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What not to put in the cloud

A guide to which apps are right for cloud, and which apps aren't

By Jake Robinson, solutions architect, Bluelock, special to Network World
November 26, 2012 02:56 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

The cloud promises unlimited capacity, pennies per hour to operate, 4+ nines of uptime and infrastructure managed by a dedicated staff. Even technical challenges around security and compliance can be achieved and are no longer suspect. So why wouldn't you send everything to the cloud?

Obviously there is much more involved than tossing out your current plan and bringing in a "magic cloud" to solve all problems. Some apps are a better fit for a private cloud or no cloud at all. Some apps are a better fit for public cloud. And, often the same app's best-fit environment isn't the same for its entire existence. That makes the answer to the question, "What should I put in cloud?" a bit more complicated.

TROUBLESHOOTING: 5 signs that you've lost control over your cloud apps

Cloud success is all about strategy. If all your team is worried about is cutting your IT budget and that's your only success metric, cloud may not be right for you. But the benefits can't be reaped by simply dumping the old infrastructure for new, and your goals can't be reached if you try to manage the new infrastructure with an old way of thinking.

If, however, your strategy is to reduce overall cost of managing your IT infrastructure, and you tackle the project with an eye toward transforming your way of thinking, cloud could be a good fit for you.

Not only do you need a strategy for how cloud will work with your existing infrastructure, but you also need a strategy for each application or workload you're evaluating. One popular strategy to optimizing your cloud is to look at specific workloads and applications and determine which placement will help achieve the highest ROI at what time.

The cloud application life cycle

The life cycle of an application is dynamic. In the beginning when the application is new and less known, you can make educated guesses about what kind of bandwidth, storage memory and compute it will need. But new workloads can be bursty and behave unexpectedly. The cloud is perfect for new and emerging applications because they are low risk. You can commit fewer resources than you think you need and then burst into more resources as you watch and learn how it behaves. Emerging applications could be anything from test/development all the way up to the mission-critical application.

As those applications stabilize, they begin to become more predictable and mature. As they evolve the resources required become more predictable and you may benefit from moving the application from the public cloud to an internal environment where it can live out its stable time frame. The costs benefits of agility and scalability can be wasted on stable, mature apps. [Also see: "Gartner: 5 things a private cloud is NOT"]

Legacy applications seem to take too long to go away. They have passed the point of maturation and the resources used are in decline each month. They may be taking up valuable IT manpower, time and space in your internal environment. You can't just make them disappear. Cloud is quickly becoming a perfect-fit retirement home for applications. The biggest benefit is being able to tie real costs to the application, and show the costs back to the owners of the legacy app. They may reveal that the application's usage is not nearly worth it and speed up its decommissioning. After that, the cost simply goes away.

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