From an enterprise IT perspective, 2016 will go down as the year that we finally began to trust the cloud. The previous five or six years had been all about testing the waters with pilot projects and offloading non-critical applications and services to public clouds.
But in 2016, we saw a major shift to where IT decision makers loosened their grip on many in-house applications that were considered mission-critical. For the most part, cloud service providers were successful in supporting their customers’ cloud ambitions. Yet, in some enterprise organizations, there was still a reluctance to migrate legacy applications from on-premises management to the cloud. But now that service providers have largely gained the trust of IT leadership, their next target is the legacy application market. And 2017 may be the year that the cloud is finally prepared to host, manage and modernize your legacy apps.
Working with legacy applications is always a challenge. Whether the application is homegrown, or simply an older commercial product that’s been highly customized over the years, there will always be hurdles that must be overcome. Now, many cloud providers are either focusing strictly on legacy applications -- or have a dedicated arm of their service provider platform that deals with migration and support of legacy systems.
The challenges of moving legacy applications to the cloud are threefold. First, legacy applications weren't designed to scale in the same manner as more modern solutions can. Second, applications tend to be on the heavy side in terms of client-server communication. Lastly, communication protocols, backend resources and the operating system are often heavily customized and do not conform to standards-based methodologies. All of those make a cloud migration process seemingly impossible.
For years, cloud service providers chose to ignore the needs of legacy migrations in the cloud and instead focus only on the migration of modern applications. But now that this market has been established, some are setting their sights on the legacy app market by offering ways to limit the three migration roadblocks described above. They're taking on the challenge using two different methods. The first method is for the provider to capture and containerize the application as it stands in-house, then migrate and refactor it onto the public cloud platform. The benefit of placing the application inside a virtualized container, as opposed to migrating the entire virtual machine, OS and all, is to reduce any issues that the underlying operating system may have. Running on a fresh OS, the service provider has better control and only has focus on the legacy application itself.
While the container method may work for some legacy applications, they still might suffer from scalability and communications issues once moved to a public cloud. So, if your legacy app is likely going to stick around for years to come, some service providers offer an alternative migration route. This method would take your existing application and either revise or completely rebuild it from scratch using modern platforms and protocols. While doing so will obviously cost more, it will provide a platform that can operate properly in a cloud environment. Working alongside a legacy cloud provider to redevelop legacy apps can provide a cost-effective alternative to redesigning your legacy applications in-house.
[Learn more about containers and why they are commanding more IT dollars.]
If you’ve been holding off your legacy migration to the cloud over fear of support and migration issues, 2017 may very well be the time to look at your options. Whether you simply want to migrate the legacy app as-is, or are willing to look at redeveloping the outdated app into a modern and lightweight application that fits right at home in the cloud, there are service providers willing to help. From the big players such as AWS, IBM and Microsoft -- to niche providers that are beginning to focus only on legacy application support -- you’re likely going to find a cloud partner that meets your needs.