Is the Cloud Ready for Mission-Critical Apps?

Arthur Cole

One would think that by this time, the enterprise would have a pretty good idea of what it wants to do with the cloud. But there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how cloud architectures are to function and what types of applications they should support. Still, as companies like Stratus Technologies report, cloud workloads are increasing steadily as organizations overcome their fears about moving core functions off of legacy architectures. Stratus’ Senior Director of Strategy Dave LeClair tells IT Business Edge blogger Arthur Cole that the trick is to ensure that the cloud is just as resilient--if not more so--than the traditional data center, and then base deployment decisions on performance rather than technology.

Cole: Current thinking at most enterprises is that the cloud is useful for back-office apps like DR and CRM, but mission-critical apps should be reserved for bare bones infrastructure. How are companies like Stratus Technologies overcoming this perception?

LeClair: Cloud, like virtualization in its early days, may initially be used for development, testing and less critical applications by enterprises. However, Stratus has found that enterprises are planning on moving a significant portion of their infrastructure to the cloud. Stratus did a survey recently with Grey Associates of over 350 IT decision makers across a broad range of vertical markets and found that 58 percent of [surveyed] companies will move over 10 percent of their IT budget to the cloud. We also found there is a desire to run business-critical applications in the cloud:  45 percent wanted to have less than 30 minutes a year of downtime, which is significantly better than they will get today from cloud providers.

Stratus believes there is a significant market opportunity to help enterprises run their important and mission-critical applications in a private or public cloud. In order to solve this problem, cloud infrastructures have to be more resilient than they are today. Stratus has been helping enterprises protect their business critical applications for many years. The appeal of cloud economics is too great for enterprises to ignore. It provides a level of flexibility that enables enterprise IT groups to do more projects faster with the same budget. However, in order to be able to run traditional applications, a high-availability cloud offer must become available.


Cole: Security and availability always top the list of concerns in the cloud. Is this due to a lack of adequate technology or is it simply a PR problem caused by high-profile outages?

LeClair: Availability is a legitimate concern for clouds today. Clouds are architected for scale and elasticity. This means that individual cloud components may fail and not be replaced as they would be in a traditional IT setting. If your application is not designed to work around these failures with the architecture of the workload, this is a serious problem. Many cloud solutions do not yet have adequate technology to prevent outages. Many of the solutions that are available are not yet mature; hence, the concern of many enterprises.

Security remains a top concern, but in recent surveys it appears to be diminishing as enterprises become more comfortable with new cloud technologies. If you are running a private cloud environment, security can be addressed as well as in a traditional virtualized environment. However, there are certain types of applications and enterprises where going to a public cloud is not an option. For these, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud may be appropriate.

Cole: Is it likely, though, that the cloud is simply destined to support certain applications, but not all of them? How can enterprises determine what is and what is not appropriate to deploy to the cloud?

LeClair: There are certain applications that will be required to remain in bare metal or virtualized, non-cloud environments. They may be applications that require dedicated hardware for performance or functionality reasons, or require locked-down secure environments for regulatory or other reasons. However, Stratus expects that over time, more and more applications will be able to run in private or public clouds. It may take a long time for this transition to occur for some applications. The benefit of moving an application to cloud may not justify the expense and risk of moving it until some sort of forcing function happens, like not being able to get support for an underlying legacy environment.

Enterprises will have to consider each application on a case-by-case basis to determine its suitability for bare-metal physical [environment], virtualization, private cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud. This decision will be driven by weighing the trade offs for performance, availability, flexibility, security, CAPEX reduction, self-service requirement for the LOB executive, risk of rewriting an application, etc.



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