While almost every business professional agrees that the cloud should play some role in enterprise IT, determining what that role is and how to implement it can prove to be a little sticky. Often at the heart of the issue is what to do with proprietary software and whether it’s better to simply replace it with cloud-based software rather than try to refactor it for the cloud.
The decision to “move to the cloud” is not as simple as it used to be. Now enterprises large and small have another decision to make: what kind of cloud computing service model do we need?
Now that the cloud has established itself as a safe, viable, and reliable IT infrastructure alternative, one of the fundamental questions from the early days – “can we save money by migrating to the cloud?” – has morphed into “what are the economics of migrating to the cloud?”
Unfortunately, that’s where things get, well...cloudy. That’s because so many IT departments and other stakeholders make the same cloud-vs.-premise cost-comparison mistakes repeatedly. Often the comparison is limited to a simplistic, premise-based hardware/software vs. infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) analysis.
To get to the real numbers for a true comparison of premise- and cloud-based infrastructures, you need to dig a little deeper. Start with things such as software licenses, organizational efficiencies, redundancy and disaster recovery, human resources, and other not-so-obvious costs that can affect IT operations and are necessary to enable your IT ecosystem to hum along smoothly.
One of the most alluring approaches to cloud migration these days is something known as “lift-and-shift.” What makes it so attractive for many enterprises is the deceptive simplicity of it – replicating in-house apps in the cloud without redesign. You “lift” your on-premise apps from the server they reside on and “shift” them to the cloud, essentially as-is. Done! Right?
There are a number of potential issues bubbling beneath the surface that could come back to bite you if you implement a wholesale lift-and-shift migration strategy without some careful consideration first. A major one is the possibility of less-than-optimal software performance caused by simply shifting a legacy, premise-based app to the cloud with all its limitations instead of refactoring the application and taking full advantage of all the benefits associated with the cloud. Cloud-native platforms typically provide much more agility and flexibility than lifted premise ones. But refactoring apps can be costly and time consuming, so some organizations prefer the lift-and-shift approach.
It is almost impossible to go to any IT conference today that has anything to do with enterprise resource planning (ERP) or product development in general and not hear someone talking about DevOps. It is the topic-du-jour and can make any self-respecting business professional nervous if, for some unlikely reason, they’ve never encountered it before. So what exactly is DevOps and what makes it so darn popular?
Like many business processes and strategies, DevOps is not exactly new. In fact, it is in many ways related to other recently coined methodologies including Agile and Lean and can even be seen as a sort of mash-up of those two.
Perhaps the biggest mistake organizations make when considering moving IT infrastructure to the cloud is overestimating the cloud’s abilities to streamline and simplify. For many, the disappointing reality is that the cloud, like any IT ecosystem, requires some accommodation – not everything can simply “move to the cloud.” It takes some amount of tweaking.
This is especially true for big legacy applications, and particularly those that have been significantly customized and modified over their lifetimes in response to business and operational process evolution. This then raises the question for IT managers, “do we lift and shift our legacy app to the cloud or re-architect the software and then move it?”
Cloud computing has been around long enough – and established itself well enough – for most organizations to move beyond the initial question of “is cloud computing just a fad?” to “will we save money by moving to the cloud?”
To answer that second question, it’s important to carefully consider a number of direct and indirect factors that affect cloud migration. Direct factors include things such as hardware and software costs, licensing, network infrastructure and labor. Indirect factors are a little more fuzzy because they cover such “soft” issues as operational efficiency, productivity, compliance and business continuity risk, even the capex value of potential future purchases that will be avoided by moving to the cloud. Savings can go far beyond simply the value of all the IT stuff you no longer will have to purchase and maintain.
Just a few years ago “the cloud” was a new, unproven concept in computing, requiring a leap of faith by enterprises bold enough to jettison their expensive, dedicated, in-house IT infrastructure and trust their computing and storage to some nebulous, unseen, off-site environment over which they had little control.
Today, adopting cloud-based systems is seen as an opportunity to virtually eliminate capital investment in IT infrastructure, a way to unburden your corporate self of the relative inflexibility of in-house servers and the resource drain of expensive premises-based datacenter storage. There’s also the human resources the cloud frees up from systems operation and maintenance, not to mention the software purchases and upgrades no longer needed.
One word that’s on the lips of IT professionals today is “responsiveness.” The evolution of wireless IT infrastructures and the explosion of smart device usage and software-as-a-service (SaaS), coupled with the growing popularity of Big Data as an essential customer relationship management tool is pushing real-time responsiveness to the front of every business computing line.
However, enterprises still tied to legacy, premise-based infrastructures are hamstrung when it comes to providing their workforces with true responsiveness and adaptability -- the kind of “anywhere, anytime” ability to respond to customer inquiries and resource demands that every customer service rep, remote worker, and on-the-road employee would give an arm and a leg for. There’s a simple answer, though, and that’s the cloud.
If you’re a business professional, you already know all too well the lightning pace at which IT is evolving. Yesterday’s cutting edge IT infrastructure is today’s antique computing platform, politely referred to as a “legacy system.” And while costs for in-house systems can remain high, performance can quickly degrade to low.
That’s why it seems everyone is moving to the cloud. Proprietary, on premise systems and datacenters are rapidly being replaced by cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).
The exploding growth of Big Data is driving a parallel demand for larger, more flexible and scalable datacenters which can quickly escalate costs and resource consumption. As a result, enterprises of all sizes are switching to cloud-based IT ecosystems to avoid getting stuck with the slow-to-grow, heavy iron of an in-house infrastructure. Think of migrating to the cloud as an insurance policy against obsolescence.