Mission-critical apps not up for cloud

Issues such as network latency, immature legal frameworks and inadequate safeguards for customers to disengage from cloud services mean most will retain critical apps in-house, observers note.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Mission-critical applications are not cloud-bound any time soon even though the technology behind it is mostly mature enough to support such migrations. This is because areas such as network latency, lack of industry regulations and meeting customers' IT pain points are still unmet, observers say.

Mayank Kapoor, industry analyst for Asia-Pacific ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, said that top tier service providers currently have the required technology, security and infrastructure to support the migration and running of mission-critical applications on public cloud platforms.

However, there are still technical and non-technical challenges that need to be overcome before more companies dare to move their critical apps and data on these services, he said.

In terms of technical challenges, Kapoor pointed out that there continues to be the limited availability of high speed, reliable connectivity. This problem is particularly felt among large multinational corporations (MNCs) with presence in multiple markets which would need the network connection between their different outposts to be always available. The amount of latency that may creep into their networks when running mission-critical apps could impact user and business performances, he explained.

Additionally, since such critical apps tend to connect extensively with other software programs, there is a need for cost-effective standardization of two-way communication between on-premise and cloud IT systems becomes critical, the analyst noted.

"Public clouds, as of today, are not ready to run mission-critical applications. The share of mission-critical data being stored in the cloud is also significantly lower than non-mission-critical," Kapoor said.

Regulations, or the lack thereof, have also resulted in companies exploring consequences of storing critical data on public cloud based on their own interpretation of the law or seeking advice from lawyers since existing rules do not yet clearly address the implications of cloud computing, he said.

This kind of ambiguity poses concern for enterprises, particularly those in highly regulated industries such as financial services, government, and healthcare, he added.

Not addressing IT "mess"
Scott Stewart, research director of Longhaus, similarly noted that only "fringe IT" such as test environments have been run on public cloud services with any significance.

"For mission-critical systems, it is clear that enterprise adoption and intention to adopt has slowed considerably since the hype of 2010," he said.

This is because the supply market has misread the challenges faced by enterprise customers, the research director stated. Many IT environments of companies, he said, are a "giant hairball" of interconnections, and the notion that CIOs will break pieces off their "mess" of an infrastructure to go cloud is "nonsense".

"While the marketing message of the cloud vendor is 'when are you going to move your workloads to the cloud?', the enterprise CIO is asking 'when are you going to bring the cloud to me to help me manage my diversity?'," Stewart said.

Security concerns easing
Tim Bajarin, president of tech consultancy Creative Strategies, added that security is the main reason for the slow migration of mission-critical apps and data from behind corporate firewalls to cloud platforms.

However, he said it is "just a matter of time" before such migrations begin to pick up steam. This is because security tools and technology are improving and IT chiefs are becoming more acquainted with the migration roadmap and how to manage data through cloud-base services. The cost efficiencies of cloud services will also prove an attractive pull factor, he added.

As such, he predicted that it will take at least another five to seven years before cloud hosting of mission-critical apps will become mainstream.

Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, added that in today's hybrid IT era, mission-critical apps will eventually be hosted on premise and on the cloud.

He added that on-premise hosting would eventually be relegated to secondary backup as cloud storage becomes the primary approach over the next few years.

Stewart however disagreed, saying besides the earlier reasons mentioned, the provisions for customers to walk away from cloud services without any risks to their business operations are inadequate.

Service providers have also not been receptive offering restitution to customers if the promised uptimes have not been met, he added.

"Until service providers deal with the above inhibitors, they will continue to be frustrated with limited enterprise adoption for mission-critical apps," he stated.

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