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The Great Cloud Migration - Are Your Apps Ready?

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Last updated July 25th, 2013 by Thomas Parent in

cloud computingCloud computing continues to gain momentum as technology and accessibility improve. Not only are businesses adapting new cloud-ready applications, but they are also migrating legacy systems to the cloud.

While the decision to employ a new application in the cloud may be a no-brainer, the decision to move an existing application may not be so easy. Careful consideration to these moves is required as it is easy to make mistakes and the results can be catastrophic.

In many cases, experts don't agree as to when it is appropriate to migrate a legacy system to the cloud. However, there are some common sense criteria that almost everyone agrees on. Here are a few to consider as a starting point in your decision making process:

  • Stand-alone applications that do not interface with many other applications may be good candidates. Interfacing applications in the cloud with applications that still run locally can be problematic.
  • Migrating applications that are already virtualized on a local server may be easier than those still run on dedicated servers.
  • These applications are more likely to run well on the variety of hardware systems that may be deployed in the cloud.
  • Fragile applications that continue to have problems when run locally are not good candidates for migration to the cloud. The existing problems are likely to get worse in the new environment.
  • Latency can be a problem when running applications in the cloud. If this is critical for you, it's important to do some extensive evaluation and testing to ensure that the new environment will not cause problems. There are a variety of other architectural constraints that may affect your decision. For example, if you are planning on benefiting from scalability in the cloud, make sure that your software application is designed and configured to take advantage of it.
  • If you are a government agency or a private company operating in regulated environments such as banking or healthcare, regulations may prohibit you from migrating to the cloud. If applicable, be sure to investigate these constraints before you waste your time on further analysis.
  • Carefully review the existing licensing contracts on your applications before considering migration to the cloud. These licenses may limit the number of servers your application can run on or may result in higher licensing fees when hosted in the cloud.
  • If you are in the middle of an upgrade or other substantial development projects related to the application, it's probably not a good idea to muddy the waters with a move to the cloud. Wait until the environment has stabilized before considering a move.
  • Do the math! Be sure to carefully evaluate both the current costs of your local environment and the costs of a cloud installation. Despite the benefits, many small businesses with stable, low maintenance applications may find that the additional monthly fees associated with a cloud installation are prohibitive.
  • Security has always been the elephant in the room when it comes to cloud computing. Most of these issues have been addressed in recent years and while there may still be some security risks in the cloud, there are also risks in local environments. Nevertheless, it's important to do your homework and thoroughly understand all sides of the security equation before you take the plunge.
  • Plan ahead! If you plan to replace or upgrade your existing software applications in the near future, it may be best to wait and select a cloud based service when you make the change. If your servers are old and subject to failure, you may want to evaluate the benefits of a cloud based application sooner rather than later! Clearly, eliminating server replacement is one of the significant cost benefits of migrating to the cloud.

Cloud computing is not an all or nothing scenario. While the conditions listed above refer primarily to public cloud installations, some of the issues cited may be mitigated with private or hybrid clouds.

One thing is for certain, the case for migrating applications to the cloud will continue to strengthen. For most companies, it's not a matter of IF they move their applications to the cloud, it's WHEN!

Thomas Parent blogs for Rackspace Hosting. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing and a founder of OpenStack, an open-source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.

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