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SaaS, Build from Scratch, or Migrate Existing: A Dilemma

This is a guest post written and contributed by James Strayer, VP of Product Management at Racemi, a Rackspace Cloud Tools Partner. Racemi Cloud Path quickly and easily migrates your existing physical, virtual, or cloud applications to Rackspace Cloud Server instances.

Any company adopting public cloud computing as part of their IT service delivery strategy is faced with the decision of which applications to migrate and how. Some common options we discuss with customers while helping them formulate a cloud strategy are:

• Migrate to a SaaS application
• Build A New Cloud Server From Scratch
• Migrate Your Existing Applications “As Is”

Each of these approaches has benefits and tradeoffs, and the right decision depends on the company’s business objectives and the application itself.  SaaS applications are dominating new application development these days and for good reason. No infrastructure to buy or maintain, minimal IT maintenance is required, and the low upfront cost and consumptive billing model are all attractive. For a new business looking for applications at a low upfront cost, SaaS applications are a “no brainer”.  Again, for existing companies looking to offer new applications as part of their IT service offering, SaaS applications continue to have strong appeal. However, in a scenario where a business wants to migrate an existing on premise application to a SaaS application, things get more complicated. There are data migrations, transition downtime, lost customizations, and sunk costs to consider. Depending on the application and scope of the migration, these factors can offset some gains of the SaaS application.

Building from scratch is ideal for customers looking to update an application’s infrastructure/architecture as part of the migration. For example, perhaps the application is based on an older version of the host OS or component application like SQL, however, IT has been reluctant to upgrade, preferring the stability of the time tested version. In this case, a cloud migration may be the best time to do an upgrade since the business will already be factoring in downtime and other impacts. This manual migration could also allow custom applications to be re-architected for use in the cloud if necessary, very useful if the business intends to migrate an entire complex application to a public cloud. Tradeoffs may include a painful data migration, re-engineering of customizations, an extended regression testing cycle, or other impacts that could offset the benefits of the upgraded application infrastructure and negatively impact the cost benefits of moving to the cloud.

The third approach is to migrate the application, or application components, “as is” to the cloud provider of choice. In this approach, the entire “stack” (OS, application, and configuration) of a server is captured and migrated to a new cloud server instance. This approach is typically the fastest and most cost effective, as down time and regression testing are minimized since the changes required for the application to function are typically low impact, often only requiring minor configuration changes. This approach is excellent for simple applications, complex applications that are “cloud ready”, and even complex hybrid applications that will maintain application components in the businesses’ private cloud or data center. Of course, any existing application limitations will still apply and some applications may be better candidates for other migration approaches.

Racemi Cloud Path is a SaaS application that can migrate existing physical, virtual, and even other cloud servers to the Rackspace Cloud “as is”. Customers tell us that they love the speed, our Zero Risk licensing plan, and that we don’t introduce any additional dependencies, like an application level hypervisor or additional management software. In addition to software solutions, we also offer a variety of consulting services, ranging from cloud readiness assessments to performing the actual migrations for customers. Whatever your cloud migration needs, we hope you’ll consider Racemi as part of your cloud migration strategy.

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About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Bob Bardwell.

Bob Bardwell is a Racker who works in Rackspace Corporate Development; his background includes financial statement and single audits. He enjoys golf, geopolitics, and networking.


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