What good is a platform if it isn’t able to cloudify heritage applications and let other applications be empowered by it?
Transformation has been a much-used word in today’s enterprise IT contexts. Cloud is a key component of IT transformation. It is relatively easier to take the plunge when it comes to cloudifying storage, servers, or compute powers. However, when the discussion moves on to enterprise applications, taking a rip-and-replace decision becomes difficult.
It is common for enterprises to continue to run core applications that were developed and maintained inhouse over the years and could be classified as legacy. There are no ready SaaS replacements available for these, and a redevelopment or complete reengineering would be too time- and resource-intensive to be justified economically.
In effect, the legacy applications are limited to the confines of a data center. Consequently, other applications that are running in the cloud are unable to leverage the true potential of the legacy applications. This naturally affects the agility of the enterprise as the customer-facing workforce is unable to access vital information in near-real time. This could potentially benefit the competition, especially if it has no legacy applications to contend with.
A dire need therefore has been to create platforms, aka development environments, that could use a retrofitting approach to make those legacy applications cloud-ready.
Wait, there’s a catch
The legacy applications that enterprises continue to run are often core applications. Due to the numerous competitive, security or compliance reasons, enterprises simply can’t put those up on public clouds.
That means, legacy applications would best be cloudified, run, and managed in a private cloud environment.
That, again, poses a problem. Not many private cloud platforms provide tools for bringing legacy applications into the cloud’s fold, typically because most of the platforms have not been architected to do that grounds-up.
A key reason for the lingering gap has been cloud platform providers’ weakness at the middleware level, which mostly has been a forte of providers like IBM, Oracle, RedHat, and Microsoft. Of these, only a few providers have equally robust offerings in the private cloud arena too.
Private cloud is indeed a different game altogether, and CIOs know how important it is to select a provider with care. While security remains an overarching concern, the platform should also be able to provision tools for rapid cloud-enablement of existing services and development of any supporting services.
Features to look for in the private cloud
Middleware support for legacy applications: When the goal is to cloudify a legacy application, then a primary requirement is to have middleware that could establish the links necessary to migrate the application from a legacy environment to the cloud. It establishes a bridge that both the computing environments understand and support while the application crosses over, bolstered with the required sets of APIs.
Microservices to extend capabilities and availability: New capabilities could be added to a legacy application by containerizing and clustering it along with other common services. This could be made possible by giving developers access to a technology like Kubernetes on the same private cloud platform. Clustering was not easy with earlier containers such as Dockers but Kubernetes makes that seamless. In effect, this could amount to a non-mutable integration of the legacy application with common cloud service modules.
There would be other such aspects to consider, depending on the enterprise’s need. A private cloud platform that fulfils these development needs would be a welcome relief for CIOs who are looking to add more agility into their IT build-to-delivery environments while working under budgetary pressures.
The benefits of bringing a flagship legacy application into the cloud environment could be immense. Most significantly, it could allow other cloud services to tap into resources erstwhile not available, thus cutting down on cost and time to independently deploy those resources.
Apart from competitive reasons, there could also be regulatory and compliance compulsions that deter use of certain databases and related applications in the public cloud. Choosing the right private cloud platform would help enterprises to stay agile in the wake of any regulation- or compliance-induced limitations.
IBM, with its Cloud Private offering, has made a serious attempt at addressing these, and such other concerns of enterprises, quite effectively. The Big Blue’s longstanding prowess in the middleware segment, coupled with its deep understanding of enterprises’ IT complexities, remains a bonus.
Enterprises, on their part, need to keep watching how the early Cloud Private adopters are benefiting and how it would relate to their cloud needs.