How to Move Enterprise Applications Safely to the Cloud

By Ellen Rubin  |  Posted 2010-08-19

How to Move Enterprise Applications Safely to the Cloud

Before moving enterprise applications to the cloud, you need to be sure that your expectations are realistic and your objectives match what the cloud can deliver. The following are five best practices based on my experiences working with enterprise customers-from their initial exploration of cloud possibilities to the deployment of specific applications they've migrated to the cloud.

Best practice No. 1: Determine your cloud objectives

What are you trying to accomplish? Is the cloud a solution for reducing costs, faster provisioning, data center consolidation or all of the above? Sometimes all goals align and the cloud allows you to save money, be more responsive and avoid huge infrastructure investments-all at the same time. But it may not be possible to realize all the benefits for a given organization or use case.

For example, if there's extra capacity in your data center, there may be no obvious consolidation advantage to putting an application in the cloud. However, there could be other issues at play that justify the move such as high operating costs or an infrastructure that makes it difficult for users to get the support they need.

Best practice No. 2: Pick an application that makes sense

For example, how much latency is acceptable to users? The laws of physics slow things down over the Internet and network performance will vary. So if you need millisecond response, the cloud may not work for your application.

Also, how critical is the application? You may not want to put an application in the cloud upon which the business depends-even if infrastructure limitations (scaling, support, response time, etc.) make it seem like an attractive option. Get your feet wet before diving in. A safer approach might be to start with a low-risk, back office (non-strategic) application before setting your sights on more ambitious targets.

Involve Risk Management and Networking Teams

Best practice No. 3: Involve risk management and networking teams

The cloud-perhaps even more than other technology shifts-has raised red flags about security since your applications and data will potentially be moving outside of the enterprise firewall. Engage your company's security and networking experts from the beginning to understand their perspective and address their concerns directly. Get them involved in the discussion early so they'll understand why the cloud is important to the business and how you want to use it.

Give your company's security and networking experts a chance to review their security concerns with potential vendors before you sign up. Opening the network for outbound Internet access may require support, so make sure the networking team has time to review any requirements.

Best practice No. 4: Decide which clouds are acceptable

Finding a cloud that's best suited to your needs is as critical as identifying the right target applications. Cloud offerings vary widely-in their APIs, configurations, storage infrastructure, networking options, pricing structures and service-level agreements (SLAs). Some of the variables will be essential for your requirements, while others are simply nice to have.

The process is similar to the way you would evaluate any other technology offering-except the environment is probably new and unfamiliar. You may want assistance from a partner with cloud expertise who can help you qualify the various cloud options to make sure you make the right choice.

Best practice No. 5: Create a sandbox where people can experiment

All of the different user groups should be able to see how a cloud-based application compares to a traditional one. Give business users, administrators and developers a chance to evaluate the benefits and the limitations of the cloud from their perspective. Application experts can use the sandbox to run functionality and performance testing on the application in the cloud to see how it behaves compared to the traditional environment, as well as to see if any differences are acceptable.

Beta Testing and Proof of Concept Pilots

Beta testing and proof of concept pilots

Once you've done the necessary due diligence, you're ready to get started with beta testing and proof of concept pilots with vendors. In an area as hyped as the cloud there's really no better way to learn than hands-on. These basic best practices will help lay the foundation for a successful cloud strategy.

After you've validated the initial feasibility and basic value proposition of the cloud, there are some additional things you'll need to consider. You'll want to make sure your management and monitoring tools can access the cloud-based applications and that cloud resources, in turn, can access data center services that remain behind the firewall. Users will need a simple yet secure interface to cloud applications for controlled self-service provisioning, scaling, powering on and off, etc.

You'll also want to think about how you'd bring an application back from the cloud if it needs to return to the data center or if there's another cloud that becomes more compelling based on business or technical requirements.

Ellen Rubin is founder and Vice President of Products at CloudSwitch. Ellen is an experienced entrepreneur with a proven track record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to-market for fast-growing companies. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was vice president of marketing at Netezza. As a member of the early management team at Netezza, Ellen helped grow the company to over $125 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen defined and created broad market acceptance of a new category, "data warehouse appliances" and led market strategy, product marketing, complementary technology relationships and marketing communications.

Prior to Netezza, Ellen founded Manna, an Israeli and Boston-based developer of real-time personalization software. Ellen played a key role in raising over $18 million in venture financing from leading U.S. and Israeli venture capital firms, recruiting the U.S.-based management team and defining product and market strategy. Ellen began her career as a marketing strategy consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard College. Ellen can be reach at

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