Moving on up to the cloud

By | April 20, 2012

“Look before you leap”, is the operative phrase I tell IT leaders when I hear they are planning to move business applications into the cloud.

Businesses oftentimes make the decision to move their applications to the cloud without performing the necessary due diligence to ensure a successful transition. Their lack of planning can lead to application performance issues, disgruntled IT staff, and increased scrutiny from business leadership. If you are thinking about moving your enterprise applications to the cloud, here are a number of things you need to consider.

Application selection

The fact is that newer applications are easier to move to the cloud than older applications — in most cases. Generally, cloud-based infrastructure relies on virtualization, and newer applications have been developed and tested within virtualized environments. Newer applications typically have fewer dependencies than older applications. It’s these dependencies which oftentimes determine whether or not an application can live in the cloud. For example, a legacy application may be dependent on a specific operating system, hardware driver, or network location. These dependencies may be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in a cloud environment.

Many business applications are developed and licensed by 3rd-party software vendors. You need to make sure that your application vendors licensing models are supported in the cloud, and that vendors can properly maintain your cloud-based applications. You don’t want to move your applications to the cloud, only to find that your trusted software vendor won’t answer your support calls anymore.

Cloud application performance

Businesses move their applications to the cloud to reduce IT spending and increase the reliability of their application services. But, all too often, they start thinking about application performance after the cloud transition is completed. And by then, it may be too late to address any application performance issues.

Moving your applications to the cloud will not necessarily improve application performance. Staff accessing a cloud application may find performance to be the same, or a little less snappy, than applications previously hosted onsite. Whereas, mobile staff members might see a significant performance increase when accessing newly transitioned cloud applications. You should test your applications in the cloud first, and use performance benchmarking to preset staff members’ expectations.

Some business applications simply are not designed for the cloud. These applications may be sensitive to network latency or may require significant amounts of bandwidth –negating¬† the cost savings of cloud infrastructure. You should leave these applications alone or seek out cloud-friendly alternatives.

IT staff impact

Someone once told me that technology is easy, and people are hard. Figuring out the technical nuances of moving applications to the cloud is pretty straightforward. Whereas, realigning the thinking and processes of your IT organization can present a tremendous challenge. Moving applications to the cloud will represent a major change for your IT operation. In the past, they were responsible for managing application infrastructure, troubleshooting, monitoring the health of applications, and backing up the application data. A service provider may provide some, or all, of these capabilities once applications are transitioned to the cloud. Your team members may experience anxiety due to changing roles. Your goal is to temper this anxiety, and refocus the energies of your team.

It’s best to address IT organization strategy and team alignment before the applications are transitioned. You need everyone on-board and buying into the cloud strategy before you begin. Your talented IT staff members are crucial to ensuring a successful application transition. If they walk out the door, you lose all the tribal knowledge they carry with them.

Test your apps

I’ve noted several planning steps that you should consider before transitioning your applications to the cloud. One more thing you should consider is engaging a cloud provider like VISI during your planning process. We can help you setup a cloud testing and staging environment which you can use for process development and performance benchmarking. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to kick start your journey to the cloud.

To learn more about moving into the cloud, you can attend a seminar I’m presenting at entitled Navigate into the Enterprise Cloud on May 30th. There are still seats available.

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