Is it time to migrate your midrange assets to the cloud?

The cloud may be the next logical step for midrange legacy apps. But architecture, security and legal issues give some pause.

You may be considering moving applications to the cloud these days. Like others, your midrange environment may

seem to be an appropriate 'first target' for cloud-based application modernization. The cloud is considered by some implementers as the next logical step for these assets.  Still, analysts and consultants advise that the present state of midrange migration to cloud might be best characterized as “hurry up and wait.”

“There are many people looking to move workloads to the cloud, including those from midrange environments,” says Gartner analyst Andrew Butler. But there is hesitation.

A lot of the hesitation comes from the question of public- versus private-cloud.

“The nervousness over deploying cloud is going to persist for some time, whether it is around security, identity or location of data, which is a big issue in North America and an even bigger issue in Europe and elsewhere,” says Butler.

Indeed, rushing to put apps in the cloud isn’t the right way to go, says Dave Tienstra, partner, infrastructure, for consultancy and service provider TPI. “There are too many security concerns and when we talk to enterprise customers, it isn’t the technical barriers that concern them, it is the legal barriers. You can’t get the same limits to liability and indemnification,” he says. In fact, he notes, many of his company’s consulting engagements focus on educating people about the legal and security issues they must be aware of in the cloud.

Despite these concerns, Butler suggests there will definitely be more people moving to the cloud, particularly as a derivation of an existing hosting or outsourcing service. “When it comes to moving to the public cloud, we are seeing some movement of that for email. But there is a lot of polarization. Some companies are happy to use Google Mail. But just as many feel email is so business-critical that they wouldn’t dream of sticking it in the cloud,” he notes.

Doug Saylors, director, infrastructure at TPI says TPI sees significant differences in how various sized companies address the cloud. In general, he notes, the SMB market seems very willing to jump into the cloud. By contrast, Fortune 1000 companies are taking a very cautious approach. “We have done some deals with collaboration tools, email, Sharepoint and document sharing along the line of Google apps. We have seen enterprise customers taking that leap but preferring to host it themselves for security reasons,” he says.

By contrast, in the SMB market, Saylors says clients are looking at whether they can just “buy” an application in the cloud. “They want to see if there is something already out there that fits their needs.”

 

Not now but maybe later

Any type of workload that is not considered imperative to keep in-house for competitive or IP reasons is a candidate for the cloud, says Butler, as long as fundamental issues like security have been addressed.

Still, he warns, cloud adoption is at an emerging stage, particularly for the midrange market where UNIX and other legacy apps would traditionally be larger scale systems and more in the category of ''business critical.''  IT people will generally be a little more conservative when looking at a midrange-to-cloud migration, because "those apps are often central to day-to-day operations,” he notes.

Furthermore, cloud offerings for the midrange world are relatively sparse. Butler says that the Microsoft Windows Azure initiative is an example of a substantial hosting effort that is not matched yet in the UNIX or Linux space.  “There will be even more Windows-based opportunities as Microsoft get its act together on this,” he adds. 

On the implementation front, Saylors  says companies considering a move to the cloud should first look at their application portfolio and undergo an “application rationalization program.”

“When you look at an application portfolio it should be clear which applications are really the most strategic to the business as well as which ones may not be healthy,” says Saylors. In the latter case, it may be that the platform hasn’t been maintained well. The question comes down to which applications you put scarce investment dollars into. Companies can’t move everything to the cloud, and some applications will need to be retained in a managed service model, he says.

If a cloud approach seems like it might be fit at some point in the future for your existing midrange environment, Tienstra says now is the time to begin to prepare.  “Standardize your apps to run on a generic operating system and if you are running older apps or apps that are heavily customized, recognize that they will be hard to move to the cloud,” he says.

Additionally, says Tienstra, many IT organizations have allowed poor habits to accumulate. For example, he says, storage has become cheap enough that “people spread things all over.” 

“In the cloud, you will pay more for that kind of practice and will face added risks if you don’t understand where your data is,” he says.

This was first published in April 2011

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