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The four levels of cloud maturity: determining the right path

16 Mar 2018

Article written by AppDynamics A/NZ VP Simon Horrocks

As a CIO or IT leader, if cloud adoption isn’t at the top of your priority list, then it should be. According to Gartner, cloud adoption strategies will influence more than 50% of IT outsourcing deals by 2020.

For many organisations, adopting cloud initiatives demands new and varied skillsets and a significant shift in company culture. A cloud journey can be a daunting one, as companies look to replace legacy application architectures of yesteryear with modern, public, and private cloud-based ones.

Within this organisational transformation, there are common patterns in the adoption process that break cloud migration maturity into levels. Approaching the journey in levels is a proven, structured and comprehensive way for CIOs to tackle their business’s priority of cloud adoption.

Level 1: Traditional data centre apps

Typically managed by the IT Operation team, traditional data centre apps run in virtual machines or private data centres. Cloud enthusiasm aside, many organisations feel there is a benefit to having complete control over their own data, hardware and software. There is also a decreased reliance on external factors, such as Internet connectivity, which can appeal from a security or cost of ownership perspective.

However, with more than a third of Australian enterprises now employing a ‘cloud first’ policy, according to Telsyte, scepticism on cloud use is diminishing across the local business landscape. Disadvantages to a traditional data centre apps - such as large upfront costs and various maintenance responsibilities - will only accelerate cloud adoption in the coming years.

Level 2: Lifted and shifted apps

Although it is quickly becoming a mainstream way of delivering IT infrastructure in Australia, according to Telsyte, the journey to cloud remains a highly complex one. It’s very common for organisations (particularly in the experimentation and prototyping phase) to take the same virtual machines it was running on-premise and ‘lift and shift’ it to the cloud.

There are a few reasons as to why this isn’t an ideal migration strategy. Despite what the concept suggests, it is often more expensive to run applications in the cloud in the same way they were run on-premise because the underlying infrastructure requires more support.

All roads in this level lead to application refactoring, which isn’t the best way to approach migration as it will only ever take advantage of some cloud features on the platform.

Level 3: Refactored apps

Moving on from a traditional data centre app world, where the IT team was responsible for managing the application code, modern platforms are now automating these tasks.

Through this automation, applications can become more elastic, and intelligently process resources to meet varying workloads. As with other kinds of automation, this approach frees up the IT team to focus on creative business problem-solving, as opposed to constantly grappling with infrastructure issues.

In other words, this is the level where we see signs of the cloud’s true potential. Companies start to restructure the organisational streams to run apps within modern architectures – which in itself, should be approached with caution to avoid vendor lock-in.

At this level, it’s easy to imagine the cloud journey is complete – however, this is rarely the case.

Level 4: Microservices

Now we have reached the nirvana state. An organisation on its migration journey now has whole new ways of storing data and running businesses, and with this comes the opportunity to improve the architecture of applications – including the adoption of microservices.

The International Data Corporation (IDC)  recently predicted that 90% of applications on cloud platforms will be using microservices by 2021. As the name suggests, microservices is a collection of small and individually deployable services that scale to meet application workload requirements on demand.

Although it demands the sizeable upfront investment of re-architecting applications at their core, microservices are ultra-scalable and fault tolerant. They allow a seamless end-user experience of the application and fit perfectly with a DevOps culture.

This new culture, with a focus on smaller, dedicated teams working across the organisation, brings new features and products to the market in less time and with fewer resources, allowing for creativity, customer-focus, and experimentation.

The adoption and migration strategies that an organisation chooses for cloud will set precedents for future success, and all companies will approach their maturation levels from different angles and at different times. The most important thing to keep is to constantly re-address and appreciate the complexities of the journey.

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