The issue of portability is crucial when it comes to applications located in the Cloud. To neglect this, is to risk not being able to fully benefit from the Cloud, with its elasticity, flexibility and cost savings. Effectively going back to the prehistory of computing under the pretext of moving forwards to the future! The principle at the heart of open systems should also be at the center of the Cloud: freeing up applications so they can run in any environment ensures sustainable flexibility, and that’s essential to seize the opportunities of the future.
To extend the benefits of the Cloud ¬– its elasticity, flexibility and economies of scale – to the whole information system, companies are looking to ‘cloudify’ their legacy applications. But with a portfolio that sometimes encompasses hundreds or even thousands of applications, that task is long, complex and may extend over several years.
Although driven by the need for rapid benefits profits, this kind of program needs to look to the medium term. Because when it comes to the Cloud, the pace of technology, intensity of competition and lack of maturity in what is still a relatively new market make it hard to predict what is going to happen. In five years time, what will the dominant platforms be? What uses of technology will be most in demand from business users? What will be the most advantageous options? And what kind of regulatory changes can we expect?
This uncertainty means organizations need to take careful precautions if they are to also take advantage of all the sustainable benefits of the Cloud, and avoid the risk of being trapped by their initial choices. If a vendor suddenly increases its prices or changes its data hosting policy, customers have to be able to ‘get out’: technically and contractually. If a competitor offers more services and new security guarantees, the customer must be able to move over to that company quickly and easily; distribute its workload in a different way; move, for a given area, from a private Cloud to a public one… In short, whoever is managing the application needs maximum flexibility when it’s in the Cloud.
Portability is the key to this flexibility and – because it is one of the bigegst challenges of ‘cloudification’ – requires a non-partisan approach. To achieve this, there are a number of methods and tools, including Open Source resources, which allow you to ‘package’ an application and its dependencies. Describing the application lifecycle in a Cloud environment and standardizing its infrastructure requirements ensures portability. Once it is independent of its execution environment, the application can then be modified, moved and the platform on which it runs can be changed, in response to changing trends and opportunities offered by the Cloud.
Once stripped of its environment-specific features and abstracted from that environment, the application also becomes an autonomous entity, which facilitates its governance. Stakeholders (developers, operators, users…) can collaborate more easily on its development and, in particular, the automation of its lifecycle. This approach has the added advantage that a method and reusable elements will emerge from it, helping to industrialize the migration of a vast legacy portfolio to the Cloud.
To sum up…
The benefits of the Cloud are now such that the key question for the IT Department is no longer “When” or “Why”, but “How do we move to the Cloud?” And the challenge is to continue to benefit from it, especially in terms of elasticity, flexibility and cost savings.
But IT Departments are not in a position to accurately predict the service offerings and pricing models that Cloud operators will come up with in the future. Which is why they must take responsibility now for choosing the methods and cloudification tools that will ensure they have greater independence in the future.