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Cloud essentials: Migrate in haste, repent at leisure

Miriam Waterhouse | Sept. 14, 2017
Go ahead and migrate that behemoth analytics application to the public cloud, but get ready for a financial wake-up, shake-up or take-down.

Remember too, monolithic applications almost certainly require far more rigour around redundancy and failover - all potentially adding extra cost, complexity and management overhead.


Avoid building architectural slums

Without doubt, cloud-based application architectures constitute the essential future-proofing fabric of a modern digital business, but housing old problems in new wrappers is criminal.

Analogous to town-planning mistakes of the past, many organisations create their own equivalent high-rise "housing slums"; taking every legacy application problem and migrating en masse to the cloud. Some even mandating that everything should be virtualised, containerised, and now even serverless. But this can only exacerbate problems.

Older systems will probably need significant overhaul and service decoupling to fully exploit aspects like auto-scaling and container immutability, while runtime independence and isolation can unwittingly extend the life of a problem system - the "application slums" we should have cleared years ago.


Design for failure or prepare to fail

Despite the undoubted scale and elasticity benefits of cloud, it will fail - sometimes spectacularly. Consider for example the Amazon Web Services outage in Australia in 2016.

Torrential rains in Sydney took out an availability zone, which together with API call issues led to unreliable failover. Naturally, some businesses suffered, while others (ahem) weathered the storm.

They were the ones that designed systems with a multi-availability zone failure approach and the savvy use of hybrid-cloud. Once again this illustrates the importance of well-designed cloud architecture and engineering smarts - aspects many businesses fail to appreciate.

Yes, cloud can deliver business muscle, but over time that muscle can atrophy without constant workouts and pain.

All suggesting that any cloud strategy should carefully consider requisite improvements in supporting elements that don't necessarily come cheap or easy - such as changes to automation and change management practices, thorny cloud service interoperability issues, new tooling requirements, and last but not least - workforce capability.

With all the hype and spin around cloud it's tempting to go feet first. But take heed. No cloud investment should be an all-or-nothing approach. Smart organisations recognise that benefits only accrue through a carefully considered approach. Those that adopt, shape and align a variety cloud models according to business goals and outcomes will succeed.


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