Migrating mission-critical applications to the cloud is fundamentally different from migrating less critical applications and processes to the cloud. Picking the right cloud hosting provider is among the most important decisions you'll make when planning the migration of your Tier 1 applications. After all, cloud providers that typically focus on developer services can quickly find themselves out of their depth when dealing with production applications.
"The requirements and capabilities that an organization needs when running a production application are very different than one that's catering to developers," says Craig McLellan, cloud architecture author and chief technology officer of Hosting.com.
Tier 1 applications often stand to benefit the most from the efficiency and scalability offered by a cloud environment:
Consolidation and infrastructure efficiency
Faster provisioning of applications and better configuration management
Universal high-availability services
Automated resource optimization, and dynamic scaling of applications.
However, the applications themselves are often the most complex and most critical to a business, and questions around stakeholder buy-in, architecture, and ISV support and licensing must be addressed before taking the plunge. Unlike Tier 2 applications, which can usually be virtualized in a self-contained manner, your Tier 1 applications touch on many people, processes and technologies.
Also, by their very nature, they tend to have been around for a while. They tend to run on legacy hardware, which can make the whole process more challenging.
Look to Your Disaster Recovery Plan First
As a first step, before even considering cloud providers, McLellan recommends CIOs take a look at their disaster recovery plan for the application in question.
"When was the last time you exercised your disaster recovery plan? When did you last test it? The easiest way to migrate your application is to treat it as if it were a disaster recovery exercise," McLellan says. "If you don't have a disaster recovery plan for that particular application, it's going to be very hard to migrate because no one has really thought about how to recover it."
He also notes that applications designed with disaster recovery in mind lend themselves to straightforward migrations, while applications that had disaster recovery plans bolted on after the fact generally lead to much more complex and time-consuming migrations.
"It's important that the customer have a realistic perspective early," he says. "The merits of cloud should still generally outweigh those challenges of migration from a long-term perspective."
Five Signs a Cloud Provider Isn't Ready for Mission-Critical Apps
When it comes time to choose your cloud provider, McLellan says CIOs should look for five signs that service providers are blowing hot air when they claim to be ready to handle your mission-critical applications:
Does the cloud providers pitch focus more on billing and provisioning time rather than reliability? If so, McLellan notes, it's a sign the provider's real focus is providing developer services, not hosting for Tier 1 applications.
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