This past week, at the Structure 2013 conference, I had the opportunity to be part of a panel with Ben Kepes (@benkepes) and Rodney Rogers (@rjrogers87) entitled “Mission Possible: Moving Business-Critical Apps to the Cloud”. The focus of the discussion was real-life examples of Enterprise companies that had migrated their mission-critical applications (eg. ERP, CRM, HCM, SQL Databases, Unified Communications) to public clouds.
One of the topics that we covered, based on a question from the audience, was about the bifurcation of existing applications and new applications, specifically in migration scenarios. The question was “Will this lead to faster adoption of ‘DevOps’?”
While I’m a believer that DevOps and have discussed it quite a few times on the podcast (here, here, here, here), I thought it was important to highlight that there is a non-technical element that is critical to the success of migrating business-critical applications. DevOps is a fundamental operational requirement for anyone building modern, scale-out web applications, but those applications are typically very different than existing (legacy) applications. And in most cases, those existing applications make up 80%+ of the IT portfolio in terms of resource usage and on-going costs.
Just as DevOps is ultimately about providing greater transparency between Developers and Operations, I believe that application migration is ultimately about something I call “BizOps“. Far too often, Cloud Providers talk about the simplicity of migrating applications to their Cloud, focusing primarily on the transition of a VM from on-premise to off-premise. But where problems arise is when that off-premise cloud is fundamentally a black-box to the business (or existing IT staff). Unless a business is migrating to a SaaS application or completely outsourcing the business-critical application, it can’t be overstated how important it is to maintain a level of transparency between the Cloud Provider, the Business and IT. This is “BizOps”.
Why is this so critical? To begin with, the DNA of how the business runs is embedded within those business-critical applications. Not just the data (customer info, supplier info, business logic, etc.), but also the nuances of how the business succeeds from day-to-day. That knowledge is often shared between the IT systems and the IT personnel. One without the other is a recipe for failure when migrating applications to the cloud.
- Does the Cloud Provider provide customer access to application event logs, performance management tools, and status updates?
- Does the Cloud Provider allow IT or Application skills to be augmented with in-house expertise? Does the combined skill-set improve the cost-efficiency of how the application is operated?
- Does the Cloud Provider provide both infrastructure-level AND application-level SLAs, so the business can effectively manage risk and focus on new business requirements?
- Does the Cloud Provider force the Business/IT-Org to change how they manage the business-critical application, or do they provide flexibility to the Business?
- Does the Cloud Provider provide transparency on how Security is managed, audited and logged? Does the Cloud Provider partner with the Business to offer enough security options?
Questions like these are critical for the Business to ask any Cloud Provider if they are considering the migration of their business-critical applications to a public cloud. This is the foundation of BizOps and core to the success of application migrations.
This panel highlighted that companies are extremely interested in a strategy for migrating existing applications to the cloud, as well creating new applications. But it wasn’t clear that they understood that these two types of applications would require different thinking in terms of how they enable the proper levels of transparency to be successful. While DevOps is gaining quite a bit of traction in the developer communities, it’s critical that IT organizations also understand BizOps and how they can leverage it to help move their business-critical applications into the cloud.