How to Evaluate Moving Legacy Mission-Critical Apps to the Cloud

The flexibility and scalability of the cloud can make migrating mission-critical applications a tempting proposition, but availability can become a serious issue.

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Wed, July 24, 2013

CIO — With the increasing maturity and acceptance of cloud infrastructure services in the enterprise, migrating important workloads to the cloud—public, private or hybrid—is becoming a tantalizing proposition. But migrating mission-critical applications, especially ones built on legacy architecture, can be challenging to say the least.

Many enterprises are now planning to move a significant portion of their infrastructure to the cloud, says Dave LeClair, senior director of strategy at Stratus Technologies, a specialist in high availability solutions.

A recently released survey conducted by Stratus, North Bridge Venture Partners and GigaOM Research found that 75 percent of firms are now reporting the use of some sort of cloud platform, and the worldwide addressable market for cloud computing will reach $158.8 billion by 2013, an increase of 126.5 percent from 2011.

"Enthusiasm for the cloud continues to grow, moving beyond historical concerns such as security," LeClair says. "But, what is also clear from this year's results is for cloud adoption to continue accelerating beyond its current pace, companies are going to be looking to vendors to enable always-on infrastructures that support their more critical business applications in this new environment.

Companies need to take a hard look at which applications they are putting in the cloud, then, consider what's involved in managing this shift from a resource, skillset, cost and complexity standpoint, LeClair says. We know first-hand these considerations are not a one-size-fits-all answer and rewriting applications for the cloud will not be the solution in many cases."

Availability an Issue for Mission-Critical Apps in the Cloud

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. But availability remains the bugbear, LeClair says.

Clouds are architected for scale and elasticity, LeClair says. Individual cloud components may fail and not get replaced. Unless your application is designed to work around these failures with the architecture of the workload, you might run into a serious problem, he says.

"We're seeing a lot of basic applications moved over," he says. "We're seeing new applications being built in a cloud environment. But we're not seeing a lot of tier 1 applications moving over."

The High Price of Downtime of Mission-Critical Apps

Downtime of a mission-critical application paralyzes a business. Just before Thanksgiving last year, for example, United Airlines suffered a nationwide glitch in the software that controls its ground operations, which caused a two-hour outage. That, in turn, caused United passenger delays and missed flights across the country. And on Christmas Eve, a malfunction in Amazon's AWS cloud infrastructure kept Netflix from streaming content to millions of customers just as they were sitting down to watch their favorite shows and movies.

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