Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Should You Jump On the Cloud Bandwagon?

IT departments have been seeing a renewal in funding within their companies, according to Though some of these funds are earmarked for customer engagement, a fair amount is also meant for tech development.

Cloud Computing | Firebrand Training
With businesses becoming more and more reliant upon custom applications, many are finding that they’re quickly outgrowing their on-premise hardware and servers – which means that many CIOs and ITs are wondering how to manage that growth.

The Cloud has appeared as one of the miraculous solutions to these needs. However, as it often happens in the IT industry, the noise level around this new buzzword makes it hard for IT professionals to really understand what the cloud really means and how they can take advantage of it.

If you’ve found yourself wondering about this cloud frenzy, and if you should jump on the cloud bandwagon, here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide whether or not to take the plunge and which provider to choose.

Are your apps good to go, or will they need to be ported to a new technology?

One of the reasons that many companies have found switching to the cloud cost prohibitive is that many cloud vendors have very rigid terms regarding programming languages. You’ll find that each provider has selected a different technology stack to support the development, deployment and runtime of their cloud applications.

What this means is that, if your existing apps are written in .Net and you’re considering a cloud infrastructure that uses Python or Java, you’ll have to completely rewrite your apps. Do you have the resources, time and budget for that? Another aspect to consider is the flexibility you will have to switch to another cloud vendor if you wish.

Before deciding to which cloud provider to use, make sure their technology stack is in line with the one you’re currently using to minimize the cost of porting applications. Start by evaluating what you already have, how easy it will be for you to port those apps to the new platform, and what other options (cloud vendors) will you have if you decide to switch vendors later on.

How much will it cost to evolve your apps?

Research shows that anywhere from 60% to 80% of the total cost of ownership of an enterprise application goes towards its maintenance and evolution after the initial release. 

Will moving to the cloud cut down on this cost? Not really! The issue here is that the cost of maintaining and evolving apps is tied to the technology used to build the application, and not the infrastructure the app is running on.

Before deciding which cloud provider to use, spend some time evaluating if the underlying technology will allow you to add more functionality to your applications faster, while keeping the cost of those changes stable. 

Do you have a firm IT strategy?

As a company, before you can decide whether or not it’s time for a switch, it’s important that you’ve spent time working out your IT strategy. In particular you need to think about your people resources.

If migrating to a specific cloud provider means switching your development platforms, then you’ll need to retrain some of your people on this new technology. On the other hand, you’ll probably keep some applications on-premise, which means you’ll need to have enough resources to maintain them.

At the end of the day you will definitely need to have enough skilled people to maintain several applications in different infrastructures.

Before going cloud, make sure you’ve fully evaluated and planned for the resources you’ll need to allocate to both the cloud and on-premise infrastructures and applications.

Is your infrastructure the bottleneck?

If someone tells you that an application development project is delayed because of issues in your development, quality assurance or production environments’ set-up, they are probably lying! In the vast majority of cases, projects are hindered because the development process is broken (and in some cases, the technology being used is old).

Companies have found that the cloud can really improve infrastructure set-up. Yes, the Cloud does lower operational costs, and it does reduce the time needed to have servers up and running. It also gives you elasticity to add more servers when needed, and remove them when load goes down.

However, this has little to do with delivering projects within budget and on time. To do so, you have to look into your process. You’ll need to evaluate the methodology and tools you’re using.

Before you consider shifting to cloud computing, it’s imperative that you’ve spent time fixing any existing issues with your application delivery process. The cloud fixes the “hardware” part so you have a place to deploy your apps to, but you still need to fix the whole development and deployment process if you want to rip all the benefits the cloud has to offer. 

While there are application development platforms that will make a shift to cloud computing much more gentle for a company, it’s not a decision that can be made lightly. Every company needs to fully evaluate its own IT issues and needs before jumping on the cloud bandwagon.

Adria Saracino is a marketer and blogger. When not consulting on business strategy, you can find her writing about style on her fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.