Cloud integration: Four key steps to move legacy apps to the cloud

By James O'Brien

Chief information officers (CIOs) are always in the spotlight during a cloud integration. The CIO decides how legacy applications are incorporated into the cloud. Businesses are increasingly considering migration to be critical in the enterprise mobile space. According to a recent CIO article, “The value proposition of moving applications to the cloud seems clear: It can vastly improve agility and the scalability of applications. In many cases, your mission-critical applications stand to benefit the most from cloud infrastructure.”

Businesses are increasing cloud integration because of mobile’s rapid rise in the workplace. Enterprise tablet adoption will grow 48 percent annually over the next few years, according to Vertic. Additionally, Gartner reports that 40 percent of workers in large enterprises are doing business on personally owned devices.

For CIOs moving legacy apps to the cloud, industry experts have some advice. Here are some important concepts about transitioning your company’s app ecosystem from on-site servers to a work-from-anywhere milieu.

Key Steps: Successful Cloud Integration and Legacy Apps

Riverbed reports that enterprises will spend $235 billion on cloud-related services by 2017, but funding alone will not ensure a successful transition of legacy apps to the cloud. As the following key steps illustrate, careful analysis and clear communications will play a critical role in every app-relocation project.

  1. Evaluate your legacy apps for cloud suitability. Not all legacy apps are created equal. Older platforms and applications can be based on complicated in-house database structures, or they can require operating systems that are no longer suitable for cloud functionality. The first step in any successful redeployment is to revisit the inner workings of your legacy apps. If their architecture and protocols require a massive, expensive recoding, you may need to rethink their ongoing position in your technology portfolio.
  2. Consider replatforming instead of lifting and dropping your apps. Even if a legacy app’s code isn’t suitable for the cloud, that shouldn’t stop you from migrating. You can use a straightforward approach in some cases, such as lifting and dropping an app between platforms without reworking its architecture. According to DevOps.com, it’s also possible to replatform for more complex projects. In this approach, your team moves key components of a legacy app to the cloud and then replaces nonsuitable pieces of the system with cloud-based services. Replatforming is a prime opportunity, notes CIO, to de-clutter bloated and inefficient elements from your company’s array of applications.
  3. Adjust legacy apps for the cloud’s cluster-server environment. Legacy apps tend to thrive in single-server scenarios. The programs were typically built to run on discrete, central machines as opposed to a cluster of servers in the cloud. When considering cloud integration, you’ll have to plan for what happens when a single cluster component fails. This contingency plan ensures that the whole app isn’t rendered inoperable. Engine Yard suggests a solution, though it has a few caveats: Try freezing the local state of your legacy apps, locking its file system into an unchanging state for cloud operations. You’ll have to give up the ability to change its configuration, and it won’t be able to write new, permanent files. However, the app is now less likely to run into file-access problems in the more fluid cloud ecosystem.
  4. Clarify service-level agreements (SLAs), especially with downtime. Understand what your SLA says about compensation for inevitable downtime. If it costs your business $100,000 per hour when cloud-based apps are unavailable, the SLA must specify how the provider plans to offset that loss.

Remember that cloud costs almost always rise over time. As you build and present your cloud integration plan, leverage projections about future cost increases to add credibility to your plan. Account for future shifts in the price of space, power and cooling, which can affect returns.

CIOs can reap great rewards for their companies by boosting productivity with cloud integration. When it comes to moving legacy apps to the cloud, these officers need a solid plan that’s carefully crafted, holistic and works within realistic expectations.

Written By

James O'Brien

Technology Reporter

For the past half decade, James O'Brien has covered technology and the ways it intersects with our lives and work. His points of focus include data analytics, the mobile sector, driver-less cars, the Internet of Things, IT infrastructure, data security, 3-D printing, and technology…

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