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Onboarding of Legacy Applications to the Cloud

By now, astute consumers of Cloud Computing media realize that hype on the subject is reaching peak levels. However, one Cloud topic might be achieving stratospheric levels of misinformation, hyperbole, and jargon. This topic is the “holy grail of Cloud”: Onboarding Legacy Apps to the Cloud.

The Cloud’s Sweet Spots

It’s easy to understand the Cloud’s sweet spots:

  • new application development – building “greenfield” (new) cloud apps based on the Cloud’s scalable and flexible infrastructure
  • test – automating app testing with sample data on a Cloud VM
  • backup and recovery – built-in recovery of Cloud-based applications and storing of recovery instances of in-house apps

These Cloud use cases are all well understood, and have clear paybacks and minimal risks and exposure.

So, Why Aren’t Existing Apps Moving to the Cloud?

What about “brownfield” (existing) production applications that run your day to day business? Why aren’t they moving to the Cloud? For the last 6 years, as Chairman and CEO of VirtaMove, I’ve been working on that very problem. In fact, the VirtaMove team has focused on Cloud onboarding for more than a decade, using unique, automated app virtualization and container software. We’ve automated the movement of thousands of apps for hundreds of brand-name customers – and in the process VirtaMove has become one of those over-night successes (a decade in the making).

What Have We Learned in a Decade?

The core problem of onboarding isn’t the availability of Cloud infrastructure. The compute power, network, and modern tools are there to be exploited, thanks to AWS, Azure, SoftLayer, and Google.

Nonetheless, brownfield legacy apps really are legacy, and therein lies the problem. They’re running undisturbed on older VMs, operating systems, and infrastructure tools. In the Microsoft world, that means they run on older operating systems such as WS2000, WS2003, WS2008, and on older SQL Server and IIS versions.

Most Cloud vendors can’t support true legacy infrastructure on their clouds, which means that onboarding exact images of apps isn’t an option. Also, brute force onboarding of mirrored images of legacy applications almost never makes sense. In this case, you’re moving possibly a VM, OS, and app as you onboard an application – which is the equivalent of moving an entire neighborhood when you want to move to a new apartment. You’re not just moving your app, you’re also taking along all the accumulated “junk” of years: all the log files, the malware, and surrounding file legacy. Moving the entire neighborhood means that you need to provide the memory, storage, and processing for all those components in the Cloud, and that costs money. You can improve application performance by applying more server resources, but isn’t it better to be smart about the resources you really need, and thus save money and time in a migration?

Licensing legacy VMs, OSs, apps, and tools on a new Cloud instance might also be a problem. Your new cloud-based legacy infrastructure isn’t being used just for test or backup and recovery purposes – it’s actually being used for production work.

So, what’s the best way to move production workload to the Cloud?

Declutter, Isolate, and Automate

If you’re smart (and use automated moving containers like VirtaMove containers), you can automate migration and move only the app and not years of associated junk along with it. Think of it as decluttering while you move.

Decluttering avoids moving the entire VM, OS, and all those legacy logs. It isolates the app from the OS dependencies. It moves only the app to the Cloud infrastructure of your choice, and modernizes the target OS infrastructure, database, and communications software as you go. You avoid moving the accumulated app junk and get all the benefits of a fresh install on a new Cloud-hosted OS. Fresh/clean installs avoid the overhead of unnecessary VMs and OS layers, saving you money on Cloud resources. Also, the new app’s clean, automated install unlocks the benefits of improved security, recoverability, and Ops infrastructure in the Cloud-hosted platform.

That’s the smart and cost effective way to move legacy apps to the Cloud.

Are All My App Problems Solved?

No. You still need to grapple with Cloud licensing, but only for the app itself (usually, a new OS and new infrastructure can be licensed as part of the Cloud service). For most bespoke applications, app licensing is a non-issue.

You might need to address some components, such as out of date Java libraries.

Perhaps you’ll want to modernize, upgrade, or remediate the application to take advantage of Cloud features, multi-tenancy, and UI improvements.

You still have some work to do, but you’re up and running with an operational legacy workload on the Cloud of your choice. The application is decluttered of components that you didn’t need to move in the first place. The workload isn’t locked in – it can easily be moved back in-house or to another Cloud if required. Also, you can save the migration container, with the portable app included in it, for subsequent moves to another Cloud or in-house server or for recovery purposes and availability.

It’s clear that intelligent, automated app migration unlocks many tangible Cloud benefits. It saves time and money and helps you build immediate momentum in Cloud onboarding projects.

Every day, VirtaMove helps customers build internal centers of excellence for migration and cloud onboarding. We hope this blog post helps you to cut through some of the Cloud hype. Call us if you’d like to learn more about intelligent, automated migration of Windows Server applications.

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