This article originally appeared in the Q1 -2013 edition of Cloud Computing Magazine.
Government organizations are constantly faced with the daunting task of doing more with less. Many have turned to cloud computing for the answer and made major investments in cloud solutions like salesforce.com. Now, they must migrate their legacy applications into the cloud in order to truly realize the cost savings, simplification and consolidation that cloud technologies can provide.
Where to Start?
Migrating your government organization’s applications to the cloud doesn’t have to be as challenging as it sounds. The first step to a successful migration is to find an IT partner that will help guide you through the process. Often, organizations with deep roots in enterprise cloud and implementation space can bring the experience and knowledge learned to their public sector customers. This partner can help you make informed decisions about which applications should remain on-premise, which should migrate to the cloud, which should be developed in the cloud, and all of the required system integration.
Next, you must consider which delivery method fits your needs:
- Public – Available to everyone over the Internet.
- Private – Behind your organizations firewall.
- Community – Shared infrastructure between several organizations from a specific industry with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.).
- Hybrid – Any combination of Public, Private or Community.
The Major Considerations
The next step is to look at the different factors that public sector organizations and government agencies should consider when determining an application migration strategy. Here are the main considerations:
- SLAs: Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in the cloud are much different than with traditional IT services. However, you should look for a SLA for application availability, scalability and performance with clear measurements that are current and attainable.
- Data portability: Data portability is important in terms of long-term adoption of cloud computing services. The Software as a Service (SaaS (News - Alert)) vendor should provide a way to allow customers to own and control their application data.
- Compliance: Government agencies and public sector organizations must remain compliant with regulations like FISMA, HIPAA and SOX. U.S. Federal Agencies have been directed by the Office of Management and Budget to use a process called Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) to assess and authorize cloud products and services.
- Security: The SaaS application can contain sensitive data when stored on the SaaS provider’s infrastructure. Your organization has the option to leverage a private cloud or hybrid cloud model.
- Interoperability: Many legacy applications are disjointed and aging and lack interoperability within the organization or with other agencies and no longer meet the organization’s needs. Moving these applications to the cloud can improve application management, data quality, and more timely business processes.
- Long-term costs: The federal government is embracing cloud computing as a means to reduce IT expenditures on infrastructure and services. Cloud computing can provide significant cost savings because of the standardization and automation required for cloud services.
Migrating Legacy Applications
Whether your agency is considering a private or a public cloud as your services model, you need to determine which applications belong in the cloud. The applications chosen for migration and how you approach the application migration process can affect not only the ease and success of the migration itself, but also the user’s experience.
To identify what applications are right for your organization to migrate to a cloud, it is necessary to identify and understand the factors for the migration – like cost reduction and agility.
Here are a few types of applications that have been successful in cloud environments:
- Applications that require ubiquitous login for large groups of users across diverse geographical locations; for example, email.
- Spreadsheet or Lotus notes-based applications.
- Most inter-departmental applications for project management, defect management.
- Applications that leverage custom workflows and approval processes that were developed as standalone applications.
- On the operational side, applications that require greater scalability, for example a CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) application.
Overcoming the Migration Challenges
Migrating your organization’s legacy applications to a cloud environment might pose several challenges – but with the right measures in place, these challenges can be overcome. A few of the most common challenges include:
- Inconsistent or inaccurate data found in legacy applications must be cleansed and re-mapped for a migration to be successful. Start the data migration process early and keep it simple.
- Change is good – adapt an improved or re-engineered business process that meets your functionality needs rather than trying to build a new application to replicate the legacy application.
- Pare down – eliminate obsolete applications and consolidate office-specific apps into enterprise apps as much as possible. Use this opportunity to improve underlying processes.
- Improved internal communication and collaboration can be the key to any project’s success. New internal social networking tools (i.e. Chatter) can help facilitate this.
In addition, before your organization starts the migration process, identify the key individuals that will see the project through to completion: application owner(s), business process owner(s), and subject matter experts knowledgeable on the migration effort. There is no “one size fits all” cloud solution and each organization and government agency must assess their portfolio of applications and business use cases to determine the right mix of cloud services and/or providers.
Mariam Burmawalla is director of global services at Acumen Solutions.
Edited by Brooke Neuman