The Challenges Of Moving Old Applications Into A New Cloud

Moving to the cloud involves making a lot of important decisions
Moving to the cloud involves making a lot of important decisions
Image Credit: Diego Di Salvo

You would think that by now, with all that has been written about the importance of information technology and the advantages of moving your IT operations into the cloud, the decision to move a company’s applications and storage into the cloud would be a no-brainer for the person with the CIO job. However, we’ve all made potentially decades of costly investments into our so-called “legacy systems” and these guys are both rigid and difficult to scale. Attempting to make any changes to them scares the pants off of us!

The Challenges Of Old Applications

Let’s face it: the one thing that holds most of us back from running full throttle into the cloud of our future is the simple fact that our legacy systems are creating a very big barrier for us. We all have applications like this. Somewhere in your vast IT infrastructure, there is an IT system that has been quietly working away for years. Nobody remembers how it does what it does, but it does what it’s supposed to do and it cannot easily be replaced.

When it comes to legacy applications, the person in the CIO position has a hands off policy. They really don’t want to do anything that might disrupt those systems because they don’t feel as though they have the staff or the tools that are needed to fix those systems any more. The reason that these systems are often not considered candidates for migration into the cloud is because the company does not have a formal solution in place to manage change.

The history of your IT department has a lot to do with why legacy applications present you with such a challenge when it comes to moving into the cloud. IT has traditionally been tasked with the job of “keeping the lights on” and preventing bad things from happening. The result of this has been the creation of a sense of inertia in the IT department. Unfortunately, this has led to your existing applications becoming less serviceable and even potentially less secure. The end result is that these applications turn out to be harder to mange and thus the business units that use them become upset with the level of support that they are getting from the IT department because their applications don’t provide them with agility or flexibility.

How To Move Old Things Into A New Cloud

If we can all agree that moving legacy applications into the cloud can pose some difficulties, the big question that then comes up is just exactly how do we go about doing this? What we need to realize is that moving a legacy application into the cloud is a viable option under most of the conditions in which our IT departments operate. The key is to first virtualize your legacy application and then transfer that virtualized application into the cloud.

Supporting an application that now lives in the cloud can cause problems for many CIOs. Some IT departments may not feel completely comfortable in doing this and that will be required to make the move into the cloud work out. Even though moving into the cloud can make administering legacy applications easier, your IT department may still end up bearing the responsibility of supporting the application. Your IT department also needs to make sure that it has the skills that it is going to need in order to oversee your cloud’s operational metrics.

One of the biggest questions that CIOs have to be able to answer is just exactly when is the best time to move a legacy application into the cloud. Your goal has to be to minimize the amount of disruption the move is going to cause both within and without the IT department. The best time appears to be when a significant software upgrade is occurring. The upgrade doesn’t even have to impact the legacy application, you should just use the disruption that the upgrade causes to move the legacy application. Keep in mind that a software upgrade can take between 6-12 months.

What All Of This Means For You

When you become CIO, this means that you are now responsible for all of the applications in the IT department. This means the shiny new applications that everyone is excited to use as well as the older legacy applications that nobody remembers how to use. As you start to plan out how your company is going to move its IT infrastructure into the cloud, those legacy applications are going to cause you problems because you are really not going to want to disturb them.

The reason that many CIOs don’t like to touch their legacy applications is because they’ve lost the skill sets that were required to create and maintain these applications. The last thing that want to do is to have a move into the cloud to cause one of these older applications to stop working. A lot of this kind of thinking can come from the fact that your IT department has generally been asked to simply keep things running and major changes like a move to the cloud makes everyone nervous. If you do decide to move your older applications into the cloud you are going to have to make sure that you have the support staff that will now be able to support the cloud. Additionally, you’ll need to plan the best time for when the move to the cloud should happen.

The good news, of course, is that it is possible to move older applications into the cloud. However, you need to treat these applications very carefully and a great deal of planning is going to have to go into their move. If you take the time and do this correctly, then you will have been able to clean out your own IT infrastructure and your legacy applications will have a new home in which to live.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should try to move multiple legacy applications into the cloud at the same time?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

More than one CIO that I know has become very upset when what they were saying during a meeting was interrupted by one or more mobile phones going off while they were speaking. Just to make things worse, we’ve all had that sinking feeling that we get when we are addressing a group of our workers about the importance of information technology and at least one of them has their head down and is typing furiously on their smartphone screen – clearly they are not listening to what we are saying. What’s a CIO to do in order to get some attention around here?