Moving your applications to the cloud: A multi-level Strategy

There’s more than one way to transform your organization’s legacy applications to achieve the agility, speed and customer service level that today’s IT operations require. In fact, Dell IT has unveiled a range of options to begin moving our legacy applications to the cloud.

We have created three IT services to give our business developers a choice of how much or how little they want to upgrade their apps to add cloud capabilities via Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service and VM-as-a-Service.

Before I describe the features of our new service offerings, let me provide some background on how we came up with our strategy.

A step-by-step approach

First of all, let me point out that cloud is not destination but a strategy around transforming people, processes and technology. The service offerings we created are how we are modernizing our applications as part of our IT transformation.

IT Transformation Stages - Applications

Like most organizations grappling with digital transformation, we have thousands of legacy applications still tied to traditional infrastructure. Although some 70 percent of our infrastructure is virtualized, that doesn’t mean our applications are in the cloud.

As part of our cloud strategy, we are striving to transform those applications and leverage modern data center technologies such as software-defined storage, Flash, networking and security; automation; and self-service capabilities. This includes both on-premises and off-premises services. But transforming all of our applications at once isn’t a practical or even an efficient approach.

Instead, we’ve decided to link our cloud transformation efforts to our ongoing end-of-service-life initiative. Typically, we refresh an app when some piece of our infrastructure stack has reached the end of its service life—meaning an old hardware platform or an old software platform is due to be replaced.

As we replace aging platforms, we are investing in next-generation infrastructure featuring All-Flash storage, scale out design and software defined components.  To that end, we are now reviewing each app slated for refresh to determine the best way to move it to the cloud.

Transforming an app to the cloud can be an involved process, especially if it must be rewritten to comply with the cloud native framework. In recognition of the fact that not all app developers are ready to take on that change, we decided to create a range of cloud-enabling service offerings for them to choose from.

Infrastructure as a Service

The first option for transforming legacy apps is Infrastructure as a Service, which provides a sort of wholesale option for application developers that want to do everything themselves and not worry about the hardware. IT gives users compute, storage and network services and they can go and create the templates, and services to build their own applications.

This approach gives app developers complete control of how their app is being built without having to maintain their own infrastructure. We are taking care of the hardware and they control their app development environment with little reliance on IT.  We are essentially giving them the ability to do what they want to do.

VM as a Service (or IaaS+)

Our next service offering gives developers a middle ground between PaaS and IaaS. With VM as a Service (or IaaS+), we provide users access to blueprints and templates through a service catalog from which they select the services they want. We have chosen to use the VMware Validated Design–a pre-defined reference architecture to build and deploy a software defined data center —to accelerate this service.

With this service, we are cloud enabling the existing app without rewriting it. VMaaS decouples the app from the actual physical infrastructure and moves it to a more cloud-enabled platform—a modern data center infrastructure which includes templates and automation.

With VMaaS, we offer users different web, app and data base combinations. Think of it as something of a mix and match menu: You want web servers? How many and what type. We offer red, green and blue. You want an app server? We have yellow, orange and purple. You want data bases? Fine, we have black, brown and white.

Once the developer has placed their order, we knit them together and say, “Here’s your framework for installing your application.”

VMaaS not only offers app developers the ability to provision infrastructure but also gives them the tools and templates to spin up or spin down their environments as they need to. It provides cradle-to-grave management of their virtual infrastructure.

Platform as a Service

The third option for transforming legacy apps is Platform-as-a-Service, which is the cloud native option in which the application is written to maximize the use of cloud environments where tight coupling of applications to underlying infrastructure is eliminated. This service uses  Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), a cloud platform to deploy modern cloud-native apps.

This service is for developers who want the true cloud experience—those who want to write a new app or rewrite their existing app in a way that conforms to cloud-native design standards. The result here is a lighter weight app that can readily move on and off-premise.

PaaS is a sophisticated platform where a lot of the process is already done. Some developers may find it too restrictive or too advanced. That’s where our other service options come in. By linking our cloud-enablement effort to our end of service life processes and offering various levels of app transformation services, we have begun to gradually move our apps to the cloud. And we are doing it giving our business developers the choice on how they make that move.

Modernizing our applications is just one important piece of our ongoing IT and Digital transformation, which also requires modernizing our infrastructure and adopting people and process changes to transform our IT operations.

Check out Paul DiVittorio’s session, Modern Data Center Transformation: Dell IT Case Study (ST01964BU) IT with a Modern Data Center Strategy, August 31, 12:00-1:00 p.m. at VMworld 2017, August 27-31, 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Paul Divittorio

Paul Divittorio

Director, Cloud Infrastructure, EMC IT

Paul Divittorio

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