- Replace, as Multnomah County did by ripping out infrastructure and going with SaaS;
- Re-host, where IT still manages the software, but it is hosted on external infrastructure such as Amazon, HP or Rackspace public or private cloud servers;
- Refactor, where some simple changes are made to the application to take advantage of platform-as-a-service;
- Revise, where code or data frameworks have to be adapted for PaaS;
- Rebuild, where developers and IT scrap application code and start over using PaaS.
"Not a lot of companies rebuild or do a lot of major modifications to migrate an application to the cloud. Instead, they either replace, re-host or refactor," Manes says.
Primarily, enterprises view the cloud as an escape hatch for an overworked, out-of-space data center. "If you're faced with the prospect of building a new data center, which costs billions of dollars, it certainly saves money to take a bunch of less critical applications and toss them into the cloud," Manes says.
Problems in paradise?
However, since first observing the cloud frenzy years ago, Manes recognizes companies have taken their lumps. "Many business leaders were so eager to get to the cloud that they didn't get IT involved to institute proper redundancy or legal to execute proper agreements," she says. Such oversights have left them vulnerable technologically and monetarily to outages and other issues.
Companies that moved applications and data to the public cloud early on also didn't always plan for outages with traditional measures such as load balancing. "Even if an outage is centralized in one part of the country, it can have a cascading effect, and if it lasts more than a day can cause a real problem for businesses," she says.
But Dave Woods, senior process manager at business intelligence service SNL Financial, disagrees. SNL Financial aggregates and analyzes publicly available data from around the world for its clients. Despite having a sizeable internal data center, the company's homegrown legacy workflow management application was testing its limits.
"Our data center was full" with both internal and customer-facing applications and databases, Woods says. The company didn't do a full-on analysis to find out whether it was server space or cooling or other limitations -- or all of the above -- but at some point it became clear that they were running out of capacity, and cloud software became attractive.
Though he briefly considered rebuilding the application and building out the data center, the costs, timeframe and instability of the code dissuaded him. "The legacy application lacked the design and flexibility we needed to improve our processes," Woods says. The goal, in other words, was not just to rehost the application but to do some serious workflow process improvement as well.
To accomplish this, SNL Financial adopted Appian's cloud-based business process management system. Although the annual licensing cost was similar to the on-premises software the firm had been using, the clincher was avoiding the $70,000 in hardware costs that would have been needed to update the application at the time. (SNL has since built a "spectacular new onsite data center," Woods says, so it's no longer an issue.)
SNL Financial is expanding its workflow processes to more than 500 banks in Asia, with Woods crediting the cloud for allowing this type of scalability and geographic reach. "We wouldn't have been able to improve our legacy workflow in this way. There was a much longer IT development life cycle to contend with. Also, the application wouldn't have had as much capability," he says.