Cloud migration: The pros and cons of a common platform

Heterogeneity in the datacenter can be enormous, so it's tempting to use a cloud migration to standardize on one platform. If only it were that easy

Enterprise compute, storage, and database platforms are like rings of a tree. You add new ones each year, and they are mostly different from the last.

You use whatever platform is thought to be right at the time. That’s why you have mainframes, minicomputers, client/server systems, distributed systems, and open systems, with any number of processors, databases, and security systems. So you end up with 2,000 applications and about as many connected databases that run on all types of platforms.

And now, you are migrating to the cloud.

Should you consider moving many of these applications to a common platform, including processor, operating systems, and database? There are reasons to do that, and reasons not to do that.

Why to use a common platform in the cloud

The cost of management and operations is much higher if the platforms are heterogeneous. Consider the fact that you need to keep around multiple skill sets and tool sets for mainframes, open systems, Windows, Oracle, IBM, etc. to keep things running correctly. Indeed, the more diverse, the more money you’ll spend on ops.

So, if you can refactor as much as half of those applications to use common platforms, you’ll likely save 20 to 30 percent on ops and maintenance after the applications are migrated to the cloud. Although you typically can’t move everything to a common platform, the effort typically returns on the investment in three to five years, considering ops costs saved. 

Why not to use a common platform in the cloud

The downside is logical as well: the cost of moving applications to common platforms. The costs are all over the place and depend on how well the application have been designed and thus the amount of hassle to move them from, say, Windows to Linux, or the other way. I’ve seen conversions happen in just a day or in 30 days, depending on how much time is needed to get the app moved, tested, integrated, and deployed.

There is no single answer

These pros and cons really mean that you need to look at the applications before making an assessment. The truth is that many applications may not be economically viable to be moved to a common platform when they are moved to the cloud. Others are a no-brainer. You have to look to see which approach is best for each application.

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