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Managing the transition of applications to the Cloud

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By Mateen Greenway, Fellow, CT UK&I PS

 

Successful use of the Cloud is dependent upon having a clear strategy for transitioning applications. And for most public and private sector organizations, this will not be a “one-size fits all” approach. Not every application is a good candidate for the Cloud. The challenge is how to determine which applications to move, to what cloud architecture, when to move them and how. Consider the following factors when mapping applications to the Cloud.

 

Is your goal to:

  • take an application as it is and re-host it on a shared cloud-based infrastructure,
  • re-develop it so it can take advantage of cloud benefits; or
  • abandon the legacy application and migrate to a native cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS)?

 

Most large applications have traditionally been built on dedicated, vertically-scaled infrastructure that require more powerful hardware in order to scale up the number of users or performance. Scaling up on demand is one benefit of cloud computing, so you no longer have to worry about the deployment or configuration effort required to bring up additional hardware. On the other hand, many types of web-based applications are built on a “stateless” horizontally “scaled-out” infrastructure that needs new instances of that function to be added in order to scale with demand. This infrastructure is well-suited to data analysis and search functions and, it offers high availability and system recovery.

 

Because migrating to the Cloud can support both scaling-up and scaling-out you’ll need to evaluate which is best suited for your applications. Scaling out will usually require the re-design of legacy applications, which implies development costs. However, cost reduction could be achieved by using a shared utility environment and if applications take full advantage of a horizontally scaled grid design. The key to this choice is to balance the cost of transformation with the potential benefits gained.

 

You’ll also need to consider up-front the full applications lifecycle — and not just the production version — when assessing the cost, complexity and effect associated with your transition to the Cloud. Point-in-time production application is a significant advantage and use case for cloud services. For example, virtual machines and applications can be rapidly deployed, as needed. Application lifecycle management tools used in a development/testing environment can be shared across projects. This also facilitates promotion of the application from development, to test, to quality assurance, and even to production.

 

Other factors to consider are service level agreements (SLAs) and security. Public cloud offerings today typically allow low levels of customization, offer low to moderate security and have limited or no SLAs. The price of these services usually reflects the features offered. So it’s important to understand the real business needs for security and SLAs. Individualized SLAs and customization security levels are difficult, costly, and not offered in all cloud models — they are often met only through private cloud deployments.

 

The next consideration, when making your transition to cloud, is whether your application is a “core” service (key application or process that contributes to your organization’s value generation) or “context” (fulfills a need but does not generate direct business value). Organizations should look for the most cost efficient ways to deliver the context services. And, because core services generate increased business and mission value, their security and SLAs should reflect that importance.

 

And lastly, if your organization relies on “Systems of Record” (large legacy applications and databases on which organizations have built their business processes) and “Systems of Engagement” (overlay and complement “Systems of Record” by enhancing access, usability, and collaboration), it is critical to understand whether they will be changed in order to effectively manage the impact on the overall architecture and cost.

 

The ease of accessing cloud services may mean that today critical IT purchases can be initiated and completed directly by individual business units that may not take into account the strategic goals of the organization. The CIO may be asked to take on a supporting role in the migration or in the ongoing support of applications. And the CIO may need to determine if legacy applications are needed going forward. With this evolution comes the opportunity for the CIO and IT Department to become more of a broker and information steward for systems they no longer fully control.

 

Note: This blog topic will be explored further in our upcoming “Manage the Transition to Cloud Computing” white paper. The paper, developed by our team of Public Sector subject matter experts: James Bond, Chief Technologist; Michael Donovan, HP Distinguished Technologist; Judy Douglas, Government Client Industry Executive; Dan Gilbert, HP Strategist and Mateen Greenway, Fellow, CT UK&I PS. will address relevant challenges facing public sector customers.

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