- Mark Shirman, President and CEO, RiverMeadow, says:
Today, businesses of all sizes are considering how they can benefit from moving their IT operations into the cloud (cloud migration). For some, the cloud is a blank slate offering a world of new resources. Others would like to move their current IT software solutions into the cloud to receive the performance, cost, and management benefits of the cloud.
While some businesses have already moved server workloads to the cloud, countless others are still figuring out their cloud strategies. All have legacy workloads that would probably benefit from being moved to the cloud, but up until now, moving “brownfield” server workloads to the cloud has required significant planning, software development or redesign, and possibly costly and lengthy help from professional services organizations.
Why Cloud Migration?
Many companies face similar challenges when migrating to a cloud environment. Increasingly, rogue IT spend is leading to uncontrolled cloud sprawl (a proliferation of workloads in the cloud), affecting budgets, threatening the security of critical business data and leading to disparate workloads throughout the cloud.
Moving workloads to the cloud will reduce the demand on hardware resources, just as we’ve seen virtualization already has. Even a private cloud business will require less hardware because pooled resources are better utilized (assuming, of course, existing hardware can be re-purposed as cloud servers). A move to the public cloud will dramatically reduce the need for in-house servers, and client financial structures will move from capital to operational expenditure. Businesses will also be able to reclaim some physical floor space and reduce power consumption.
Greenfield vs. Brownfield
Building new systems in the cloud is what we call a greenfield opportunity. Moving existing software – what we refer to as server workloads – to the cloud is called brownfield, and it’s important to consider the benefits – and possible pitfalls – of both before committing to your path into the cloud.
Greenfield cloud implementations are a kind of luxury because you can create new applications without worrying about the constraints of the old system. You don’t have to revise the existing implementation or maintain compatibility with your legacy environment. At the same time, you may be able to take advantage of new computing services provided in your target cloud environment.
But there’s a cost in making your business wait for a new cloud deployment to be developed. The longer legacy systems stay active in your physical data center, the longer you’ll have to maintain legacy applications and hardware. Only then can you start to recoup development costs. Further, tribal knowledge, the thought and design that enabled creation of the original system, may be unavailable. The team that architected the system, set up the server, or developed the application may no longer be intact or still with the company. In those cases, rebuilding becomes exponentially more difficult if not completely impossible.
After all that, we strongly believe that yesterday’s greenfield is becoming today’s brownfield. Once you develop an application in the cloud it’s subject to the same migration complexities and costs as, for example, would be incurred when migrating a physical Windows server into a cloud environment. The reality for most businesses is existing systems are meeting real business challenges today. An ideal scenario is to simply move legacy systems to a cloud environment as-is, avoiding disruptions to employees or customers and accruing hardware savings right away.
Unlocking the Benefits of the Cloud
You may find, as others have, that you can eventually benefit by replacing some of your legacy workloads with SaaS solutions already in the cloud. However, significant changes to the services provided by your IT infrastructure can have unintended consequences and other disruptions for IT users.
As Gartner recently observed, businesses need to carefully plan the use of new cloud applications and services before replacing their legacy systems. Before taking that leap of faith to new applications in the cloud, businesses must find a path that retains their legacy systems, without disruption, while gaining many of the benefits of the cloud.
An important upshot of the cloud is the positive impact on IT organizations. Many have been on a never-ending treadmill of trying to keep up with user demands for development and maintenance of customized business systems. At the same time, businesses have been trying to control costs and IT increasingly has been seen as too tactical and unable to reduce its burn rate. Companies want to see IT take a strategic role in the business.
The cloud offers enormous opportunities for IT to break the vicious cycle demanded by traditional legacy systems in the physical data center. By taking the proactive role of moving workloads to the cloud, IT can reduce costs, increase management control, and build a strategy for continuing productivity improvements.