The curious case of a cloud application migration

After IT teams decide an application is cloud-ready, what's next? It’s not as simple as signing up with a public cloud provider and moving apps to the cloud. Factors like costs, governance and app design can hinder enterprise app migrations.

SAN DIEGO – When an enterprise decides to migrate an application to the cloud, the work of an IT administrator has really just begun.

Launching an app in the cloud remains an ongoing process, even after an enterprise determines an app's individual risk factors. The first step is to understand the application design, which varies depending on what cloud layer the application lives.

"With infrastructure as a service or platform as a service, you might design the app for resiliency," said Drue Reeves, chief of research at Gartner Inc., speaking at the Gartner Catalyst Conference here this week. "If it’s built to scale up, you might want to rebalance to scale out. For SaaS, usability is key, so you must add security features."

An enterprise might opt for a hybrid cloud for privacy reasons, but many providers will charge you for additional encryption. IT teams need to think about the design of the app’s interface.

Cloud bills and governance

Cloud providers offer calculators, which can provide a good, albeit imperfect, sense of what the application will cost, Reeves said. It’s really just an estimate. Only after running and profiling an application can IT pros see how much it really costs.

"When you add services, it will add to the bill," Reeves said. "You must factor that in. Now the whole organization is using it, how much does that cost?"

IT shops can prevent overconsumption by adding some form of governance. One company limited its accounts to just a few hundred dollars each, thinking it might help with management and governance. It was unable to limit the number of accounts and the company’s cloud costs spiraled upward, according to Reeves.

While an app may seem like a good candidate to migrate to the cloud, but after IT extrapolates all of its costs, it might see that the price comes in higher than originally budgeted.  

Cloud flow of approvals

Determining which app to place in the cloud should be a joint decision between IT and business stakeholders because both must agree on the cost versus the risk.

"If something goes down, we know the issues that might arise, and can deal with them from a business perspective," Reeves said.

When you add services, it will add to the growth of your bill. You must factor that in.
Drue Reeveschief of research at Gartner

Negotiations with a cloud provider can be tough, especially without spending a lot of money, so an enterprise must know what is most important and worth fighting for. Often, an enterprise's legal team wants an iron-clad cloud agreement with a provider, which can create a roadblock.

If legal teams want to negotiate, it's best to do that for the most critical apps – not non customer-facing ones, Reeves said. 

Order provisioning and other protection

IT must have a procurement process for cloud ordering to prevent overconsumption, which requires a migration strategy. A hybrid cloud is one way to reduce some form of risk. By keeping critical apps in-house, an enterprise can ease into the cloud without the pressure of an ‘all-in-one’ migration. And IT must also have an exit strategy in the event of a cloud provider failure.

Lastly, it's tough to put a price on the value of an app's agility. Run that factor by business leaders one more time. Ask the business side to walk you through their thinking to determine whether an app is worth it in the cloud.

The business side often hears first hand from a vendor that its cloud is the cheapest and most flexible, and so it wants immediate results, according to an IT manager for a Midwest gas company who declined to be identified.

"Business hears the word ‘cloud’ and thinks it’s easy to get it up and running," he said. "They’re hearing this from the cloud provider and then turning to [IT] and saying ‘Make this work'."

Adam Hughes is the news editor for the Data Center and Virtualization media group. He can be reached via email at ahughes@techtarget.com or on Twitter at @AdamHughesTT.

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