Moving your applications to the cloud isn't easy or simple. You'll need to adapt your technology and your people as you make your transition. Consider these six steps to get you started.
Face it: most IT architectures are complicated. And if you’re considering moving to cloud, you’re right to be concerned about the vast changes that will be required of your architecture—and your organization—as you make your transition.
The good news is that if you’re like most companies, you’ve done this before. Many times. About every three to five years you overhaul your core architectures. You adjust how you deliver applications. You strive to increase performance, enhance security, and reduce costs.
The bad news is that with cloud, things will be even more complicated. You might not have control over services. You may not be able to hard code connections or do things the old way.
There will be some pain. But, like they say, “No pain, no gain,” right?
Here are six steps to get started.
You have to plan for user behavior, connectivity, and appropriate bandwidth.
1. Assess what you have
What is the state of your applications? How many do you have? How important are they to your business? What sorts of data do they hold, and—most importantly—what are the dependencies between them?
Start thinking about the categories your apps will fit into. You will have three options.
- Adopt SaaS
- Migrate to the cloud
- Keep them where they are
2. Decide which apps are ripe for outsourcing to SaaS
Do the easy part first. Identify your apps that are virtual commodities. You’re likely to find a lot of them. Do you really need to support your own Exchange server, your out-of-date HR system, or your homegrown sales automation tools? Are they worth the effort of your people or the OpEx you incur? If not, save yourself a lot of trouble by subscribing to a sales, HR, productivity, or other appropriate solution. Let third parties do your heavy lifting. You’ll get obvious, quick wins with SaaS.
3. Analyze and decide on the rest
Next you’ll need to assess your remaining apps and decide which to migrate to cloud and which to keep where they are.
Ask yourself the following questions: If we move app X, how many things will break? Where are the data stores? What are the dependencies? What network services are they using? Which apps require workarounds to normal procedures and protocols to make them work?
You’ll have answers to those questions for many of your apps. For others, you may not know the answers until you actually try to move them. The greater the risk of breakage and the more complicated and less known the dependencies are, the more likely you are to keep an app where it is.
As you map out these dependencies, document them. This will be useful even if only a few of your apps end up in the cloud.
The State of Application Delivery in 2017
Next, examine your app delivery policies and look for opportunities to standardize. You should have a limited number of standard load balancing policies—say 10—rather than hand-tuned configurations for every app. Determine standardized storage tiers. Define standardized network services. Talk to your developers about the benefits of standardization and gain their commitment. Make templates to help them deploy things quickly and easily.
5. Simplify and secure access
Ask yourself who is going to be accessing each app and from where. You have to plan for user behavior, connectivity, and appropriate bandwidth. Many of the applications that you seek to move to the cloud—whether private or public—may need to be more readily accessible from anywhere. Moving them to the cloud will place less stress on the infrastructure.
There are also authentication and security issues; most businesses have traditionally used network rather than app controls to determine access. In a public cloud, you may need new access technologies—gateways that determine access in ways that simply didn’t exist before.
6. Plan your architecture
When you go to the cloud, the architecture will be different because the constructs aren’t static. For monolithic applications like databases, the mechanisms that were formerly tied to specific IP addresses or other constant constructs won’t work in the cloud. You may need additional load balancers or proxies that will help provide consistency in an environment that is always changing. Make additional points of control so you can ensure that everyone can access your apps consistently and without disruption.
“Lift and shift” isn’t easy
This is hard stuff. As we said at the beginning, IT architectures are complicated.
While it may not be easy, it’s worthwhile—for the cost savings (OpEx and CapEx) and scalability alone. And some enterprises have achieved massive savings just by preparing for cloud. By assessing your existing app inventories, analyzing dependencies, documenting everything, and standardizing and simplifying as much as possible, you’ll be in the perfect position to decide what to move and what not to move.
Alice LaPlante is an award-winning and best-selling American author of numerous books, including A Circle of Wives and The New York Times bestseller Turn of Mind, which was the winner of the Wellcome Trust’s Book Prize and a B&N Discover Award finalist. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and taught creative writing at both Stanford and San Francisco State University. She has written for Forbes ASAP, BusinessWeek, ComputerWorld, InformationWeek, and Discover. Her corporate clients include some of the best-known brands in the technology industry, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Deloitte, and HP.