Familiarity with the cloud is on the rise, but that doesn't mean there aren't significant challenges ahead.
For one thing, the fact that the cloud provides a dynamic new infrastructure capable of propelling user and data productivity into the, well, stratosphere, is only half the picture. The other half is the process of migrating data and applications into that new infrastructure. And in that regard, the cloud holds all of the headaches that accompany the standard migrations that IT has come to love so well.
The upside is that most of the major cloud providers have a vested interest in making it as easy as possible to deploy new services, and some of them are willing to let you even choose an alternate cloud provider.
A case in point is CLiQR, a Google-based venture that enables streamlined migration from the data center to the cloud, and then from cloud to cloud. The system provides a cloud-based upload service that accepts native applications and then acts as a clearinghouse so they can be benchmarked among various cloud providers. Once a provider has been selected, the apps can be transferred and put into service immediately without disruption. The service can also move the apps to another cloud, allowing enterprises to avoid vendor lock-in.
Meanwhile, arch-rival Microsoft has been scrambling to match the success of Google Apps by building cloud-ready capabilities into its most popular enterprise portfolios like Office. Not only will it provide cloud versions of apps like Word and Excel in the upcoming Office 2013, but it is broadening access to mobile devices through SkyDrive, the online storage and file-sharing service that can be used to sync content across multiple end points.
Microsoft is also getting help from third-party developers who sense an opportunity in helping enterprises port their existing software environments to lower-cost cloud infrastructure. Flexera Software recently launched AdminStudio Suite 11.5, billed as an application readiness solution for migrating and integrating Windows 7 and 8 environments, as well as application and desktop virtualization systems, to Microsoft Private Cloud architectures. The package contains modules overseeing tasks like application compatibility, virtual desktop assessment and workflow management, as well as a new App Portal that sets up app stores and supports IT consumerization efforts.
New migration platforms are always welcome, but they are no substitute for careful planning and a clear notion of how the new cloud environments are to function. Accenture's Kaamil Nakhasi points out that successful migrations generally follow a business-centric approach to mapping and other tasks, placing user needs above technology. Delivery, orchestration and service optimization need to carry equal weight with migration, all while maintaining awareness of the multiple layers of cloud deployment, such as management, containers, user licensing and maintenance control.
This just goes to show you that there is no free lunch, even in the cloud. Building one is the easy part. The real challenge will be to integrate with legacy infrastructure.