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Cloud migration tools clear applications' path to cloud

Cloud migrations are never easy or cheap, but the best results come when applications are re-architected to take advantage of what the cloud can offer.

A move from the data center to the cloud can be costly and labor-intensive, but a number of vendors offer specialized...

cloud migration tools and services to help IT pros cloudify their applications.

Large companies like Accenture to boutique firms like Cloud Technology Partners Inc. give IT shops a simpler path to cloud, and as more enterprises move to the cloud, these types of services will gain popularity.

Migration vendors say the key is to review customers' entire portfolio, including product lifecycles, to determine a roadmap for moving to cloud. Some older applications with high dependencies will likely have to remain on-premises, while virtualized applications will be the easiest to transition.

While startups and green field ventures can have their entire workloads on cloud-native applications, that's not the case for enterprises with thousands of applications and reputations for following IT trends rather than leading them. Determining the value in such a move isn't always clear cut, and it can depend on a variety of factors, said Paul Burns, president of Neovise, LLC, an IT industry analysis firm based in Fort Collins, Colo.

It’s a lot like moving a house. It’s not easy and it’s not painless.
Carl Brooksanalyst, 451 Group

"There’s a line, but it might be a financial line or a reliability line," Burns said.

The reasons to move on-premises workloads to the cloud include it being time for an upgrade, or desire to push an application out of the data center to make room, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research LLC, based in New York. But moving data is a long and slow process that often isn't worth the trouble without a compelling business case.

"It’s a lot like moving a house," Brooks said. "It’s not easy and it’s not painless."

There are a number of vendors that provide guidance and assistance with cloud application migration, including 2nd Watch Inc. Accenture, Datapipe and Virtustream. These companies essentially come from the hosting market, and they forklift an application, cloudify it and migrate it to a remote hosted server, Brooks said.

Condé Nast, a mass-media company based in New York, faced an upgrade window and opted to move 97% of its corporate applications to the cloud to save on infrastructure costs and improve the pace of product deployment, according to Malik Zegdi, senior vice president of technology operations.

Condé Nast used AWS and 2nd Watch to move roughly 100 applications for HR, legal, sales and finance to the cloud over four months, and six months later everything is going well, Zegdi said. The company had very experienced IT professionals, but not the kind that could handle a move to cloud, he added.

Not everything could migrate to AWS, however. The company identified six applications that were too dependent on old hardware -- as well as videoconferencing and telephone services tied to proprietary hardware -- and moved them to a smaller data center than the 67,000-square-foot facility being used before the migration. Email services were also moved to Office 365, which runs on Microsoft Azure.

"Cloud is a really different animal," Zegdi said. "It’s different policies and concepts, different technical staff. Scalability, elasticity -- you don’t have that natively in traditional IT infrastructure, so you need people who are subject matter experts to guide you."

Cloud Technology Partners’ CTP Labs re-architects existing software into multitenant, auto-scaling cloud workloads. Applications’ source code is scanned to identify what is viable and what has to be swapped, and how to avoid bottlenecks and security, and to identify areas to take advantages for queuing and monitoring capabilities.

For enterprises looking to take advantage of cloud computing, simply starting from scratch isn’t an option, said Erik Sebesta, chief architect and technology officer at Cloud Technology Partners in Boston.

“The challenge is in scraping so much built-in logic that has been built into [the application]  over the years and the time it takes to rebuild that is too expensive," Sebesta said.

It’s critical to establish a roadmap to gradually put in changes that make workloads more available and dynamically scalable, Sebesta said.

Accenture began to offer its self-service Enterprise Application Migration Service for AWS this month as a means to move legacy application portfolios to Amazon's cloud. For migrations to be worth it, customers need to understand the value in re-architecting their applications to obtain some of the real savings and value that comes from cloud, said Michael Liebow, global managing director of the Accenture Cloud Platform.

"No organization I know is going to do this overnight," Liebow said. "These things take time and quite frankly they cost a lot of money. You have to create the compelling business case for why."

The market for cloud migration tools and services

Many of these vendors are striking now because they see the potential for growth in enterprise spending on cloud, but it's important to keep it in perspective, Brooks said. Most enterprises look at external hosting providers as "the cloud," while spending on infrastructure as a service and platform as a service remains a fraction of overall enterprise IT budget.

"Vendors like this narrative because it automatically puts a higher level value add on their services, it’s shorthand for saying 'We are special and not just vanilla hosted servers,'" Brooks said.

The real value in cloud isn't derived from simply moving application, but from taking away the mundane operations tasks from the IT department, which is why companies like Rackspace Inc. are making money and AWS continues to broaden its service portfolio, Brooks said.

Consulting and cloud migration tools are growing and should expect to see a lot of business in the next few years due to the specialized tools and expertise needed, but enterprise IT is taking on additional responsibility in this effort, too.

"As best practices become better known and the tools and automation improve, enterprises and other IT organizations will be better able to do it on their own," Burns said.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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