Where in the cloud do the applications belong?

Companies looking to move to cloud should not just forklift their applications wholesale but take a holistic approach

With infrastructure as a service starting to become established and software as a service pretty well established, will all applications get moved into the cloud or should there be a more strategic approach?

As businesses start to migrate from their current on-premise configurations -whether virtually or physically based - it is likely a lot will automatically move their existing applications straight to an Infrastructure as a service offering.

I believe this is ultimately a flawed approach. Companies should not be looking at cloud just as a replacement to buying infrastructure, or outsourcing a few applications that are not deemed to be strategic. Instead, organisations looking at cloud should step back from approaching it as a technical infrastructure decision and consider performing a full strategic review of their business processes and the applications that underline and support them.

With three main areas of cloud services, infrastructure, platform and software as a service, businesses should view them as a holistic set of solutions that, when blended together, will deliver a far more focused, coherent and agile service to the business. It is also far more likely to deliver on the potential of the cloud in reducing the total cost of ownership than a tactical approach of just using infrastructure as a service.

So how do businesses achieve this? First, they should start by performing a full audit of their business processes and how the application(s) are currently used within each process.  Second, by understanding what can be achieved by each cloud service, it’s possible to align applications into one of the three main cloud offerings.

SaaS has been around for many years, but it only recently that small, agile software companies have really started to deliver solutions that have the potential to meet enterprise demands, at prices that truly undermine the current costs models. To date, most of the established players in this space have offered pay as you go but ultimately at prices not that too dissimilar to the traditional model. This change started in 2011 and is set to accelerate during 2012 and beyond.  This area of cloud computing will also see more and more business critical applications becoming available.

Platform as a service is the newest of the main cloud offerings, but many believe it has the capabilities to have the biggest impact on business use of the cloud.  It has several benefits; speed of development and deployment are well documented but not the only benefit.  By truly analysing the business process within organisations, PaaS has the ability to accelerate and reduce the amount of stages a process comprises through the innovative use of workflow and automation tools.  All of which can be then be delivered as an internal SaaS model.

Both software and platform as a service also help solve the ever-increasing pressure on accessibility of data, as both offerings are predominately web based delivery methods that allow for multi platform support from the one solution.

Infrastructure as a service will initially continue for a few more years as a main component of the cloud but as the options and costs of software and platform as a service mature there will be a natural movement away from it and it will ultimately become a place for legacy applications and data.

Therefore, an application based review methodology through the analysis of your business processes is critical if cloud computing is on your agenda, and now is the time to start thinking in a more strategic, holistic and transformational way.  By using this approach your business will realise the true capabilities that cloud has to offer and how to benefit from them through a far more agile business service delivery model.  

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