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The cloud as data-center extension

By , Computerworld
November 08, 2012 10:35 AM ET

Computerworld - A year after Oregon's Multnomah County deployed an on-premises portfolio management application, the two IT staffers dedicated to it resigned. Other staff struggled to maintain the specialized server environment. Left with no other option to guarantee support of the mission-critical tool, the county leapt into the cloud.

"All of our IT projects are tracked through Planview," says Staci Cenis, IT project manager for Multnomah County, which includes Portland. "We use it for time accountability and planning. Monitoring scheduled and unscheduled maintenance shows us when staff will be free to take on another project."

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Initially the county had two dedicated Planview administrators, Cenis explains. But over a period of around three months in 2009, both left their jobs at the county, "leaving us with no coverage, " Cenis says. "We didn't have anyone on staff that had been trained on the configuration of our Planview instance or understood the technical pieces of the jobs that run within the tool to update the tables," among other things.

Cenis hadn't considered the cloud before that issue, but agreed to abandon the in-house software in favor of Planview's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering after assessing the costs. Training other IT staffers on server, storage, backup administration, recovery and upgrades alone would have compounded the on-premises software expenses, Cenis says.

Nowadays, with the infrastructure and application administration offloaded to the cloud, IT can handle most configuration, testing and disaster recovery concerns during a regularly scheduled monthly call. "I wish we had gone with the cloud from the start because it has alleviated a significant burden," Cenis says, especially in the area of software upgrades.

Each upgrade handled by the application provider instead of her team, she estimates, adds numerous hours back into her resource pool. "What would have taken us days if not weeks to troubleshoot is generally answered and fixed within a day or two," she adds. At the same time, users can access the latest software version within a month or two of its release.

Multnomah County's embrace of the cloud is one of five models becoming more common today, according to Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

Gartner categorizes them as follows:

Replace, as Multnomah County did by ripping out infrastructure and going with SaaS;

Re-host, where IT still manages the software, but it is hosted on external infrastructure such as Amazon, HP or Rackspace public or private cloud servers;

Refactor, where some simple changes are made to the application to take advantage of platform-as-a-service;

Revise, where code or data frameworks have to be adapted for PaaS;

Rebuild, where developers and IT scrap application code and start over using PaaS.

"Not a lot of companies rebuild or do a lot of major modifications to migrate an application to the cloud. Instead, they either replace, re-host or refactor," Manes says.

Originally published on www.computerworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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