An Azure subscription is an agreement with Microsoft to use one or more Microsoft cloud platforms or services. Microsoft offers various subscription options for consuming cloud services, but the three primary options are: Pay-As You Go, Azure Enterprise Agreement (Azure EA) and Azure Cloud Service Provider (Azure CSP).
In many instances after initial engagement, the need may arise to migrate to another licensing option. Migration does require upfront planning as you consider how each of the services will be affected. This article briefly describes each subscription option and outlines what it takes to successfully migrate.
The simplest option is the Pay-As-You-Go subscription, where you pay for your consumption on a monthly basis and can cancel the subscription at any time.
The Azure EA option is a commitment based Microsoft volume licensing agreement with a contractual term, typically three years. The more software you use, the deeper the discounts. The pricing is locked in for the term and usually has a minimum volume requirement.
Azure CSP is a program for Microsoft partners and a license channel for various Microsoft cloud services. It enables partners to help their clients deploy and manage a variety of cloud services. Through this program, partners can procure and manage Microsoft cloud services as well as add their own offerings, while keeping ownership of the full customer relationship, including deployment, provisioning, management, pricing and billing. The client is billed by the partner organization which also provides the first line of support.
The Azure CSP option provides many benefits including:
- Value added services provided by Azure (professional services, day-to-day operations, etc.)
- Flexibility on terms, methods of payment, etc. (monthly, quarterly, yearly, credit card, debit card, invoicing, potentially deeper discounts, etc.)
- Consolidated invoicing for services and support
- No minimum volume requirements, no upfront commitment and/or cost (unlike an Azure EA)
In due course, migrating to other subscription options may be required.
Examples include the following scenarios:
- Azure CSP to Azure CSP subscription migrations between existing Azure CSP partners
- Azure EA to Azure CSP
- Pay-As-You-Go to Azure CSP
It may seem a no-brainer to migrate to another subscription, but there are many prerequisites that need to be understood and addressed when migrating to Azure CSP. Here are some of them:
- Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) tenancy: The source subscription and the target Azure CSP subscription should be within the same Azure AD tenant.
- Resource provider: The destination subscription must be registered with the resource provider of the resource being moved.
- Resource group: The destination resource group should exist before moving.
- Quotas: Make sure the quotas are similar on the target resources
- Deployment model: As Azure CSP supports only Azure Resource Manager, you will need to upgrade the Azure classic deployment model to Azure Resource Manager before the move.
- Service availability: Not all services are offered in the Azure CSP subscription.
There are two main migration approaches – subscription based and resource based:
In the subscription based migration approach (relevant just for Azure CSP to Azure CSP), only a subscription transfer is required, and there is no need to migrate any resources as such.
Other migrations (Azure EA and Pay-As-You-Go to Azure CSP), require the resource migration approach where resources are migrated using Azure Move options. As alluded to earlier, not all resources can be moved, as some of them may not be available as options in Azure CSP. Resources that cannot be moved include load balancers, application gateways, classic virtual networks, domain services, etc.
Refer here for services that can and cannot be moved to Azure CSP.
Resources can be moved using the Azure portal, Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI or the REST API. Certain move operations require support from Microsoft and/or the partner and are not directly available to users.
Important Considerations and Lessons Learned
Even though Microsoft has very good documentation on the migration options, it is important to pay attention to the following points:
- Assessment — Invest time in performing a comprehensive assessment to figure out which resources are in scope (what can and cannot be moved), to review the roadmap and to employ validation options to confirm the resource moves.
- Service availability and capabilities — Once an initial assessment is completed on the scope of the migration and the resources that need to be moved, check with the service provider and/or Microsoft on the roadmap. This may influence the migration timeline.
- Resource group locks — All source and target resource groups are locked during the move operation. A locked resource group means that no add, update or delete resource action can be performed during the move, although the resource itself can remain active.
- Service specific caveats – Evaluate each of the services being moved and plan to address various caveats. For example, virtual machines (VMs) with managed disks were not initially supported for Azure Move but Microsoft has recently added that support. But VMs with certificate stored in Azure Key Vault cannot be moved to Azure CSP subscriptions. And VMs configured with Azure Backup can be moved only by skipping or deleting it.
Microsoft Azure provides flexibility with its various subscription options. For most large clients, Azure EA is the suitable option, given the volume discounts and the operating model. For many small and medium clients who rely on partners, Azure CSP makes perfect sense, but service availability may steer some of them to other options. It is vital to weigh the pros and cons of the various subscription options before signing up or deciding to migrate.
The most common migration scenario is Azure CSP to Azure CSP and Pay-As-You-Go to Azure CSP. As outlined earlier in this article, a comprehensive assessment, full understanding and a detailed plan are required before taking on the effort, in order to ensure a successful migration.