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Why would you move your applications to the cloud?

on ‎03-21-2014 01:26 AM

app-migration.pngWe keep talking about cloud computing. We highlight the benefits as reducing cost while increasing flexibility and agility. But as I mentioned earlier, enterprises do not go to cloud for the stake of it. Ultimately they try to improve their operations and that is why the cloud debate often boils down to discussions around applications. Some companies decide no longer to evolve their existing environment and rather to build a brand new one in the cloud. Some even go as far as outsourcing the traditional environment and focusing on developing the new one.


But most companies migrate existing applications. So, ultimately what’s the benefit they gain from doing that and how do they approach the migration?


Systems of Records and Systems of Engagements

Fundamentally organizations are using two sets of IT systems. Geoffrey Moore calls them Systems of Records and Systems of Engagements. Systems of Records contain the “single value of the truth”. They are the ERP, Financial, CRM systems that we spent upgrading in the 90’s to ensure we would not have an issue in the year 2000. They are very robust, manage the business processes they were designed for very thoroughly, but are also rather inflexible. To work around them, to collaborate within the company first and then across the eco-system of which the enterprise is a part of, companies implemented systems from a different nature. These are the Systems of Engagements. They are more flexible, can be adapted easily to the work that needs to be done at the present moment. They will access the data of the Systems of Records and facilitate the way the users work with it. They are critical in our current world where things change all the time.


Moving Systems of Records to the Cloud

Companies are migrating Systems of Records to the cloud mainly for cost reasons, as running those systems can be expensive. They are looking either to replace the functionality they have with a SaaS (Software as a Service) based offering, and CRM and HR are probably the two areas where that happens the most. SalesForce and Workday built their success on this trend. The monthly fee of one seat in either of those is cheaper than delivering it internally. Now there are issues with doing this, and they relate to the ownership and location of the data. Large companies manage to negotiate good agreements, smaller ones may need to balance risk and rewards.


For the other Systems of Records, companies are essentially looking at reducing the cost of running them. They want cheaper infrastructure. So, they look for infrastructure as a service. Now, those systems contain highly proprietary information, so the public cloud is often not an option, so enterprises look for managed or private clouds where they have guaranteed security and compliance. Knowing where the data is located and how it is protected is deemed important.


The drive to cloud however is mainly financial. It’s a combination of cost reduction and migration from capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operational expenditure (OPEX), although the latter is not seen as a benefit in all companies.


Migration of Systems of Engagement

Systems of Engagement is a totally different story. The initial trigger is often BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) although, as I mentioned it in earlier blog entries, BYOD is only an epi-phenomenum of IT consumerization. Indeed, in their private life, business users have information at their fingertips, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They expect the same for the business applications they are interacting with. And the people that are on the road most of the time interact little with Systems of Records, but mostly with Systems of Engagements.


To make things even more complex, over the last 10 years, the collaboration with partners, suppliers and customers has increased drastically. And, in the same way they use social media to talk to their friends, they want the Systems of Engagements to have such social media type behavior.


This leads to the implementation of new Systems of Engagements and companies such as Jive have done a great job in creating those collaboration platforms where you can hold discussions, store documents, perform ideation, plan activities, follow-up projects etc.


As users get used to them, they expect mobile applications that take care of all the form factors they use, so they can get access anytime, anywhere. That’s great as it really demonstrates value to the business, but the headache now is that the usage pattern of these collaboration environments become very difficult to predict. And guess what, end-users are no longer willing to wait when there is a heavy usage.


And here is where cloud plays. Where the Systems of Records were mainly looking at cloud computing as a cheap source of infrastructure, Systems of Engagements want to fully exploit the possibilities of cloud so they can address the needs of their customers regardless of demand. This implies scale-up/scale-down in function of the demand. It also implies high availability etc.


Although the Systems of Engagements are more recent than the Systems of Record, they have not been built with that in mind. Actually if they were developed using SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) principles that turns out to be a great plus point.


So, the migration of these Systems of Engagement are not done with cost in mind, but rather for flexibility, agility and responsiveness reasons. The transformation will need to be more thorough as the systems will have to be adapted to the cloud environment so they can fully benefit from it.


Systems of Engagements may end-up in public clouds, frankly it all depends on the information they carry. It’s up to the business users to decide what they see as an acceptable platform.


Integration becomes key

With Systems of Records located in private or managed clouds or provided by SaaS services, with Systems of Engagements located in private, managed or public clouds, we end-up with a hybrid environment. But at the same time we do not want duplication of data. So, data needs to be synchronized between the multiple sources where it may end-up being located. That is actually not an issue. However, what needs to be looked at is where the data is located and how the data is being accessed by the different applications.


The internet has its latency, we all know that. Systems of Engagements in particular may have to be changed so they rely less on the need of accessing data in real time so we can maintain the responsiveness the end-user requires while ensuring the integration happens.


When data is duplicated, a couple fundamental rules need to be applied. And frankly, there is nothing new in them. They were used in the EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) days. You need to identify the master copy of the data and then establish how often the other copies need to be updated. Using a service bus, this can be done quite easily.

Transaction integrity is actually ensured directly with the master copy. And don’t forget the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) test. Modules that always need the latest value should go to the master copy, all others may use the other ones.



Using cloud computing implies upfront planning. First the definition of where each application goes and where the associated data is located, should be established. Then it becomes a job of data lifecycle and data integration. So, when you decide to move to cloud, make sure you do a thorough planning upfront to avoid issues at a later stage. It will help you be successful, reduce IT costs, improve flexibility and responsiveness and address the needs of the business.

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