a comprehensive blueprint for AWS cloud practitioners and solution architects navigating the nuances of migration, from simple rehosting to complex refactoring.

Understanding these strategies is crucial for practical implementation and aligning with the broader objectives of your organization's cloud journey.

For those of you eager to delve deeper and refine your cloud migration skills, our AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam Guide is an excellent starting point. It equips you with the necessary skills to design fault-tolerant solutions and adopt best-practice security measures in cloud applications while preparing you for the industry-recognized AWS Cloud Practitioner certification.

This guide, along with our other online resources, should provide an excellent foundation for mastering AWS cloud migration strategies and more. So why wait? Get started today and start your journey toward becoming an AWS expert.