While small and midsize manufacturers are often keen to move their applications to the cloud, the benefits of cloud migration don’t simply rain down from the sky. In order to take advantage of the flexibility (and cost savings) of virtual server hosting, organizations need to address some common challenges.
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps manufacturers can take to enable successful transition of applications to the cloud.
The first step is determining which applications to move to a virtual server. As with any IT project, manufacturers must balance risk and reward, cost and benefit. They must assess the cost/benefit of moving the application to a cloud server, assess its technical suitability for the cloud, and manage the migration process to ensure success.
When weighing the costs of deploying particular applications to the cloud, growing manufacturers need to consider such factors as resource use. Applications that are expensive to run internally — either because of resource requirements or operations support costs — are ideal candidates for virtual servers. Enterprise ERP solutions, which are especially attractive to small and midsize manufacturers, can now live and prosper in the cloud as well. Cloud service providers (CSPs) can install, manage, update, protect and support ERP software for a low monthly fee.
In determining the cost/benefit of moving a particular application to the cloud, manufacturers should consider not only current costs of running the application internally, but costs to run it in the cloud. Most CSPs charge per gigabyte, per month, for data storage, and charge for access to data. The best way to determine potential costs of cloud migration, then, is to review application/system logs for those candidate applications. By understanding current resource usage — specifically, data usage based on real data — manufacturers can fairly estimate the costs of making the move. Manufacturers should likewise ensure that their designated cloud service provider supports the hardware configuration, operating system and middleware that the application requires.
After determining which applications are destined for cloud server hosting, the next step is to verify that compliance practices that depend on application-specific management interfaces will continue to run when the application moves to the cloud. In addition, it’s essential to update application lifecycle management practices — particularly deployment and redeployment practices — to reflect that the application is hosted on a cloud server.
Testing is the final, critical step in the deployment process. Testing should proceed in a way that minimizes risks and that validates both business and technical assumptions. Any technical pilot should test the application interfaces, the management of the components and their performance, and the integration of the application with users and with other applications and databases. In the technical pilot, business can also test cost assumptions by linking accumulated costs to data and CPU use. Make certain to follow the technical pilot with a field test (or functional pilot) in order to validate the application’s performance, in addition to the cost assumptions at scale.
Although these application deployment considerations admittedly take time and energy, they’re a necessary way to avert future problems and maintain staff productivity during and after deployment. Done right, these steps are likely to bolster business agility in the cloud and affirm that decision to migrate.
Adam Stern is founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual (www.infinitelyvirtual.com) in Los Angeles.