AppZero's unique approach to cloud migration: Just move the app

Instead of moving an entire stack from your data center to a cloud service, AppZero transfers just the application, so it can be modernized at the same time.

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It stands to reason that organizations moving certain server applications into the cloud would take that opportunity to modernize the operating systems underlying them.

Yet, most cloud migration approaches move the entire stack, which means you're still stuck with aging infrastructure. Plus, it takes much longer.

As Windows Server 2003 approaches end of life , developer AppZero is using that milestone as the impetus to position its relatively unique approach to migration. Its technology, called "Zapp extraction," moves just the application, repackaging it so it can install and run natively on another operating system or managed service within the cloud, according to the company.

"We just pick up the application and move it. Moving the app allows you to modernize the infrastructure underneath," said Greg O'Connor, CEO of the company, which makes its headquarters in Andover, Mass.

AppZero sells toolkits that allow cloud integrators to handle migrations on behalf of their enterprise accounts. But this week, it introduced a self-service migration service specifically for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The AppZero SP/AWS picks up an application from an existing server and operating system, copies it and reinstalls it on the AWS. "When you first hear what AppZero can do, it sounds too good to be true," said Mark Caggiano, president of systems integrator Forte Data Solutions, in a statement about the new AppZero service.

The service is free for AWS customers. (There are per-source-machine licensing fees for the full-blown migration tool.)  AppZero is working on similar resources for other cloud infrastructure platforms. While O'Connor wouldn't say which ones, but the company lists HP Cloud Services, the IBM SmartCloud division and RackSpace as key partners. (It also supports Windows Azure and Savvis, according to an AppZero company presentation.)

Generally speaking, most Windows server applications are easy to move with AppZero manner, O'Connor said. The major exceptions are SharePoint and Exchange, which are tightly integrated with the server, as well as certain debuggers and kernel drivers, he said.

How long does a migration take? That depends, of course, on the size of the application and the bandwidth of the network used to transfer it. But O'Connor characterized the speed as 10 to 100 times faster than moving an entire virtual machine from an on-premises data center into the cloud.

The AppZero presentation, for example, suggests that it takes about 45 minutes to install and configure an Oracle 11g database using traditional cloud migration method -- but just three minutes to extract and provision the same database using Zapp.

One of the company's publicly disclosed customers is Pabst Brewing Company, which used Zapp to moved applications including Microsoft Dynamics and Salient Margin Minder from an on-premises data center into a managed cloud service. It took less than one hour to migrate 28 gigabytes (GB) of data associated with Salient; it would have taken about 40 hours for a manual migration, according to the AppZero presentation. 

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