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Cloud app management -- from migration to monitoring

Performance monitoring and application migrations are only a few layers of the cloud app onion. And not managing them effectively can leave an admin in tears.

Businesses moving applications to the cloud has become the norm, and why not? While applications gobble up storage space and bandwidth in a data center, the cloud is often a more cost-efficient alternative that eliminates heavyweight servers. Some applications, such as email and other communications, can be moved with ease. However, the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all platform.

Enterprises need to be cautious with applications that contain sensitive data. Additionally, admins will want to ensure the apps perform as well in the cloud as they did on-premises. Finally, managing who can -- and who can't -- spin up a new virtual machine can help keep cloud costs under control.

Choosing the right applications for the cloud is just as essential as managing them properly once they're up and running. Here are five important questions to ask when moving applications to a cloud platform and to ensure solid cloud app management.

Which applications are right for the cloud?

Determining which applications are right for the cloud ultimately depends on which cloud platform you plan to use. For the most part, private cloud's benefits of more control and better security appeal to admins who want to hold on to mission-critical apps. While the private cloud keeps data on-premises, that doesn't necessarily guarantee security. Access and identity management, such as authentication and user authorization, is critical to ensure only specific users can access their data -- and no one else's. Hybrid clouds, which combine the control of private cloud with the ability to move "bursty" or seasonal workloads to the public cloud as needed, are gaining love from enterprises.

But which applications are right for the cloud? Communication and collaboration services are solid options. Enterprises often move email and collaborative apps to the cloud for the cost savings and to focus their time and management energy on other aspects of the business, such as development.

Do I need to re-architect my applications for the cloud?

Not all applications are a cloud-match right off the bat. Enterprises may need to re-architect legacy applications before they will perform properly on a cloud platform. Re-architecting apps for the cloud will allow those companies to take full advantage of cloud's agility, elasticity and scalability. The flexible nature of cloud computing can improve application performance and return on investment.

But re-architecting apps for the cloud is no walk in the park. Some applications were not well designed from the beginning and are poorly coded and unstable. Often, enterprises are forced to rewrite code and reshape the application to run smoothly in the new environment.

What are the keys to cloud application migration?

It's easy to understand why businesses migrate applications to the cloud. But before you move an application, enterprise IT must determine if the app is cloud-ready. To minimize risk, choose to move the low-hanging fruit of applications first, including non-mission-critical workloads.

The next step to a successful cloud app migration is to choose where it will go. And this ultimately depends upon the apps' use case and how hands-on admins want to be with it. Is it best to move the application to software as a service, in which a SaaS provider hosts the entire application and admins have very little to do management-wise? Or is it a customer-facing application with cyclical or peak usage times that can go into public cloud to take advantage of its scalability?

Finally, enterprises need to consider costs and security. Cloud computing and cloud migrations can become budget-busters if you're not careful. Cloud provider cost calculators are helpful to determine app migration costs, but aren't always 100% accurate. And all companies should have a cloud provider backup plan for cloud vendors that don't live up to expectations.

How can I monitor my cloud apps' performance?

Performance monitoring is essential for any cloud application. Continuous monitoring allows admins to handle any issues or disruptions immediately to avoid further disaster. Many public cloud providers offer their own monitoring tools. Google Cloud Monitoring is one option that helps admins find performance problems within Google's cloud. Amazon Web Services' CloudWatch is another tool that monitors AWS application metrics. There are also endless supplies of third-party application monitoring and management tools that pick up where native tools leave off. In addition to monitoring tools, admins should regularly test applications and study performance trends.

What are the latest cloud application trends?

Containerization dominates cloud headlines, and Docker containers are at the forefront. Formerly dotCloud, Docker is an open-source container platform for building and running applications. Its app portability has caught the eye of many providers -- including Google, AWS and Microsoft, among others. Joyent recently rolled the dice on Docker, and combined its container-based infrastructure with Docker containers. Google also furthered its Docker relationship with the alpha release of Google Container Engine. The company previously released Kubernetes, an open source container manager. And with Google's latest container developments, cloud users can expect AWS to follow suit. Enterprises looking to build new applications in the cloud should keep an eye on Docker innovations to determine if they meet their needs.

Nicholas Rando is assistant site editor for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at nrando@techtarget.com.

Next Steps

Migrating applications to the Azure cloud

What's new in cloud app containerization?

What Docker 1.0 means for virtualization

The pros, cons and surprises of cloud app monitoring tools

This was last published in November 2014

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