Intelligent Infrastructure

Mass data and next-gen workloads Intelligent Infrastructure

Businesses address cloud infrastructure, consolidation challenges

The cloud is becoming connected to many data center consolidation initiatives.

One of the barriers to entry to cloud computing is in getting key assets to the platform and ensuring applications remain functional after the move. Larger companies in particular struggle with a complex array of legacy programs – many of which are dependent on other systems – and data. This can create several problems when considering cloud solutions. As ZDNet contributor Patrick Gray recently noted, "the devil is in the dependencies."

Whether businesses are considering adopting a new software-as-a-service application to avoid the licensing cost of a new program or want to migrate existing enterprise software to a third-party environment, the cost of migration can be significant. The expenses associated with moving data and ensuring that dependent applications can still function after that information moves into cloud storage often exceed the cost of buying new software entirely. Gray emphasized the importance of taking some of the cost of migration into account, even if only a portion of the company's software is targeted for migration. 

"Make sure you're not planning and costing these options in IT-isolation," Gray wrote. "In nearly all migrations I've seen, the initial position is invariably 'we want all the data,' a demand that rapidly becomes open to compromise once the costs of migrating 'all' the data are known. Similarly, desire for improved functionality or long-term cost savings might dilute demands for data migrations and integrations. Take advantage of user excitement around a new system, since getting on that shiny new cloud-based tool in 30 days may well be worth losing access to some jumbled legacy data."

Cloud buyers can benefit from performing a comprehensive evaluation of their programs and of the dependencies between applications and the data within their IT environments. As Gray suggested, this process could reveal that some highly prioritized data may not be as important as originally thought. Similarly, a thorough analysis of IT assets will enable organizations to better identify areas the cloud is best suited for. This process may also reveal areas where consolidation would make more sense. For example, a cloud application with all the features of several legacy programs may be more efficient and deliver higher return on investment than continuing to manage the old programs would.

Savings through cloud and consolidation
The cloud has enabled greater efficiency in numerous sectors, and, as the United States Office of Management and Budget recently showcased, the technology can be a valuable asset in face of stringent budgetary considerations. The agency plans to implement a mixture of cloud, shared service and infrastructure consolidation initiatives to maintain low spending in 2014. The 2014 IT budget is $1.7 billion more than the agency's total IT spending in 2012, Washington Technology reported, but the OMB emphasized that average annual spending has increased less than 1 percent over the past several years.

Many government agencies have turned to cloud-enabled email because it is generally a safe way to use the technology without violating regulatory provisions. However, OMB officials plan to expand into the software-as-a-service arena as well as to use the cloud for development and testing purposes. 

"Soon, agency managers will face the task of figuring out 2015 IT plans," Washington Technology columnist Steve Charles wrote. "Agencies work on them over the summer, then forward them to the Office of Management and Budget in the fall. Technology vendors should start talking now to customers about their long term plans, keeping in mind the big areas OMB is supporting: cybersecurity, consolidation of infrastructure, application rationalization, mobility, and outward facing innovations."

In addition to accommodating the core areas of government technology investment, providers can add more value to their customers by helping them form unified cloud strategies. These plans must enable buyers to leverage cloud infrastructure in conjunction with their own data center consolidation initiatives to ensure key applications maintain their functionality in the cloud.