Leading applications on a journey to the cloud

Cloud applications
Image credit: Pixabay
(Image credit: Pixabay)
About the author

Neill Hart is the Head of Productivity and Programs at CSI

If a business wants to grow, it will need to adapt or scale its critical applications along the way. Cloud computing provides the flexible infrastructure required to power and run apps with the agility to change as required. 

But there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to moving workloads to the cloud whether private, public or a hybrid of both. The perfect home can only be found by taking a detailed view of each application and considering all of its distinct characteristics, behaviors and the regulatory issues it needs to meet.

The application journey

The good news is that there are cloud services as solutions for almost every business application. 

Even the most complex and highly regulated applications - often the backbone of an organisation and containing decades of corporate knowledge – can be modernized and migrated from on-premise monolithic data centers to a more agile cloud platform.

Launched over 30 years ago, IBM i (then AS/400) is synonymous with innovation and remains the bedrock of many organisations by delivering an exceptional client experience through an integrated system. This longevity often suggests that these large complex applications can’t take advantage of cloud economics. 

In some cases, RPG code on unsupported hardware and an unpatched operating system may appear to be a lost cause. It would be impractical to rewrite the application in Java and migrate to a public hyperscale cloud, but it is possible to migrate the workload to a private cloud. Core systems of record can enjoy similar economics and behavior of a public cloud, while staying with IBM Power Systems and using IBM i, AIX or Linux in a pay-as-you-go model.

Applications that have certain regulatory or security constraints can run on-premise and co-exist with private and public cloud workloads. Digital transformation will continue to run in a hybrid of on-premise, private and public clouds.

Migration is not the first step in the journey, or the last

Contrary to commonly held views, migration is not the first step on an application’s journey to the cloud. The actual migration is the third or fourth step along the journey; there are some important considerations to make first. Critically, an inventory of all applications must be documented together with their need for security, data management, flexibility, capacity and performance. With these conditions in mind, cloud platforms can then be evaluated. 

Security policies and governance must be integral to cloud planning and not addressed as an afterthought. For example, how will the business approach data protection and data management? How will it ensure backups once in the cloud and the various compliance issues that go with this? 

Much groundwork needs to be completed around a strategy to ensure that every system is compliant, secure and optimized to support the application that the business needs. It’s also important to look at any software licensing issues relating to the application ensuring that licenses can be ported into the cloud to avoid paying twice.

A flexible commercial model

By choosing to run applications in the cloud, an organisation can create value faster while keeping the focus on its business objectives. 

Consuming infrastructure operated by cloud providers means that it’s possible to use only what is needed, reducing lead times and allowing for an opex investment model. 

With cloud hosting platforms, companies can avoid the bottlenecks to scale that depend on how many servers can be managed by an operations engineer and the business is not bound by precise capacity planning to ensure a best return on investment. 

Cloud is an option that is high on agility and which provides much greater flexibility for growth.

Performance and protection

Migrating to the cloud is an opportunity for companies to benefit from newer and more powerful technology. Cloud storage also reduces the high maintenance costs typical of older platforms, without the disruption and operational burden of upgrading on-premise systems.

Cloud computing provides an environment for companies to develop, test, fail, improve and launch applications with lower investment and higher velocity than ever before; however workload environments also need to be increasingly compliant and free from risk. Cloud computing allows large numbers of servers to be set-up, used and shut-down very quickly – but to do this securely with manual processes is slow, prone to errors and standards are difficult to maintain across a server estate.

By treating infrastructure as code, it’s possible to combine configuration templates with IT automation, offering a modern approach for organisations to create value quickly, repeatedly and securely. These techniques deliver consistent and compliant workloads with reduced effort and increased speed.

Organisations with regulated workloads are increasingly required to prove compliance with regulations and best practice security design. Automation can cope with the burden of maintaining compliance as a daily imperative rather than as an occasional exception to pass an audit. 

Application behaviors differ across clouds

It’s not just a case of migrating your app to the cloud and you’re done. Close monitoring of the behavior of the workload is needed to ensure a smooth customer experience, sustainable cost management, and that the appropriate security and disaster recovery is in place for always-on business continuity.

When an organisation follows the right journey to the cloud, it will truly optimize its value. Working with specialists who understand the business needs and the complexity of its applications will ensure the journey is successful. 

Neill works for CSI and is an experienced senior executive operating at VP and director level with a deep understanding of the IT sector within international commercial operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.