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Cloud vs. on-premises: Finding the right balance

Sandra Gittlen | May 2, 2017
The process of figuring out which apps work in the cloud vs. on-premises doesn't yield the same results for everyone.

Kas Naderi, senior vice president of Atlanticus Holdings Corp., a specialty finance company focused on underserved consumers in the U.S., U.K., Guam and Saipan, had a similar experience when the company "lifted and shifted" its entire application portfolio to the cloud. "Every one of our applications performed as good or better than in our data center, which had hardware that was ten years old," he says.

In 2014, the company took all existing applications and ran them "as is" in the cloud environment. Atlanticus relied on consulting firm DISYS to not only validate Atlanticus' migration approach, but also to help staff a 24-hour, "follow the sun" implementation. "They enabled us to accelerate our timeline," he says. In addition, DISYS, an Amazon Web Services partner, lent its expertise to explain what would and wouldn't work in Amazon's cloud.

Atlanticus deployed a federated cloud topology distributed among Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Zadara cloud storage, InContact Automatic Call Distribution, and Vonage phone system, with applications sitting where they operate best -- such as Microsoft Active Directory on Azure. The company front-ends Amazon Web Services with a private cloud that handles security tasks including intrusion detection/prevention and packet inspection. "There is an absolute need for private cloud services to encapsulate a level of security and control that might not be available in the public cloud," Naderi says.

In its next phase of cloud migration, Atlanticus will assess whether legacy applications have SaaS or other cloud-based alternatives that perform even better. In other words, the company took all its applications "as is," including legacy, and put them in the cloud. Now they are going to see if there are better alternatives to those legacy apps available to adopt.

Oshkosh ran a similar exercise and found that cloud-based SharePoint outperformed on-premises SharePoint and improved functionality. For instance, the company has been able to create a space where external suppliers can interact with internal employees, safely exchanging critical information. "That was challenging for on-premises," Downer says.

He adds: "We also are using various CRM cloud applications within some segments, and have started to meet niche business requirements on the shop floor with cloud solutions."


Staffing the cloud

As organizations move to the cloud, they sometimes harbor the misconception that migration means they need fewer IT staff. These IT leaders say that's not the case. Instead, they've gotten more value out of their skilled workforce by retraining them to handle the demands of cloud services.

Greg Downer, senior IT director at specialty vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Corp.: "We retrained our legacy people, which went well. For instance, we trained our BMC Remedy administrators on the ServiceNow SaaS. We're not just using 10% to 20% of a large on-premises investment, but getting the full value of the platform subscription we are paying for."


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