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The Next Frontier in the Cloud: Legacy Apps

Cloud computing is going to become an integral part of the enterprise computing environment

Although cloud computing momentum continues to build and scarcely a day goes by without a new cloud announcement or study, there’s been little real enterprise adoption and almost no meaningful case studies. In part, that’s because early cloud providers and vendors were focused on developers and technology start-ups when they designed their offerings, and larger, more established organizations were rarely on their radar screen. While start-ups can easily embrace new technologies and architectures, enterprises have far more constraints and have been largely limited to “tire kicking” the cloud with small applications that aren’t particularly meaningful for the business.

Cloud computing is now entering a new stage as CIOs and IT managers recognize that cloud computing is going to become an integral part of the enterprise computing environment. For it to be strategic as opposed to experimental, they need to know that the cloud can integrate with their existing data center infrastructure and incorporate the legacy applications that reside there. That’s where the major pain points, complexity, and costs have always been, and where the cloud can potentially offer its greatest returns. In our discussions with CIOs, we hear this theme over and over.

Legacy apps cover the entire installed base of applications running on a company’s internal infrastructure. They include everything from highly-used apps that are optimized for particular hardware to older versions of apps that must be maintained for specific customers as well as test and development environments, and apps used for internal purposes such as training. The true enterprise payoff for cloud computing will come from the ability to offload a wide range of legacy apps that don’t need to run in the data center to a cloud environment where they can be managed more cost-effectively. Not all legacy apps will make sense to move to the cloud initially (or perhaps ever), so the trick will be to select the right ones.

As Bernard Golden points out, the conundrum is that while putting legacy apps into the cloud can provide huge value for the enterprise, it’s also where the biggest hurdles lie. While a new application designed specifically for a cloud can usually be rolled out fairly easily, legacy apps come with a whole new set of challenges. Many of today’s cloud offerings were built for serving up web apps and Amazon-type storefronts, and have attributes that were not originally designed with the enterprise in mind (non-standard storage, isolated networking, and multi-tenancy are some examples). The result is lots of manual re-configuring, complex engineering, and trial and error before the enterprise application is able to run in the cloud. And once the app is in the cloud, it’s completely separate from the existing management tools and policies, and potentially locked-in to the cloud for which it has been re-architected. This lack of fast, incredibly simple ways to migrate legacy apps to the cloud and back without modification is one of the major factors holding back enterprise cloud adoption today.

CloudSwitch is focused on eliminating the barriers to moving legacy apps to the cloud. We believe applications should be able to run in the cloud “as is”, without worrying about the technical hurdles that today makes cloud deployments complex, time-consuming and expensive. We’re excited to be part of the “next frontier” in cloud adoption, working closely with enterprise customers and cloud providers.

More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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