Not every app is suitable for the cloud – but how do you decide?

Cloud infrastructure’s appeal is irresistible – but just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it is automatically the best solution for migrating every application and workload. Cloud platforms have weaknesses as well as strengths, and making the best use of them requires fully understanding what to move to the cloud, and what to keep on-premises.

At stake is the smooth functioning of your IT infrastructure – and by the end of next year, IDC has predicted, half of companies undergoing digital transformation (DX) projects will be struggling to translate their business requirements into effective IT investments and operations plans. Perceptions of the cloud as useful will be tempered by the reality that a hybrid IT approach is far more relevant and effective in the near term.

It’s important to understand that just because you adopt a hybrid IT approach, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re stuck running ageing, primitive legacy environments. Investments in data-centre capacity are surging as businesses revitalise their legacy systems into on-premises ‘private clouds’ that utilise server and application virtualisation to consolidate existing workloads into a manageable, predictable and secure environment.

Playing to cloud’s strengths…

Deciding which workloads to keep close, and which to put in the cloud, must be approached systematically and with an eye on the relative advantages of each platform.

Objectively, cloud platforms are most valuable for their repeatability – a characteristic that enables massive scalability, ensuring robust performance even with large numbers of users. Cloud platforms are also valuable for providing distributed access to centralised information resources and enterprise services, particularly when large numbers of mobile users are involved.

These characteristics mean that widely used business applications – customer relationship management (CRM) and human resources (HR) tools are good examples – can be more easily rolled out alongside self-service portals for staff and customers. Analytics tools are rapidly coming into the frame as well, leveraging cloud-based data stores to provide employees with anytime, anywhere access to key performance reports and data querying systems.

Increasingly, cloud platforms are also being associated with high-performance computing – particularly as enterprise applications are being rewritten to restructure traditional vertically-integrated tasks into more modular components that can benefit from the cloud’s massive scalability.

Many cloud service providers are leveraging cloud architectures to modularise advanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) modules, which can be integrated with enterprise applications to provide advanced analytics and new data services.

Cloud providers are quickly moving to capture this market by installing racks and racks of high-performance servers designed for intensive computational capabilities. If your enterprise applications would benefit from this type of capability but you don’t have internal skills in AI and ML-optimised architectures, you’ll find it easier to leverage cloud services that leverage third-party skills to provide easy access to such services.

…and working around its weaknesses

Despite the scalability and extensibility provided by cloud services, there will be many cases where available solutions simply can’t deliver the performance, availability, reliability or manageability that key enterprise applications require.

Many other applications will be unsuitable for cloud environments simply because of concerns about the security of that data, or the lack of control – real or perceived – over the movement of the data overseas.

The Cloud Security Alliance’s recent State of Cloud Security 2018 report noted growing efforts by cloud providers to address security issues through adoption of ISO 27000-series certification and third-party assessments like Australia’s ASD Certified Cloud Services List (CCSL).

While cloud providers will work hard to demonstrate the security of their solutions, businesses need to be careful not to expect that they’re handing over the reins of their security entirely. Ultimately, it is up to the end customer to evaluate cloud security – and to opt out of cloud adoption if that security doesn’t meet regulatory or compliance requirements.

In the event of non-compliance, it’s well worth triaging those applications to a hybrid IT specialist with the resources and expertise to deliver a hybrid IT environment with the specific performance and operational characteristics that your applications require.

That environment might be optimised for performance using specialised hardware; designed with specific security controls or redundancy in place to meet data stewardship objectives; incorporate highly detailed service and availability monitoring that doesn’t translate well into the cloud environment; or feature heavy integration with legacy systems and capabilities that cannot be easily adapted to the cloud in-motion.

Legacy systems pose a particular challenge, because many are based on languages and tools that aren’t well supported within the cloud environment. Many also use proprietary data formats or have been so tightly customised over the years that they’re all but impossible to adapt or rewrite.

In such cases, it’s hardly worth risking business interruption just to move the platform to the cloud. Adopt whatever cloud solutions make sense but embrace a hybrid IT solution for the short term, then watch the cloud market as it continues to evolve: cloud providers are changing daily and new capabilities will regularly emerge to address the things that are keeping you out of the cloud. Using the hybrid IT approach, you can keep your systems running smoothly for tomorrow, while benefiting from the cloud today.

Get in touch with us today if you would like to learn about our cloud services. 

Gareth Cleeves min
Author Name: Gareth Cleeves

Gareth Cleeves is a Product Manager at NTT ICT, the Australian arm of NTT Communications.  He works with both products developed locally by NTT ICT, acting as the product owner and architect, as well as global products developed by NTT Communications, working to localise and commercialise products from across the...

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Added 10 October 2018

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