Technology, Cloud

What Makes an Application Cloud Ready?

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This week I attended and presented at the May meeting of the Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA) in New York City. The WSTA was founded in 1967 and is a not-for-profit association that focuses on providing a forum for financial industry technology professionals, vendors, service providers, and consultants to connect on technologies, operational approaches, and business issues. With over 2600 members WSTA is a great place to get insight and discuss some of the most popular trends impacting the financial services industry.

At the event I attended, the focus was on modernizing and accelerating application delivery in the context of new technologies such as cloud and mobile. As I rounded out a productive morning at the event, I think as I knew going into the event cloud is definitely here to stay, and not only is it here to stay it is ready to take us by storm (if we haven’t already been caught up in its path). However, even as more and more people start to “accept” cloud and more and more analysts produce studies on cloud telling us about level of cloud adoption rates across various industries and geographies. There is still one question I get asked time and time again. How do you know when to use cloud and for what?

Since this question is still being tentatively asked (I say tentatively because who wants to openly admit in a room full of their peers that they aren’t a cloud “guru”) I decided, based on the various discussions I have had around this topic I would make some recommendations of my own and open up the debate to my peers here.

So, when is cloud right? There are many reasons when cloud can be right, the most common of which include:

  • When you are trying to gain more flexibility e.g. using the cloud to set up on demand dev / test environments vs. waiting a long time to go through the “central IT” process
  • When you are trying to lower costs. In some cases (and not all) cloud can help you to manage your costs by reducing your initial capital expenses
  • When you are trying to increase storage, capacity etc in a refined timeframe and you do not have the ability to do so in-house
  • When you need the ability to free up IT staff to focus on other business critical activities vs. constant software updates and infrastructure management

However, one of the key questions that I believe we need to ask ourselves is not only is cloud as an infrastructure solution the right thing to do to bring us benefits, but are the applications that we want to host on the cloud (in particular in the case of public cloud) “cloud ready”? In order to answer this question here are some of the elements to look for in “cloud ready” apps:

  • Performance: An under-performing application can negate the savings promised by the cloud so checking for proper performance of the application prior to deploying in the cloud can ensure you not only get your expected cost savings but can also ensure you maintain those ever important SLA.
  • Elasticity: Application elasticity drives cloud economics. Apps must be designed to scale up for agility AND down for cost savings. This also means looking at Application Workload Management solutions as part of you operations strategy.
  • Resilience: In the cloud, it is more important to anticipate and proactively handle failures so accounting for resilience in your application architecture is key.
  • Security: Cloud brings new risks for apps in a shared environment. Security should be built-in, verified and monitored. This includes access rights, data security and policy management.

For more information on this, in particular in the federal space you can go to the General Services Administration (GSA) App.Gov website: http://info.apps.gov/content/when-using-cloud-makes-sense

Now, if you know my posts you know that the next sentence I will always say is that this list is by no means exhaustive, but as I am writing down these elements, I think they have brought me to what I think the real question is that I am looking to answer. Outside of the “usual suspects” such as reduce costs, increase agility etc what are the other compelling reasons why we move to cloud and what outside of the application fundamentals of “functional, performance and security” make an application “cloud ready”. Or is it the case that cloud like many before it is the next enabler for us as IT professionals to achieve our age old goals of do more with less, do it faster and cheaper and ultimately increase our agility and ability to meet market demands?

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Discussion
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pearl
Pearl Zhu 90 Points | Tue, 05/22/2012 - 17:01

Hi, Genefa, enjoy your cloud thinking, just read another interesting arcle about cloud: private cloud is from Mars, and public cloud is from Venus, which means, different cloud solution has different charicristics, the cloud strategy may also includ how IT integrates the elements you listed above and well transform via broker/integration/orchestration. 

Genefa Murphy
Genefa Murphy 39 Points | Tue, 05/22/2012 - 17:11

I love that concept Pearl and it couldn't be more true. There are definately similarities between clouds in terms of the process of managing them, getting them set up etc but the operational elements can have distinct differences which will definately impact the suitability and behaviour of the applications deployed there.