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The cloud applications recipe: the right proportions of public, private, hybrid (and a master chef)

So cloud computing is the newest cuisine in your enterprise IT menu. Chances are that you're sourcing the ingredients from many vendors and trying to use these ingredients in a way that creates the perfect cloud smorgasbord (buffet-style meal with multiple dishes). One that delights your business users and customers, and has them coming back for more.

You may have different sections in your cloud menu - applications, infrastructure, and platforms. You may have many considerations ― is it safe to consume (security)? Does it go well with your existing menu (does it integrate with existing assets)? Is it ready to be served (provisioning)? Can you run the same menu for a long time (sustenance)?

A word of caution though - too many cooks may spoil your cloud broth. Two imperatives, while you craft your cloud menu, are:

  1. Your applications menu is your piece-de-resistance: How you serve up your applications for use may end up making or breaking your cloud strategy. It's really important to ask yourselves: "What are we doing with applications?"
  2. You need a master chef to ensure cloud success: You may source your cloud ingredients from multiple technology providers, but so does everyone else. What will really set your cloud menu apart? The answer lies in having one partner who integrates your various cloud environments - a cloud "master chef" of sorts.

Your applications menu: the hardest to get right

The application layer is the layer where business processes are realized. This is where the user finally gets to interact with the IT environment. It is also the layer where the corporate strategy gets implemented in terms of various transaction systems, workflows, reporting systems and databases. Getting this layer wrong essentially means that your strategy may not get implemented well, or in time.

It is also the layer with minimum standardization across organizations (in some cases even within the organization). So any treatment of applications always ends up in a bespoke solution that is tailor-made for the client organization. The uniqueness of the applications layer presents a huge challenge when an organization is trying to "cloudify". There are no standard off-the-shelf replacements for a given application or a set of applications. This is quite different when compared to hardware layers, where it is easy to find an equivalent cloud based replacement for the MIPS and storage you require.

The application layer is also a key asset since business rules are embedded in the layer. Consequently, security and access considerations become even more important. All applications may not be equally amenable to move to the cloud. If only a part of them are moved, then the question of integrating cloud-based applications with non-cloud applications becomes all the more critical. The user experience has to be seamless as well. It should not matter where the application is actually residing.

The cloud applications approach: different flavors for different applications

Approach 1 - Identify applications where 'one recipe fits all': First, understand the application landscape from a business strategy point of view. Applications that do not create sufficient differentiation (which is the whole point of a business strategy) need to be looked at differently than applications that truly create the differentiation. The undifferentiated ones can be good candidates to move to the cloud. If we stretch the argument a bit more, one can actually move to prebuilt standard applications that realize the same business process over the cloud. As an organization, it may be better to reduce the complexity and reduce costs by moving to a more standard off-the-shelf prebuilt solution.

Approach 2 - Your horizontal applications are easier to cook on the cloud: You may also need to map applications that realize horizontal business processes (processes that any organization will have irrespective of the industry they belong to), and applications that realize vertical business processes. As a general rule, horizontal business processes can be moved to a cloud-based solution pretty easily. These include general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and human resources.

Approach 3 - Some of your applications belong in your on-premise menu: Evaluate existing applications for architectural flexibility that enables movement to the cloud. Given that the cloud is a relatively new paradigm, it is unlikely that there are many applications that have the flexibility.

Approach 4 - Your mission-critical applications may need a different recipe altogether: You may need a different approach for the truly critical, core applications that create the differentiation. By definition, these applications will always be customized for a given organization and will be treated as important assets that warrant a higher level of security. When such applications move to the cloud, the real value of the cloud really comes from the other layers such as the infrastructure layer. The other option for you is to evaluate a cloud-based business platforms that allow extensive customization. If these fit your needs, adopt the platform. Such platforms can bring your organization closer to getting the best of both worlds ― the best of the cloud environment, without sacrificing the unique value of the application itself.

Now serving: cloud-based business platforms on a platter

Infosys has taken a unique approach to help our clients to adopt the cloud paradigm. Our business platforms allow clients to create applications that are truly unique to them, but build and run on a cloud platform. Find out more at www.infosys.com/edge

The master chef: a cloud ecosystem integrator

In this role, Infosys enables clients to assess, design, implement a cloud a strategy ― without compromising the business value driven by the core applications that are unique to the organization. Delve deeper into what we do at www.infosys.com/cloud

Before you well and truly embrace the cloud paradigm, do remember that the application layer really needs to be thought through well. Depending on your appetite, we recommend a judicious mix of on-premise, private, public and hybrid cloud. And of course, find yourself a master chef to integrate your pan-cloud panoply. Sounds like an extremely successful cloud menu, doesn't it? A Michelin-starred one, maybe? Bon appétit!

 

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