Cloud Portability and Interoperability- Why it Matters?

02 / Nov / 2017 by Aakanksha Sidhu 0 comments

Companies globally are expanding multiple efforts to pursue digital transformation and modernize their existing infrastructure. Cloud is a key enabler for successful digital transformation. Cloud reduces the total cost of ownership and offers high flexibility along with improved collaboration.

Both large-scale enterprises and SMEs are taking a pledge to go ‘Cloud first’ owing to multiple benefits of the cloud. However, there are a few roadblocks such as portability and interoperability resisting some companies to move to the cloud or making it difficult to choose the best-fit cloud provider.

Cloud Portability

Cloud Portability is the ability to transfer data from one cloud service to another, without having to go through the hassle of filling in tonnes of data all over again. In such a scenario, the transition between the two platforms is smooth and done in its entirety without losing out on any bits of information. Before starting off with Cloud Portability, it is essential to take care of two critical aspects:

- Retrieval of Customer Data: There should be a capability to retrieve customer data as well as import the same from the source platform to the final cloud service platform.

- Sync in the Syntax of two platforms: It is absolutely essential for the syntax of the two platforms to sync in order to avoid any glitches on the way. In case of a mismatch between the two, the transition can be badly affected or even become impossible.

Interoperability- the other side of the coin

Cloud portability is a great offering, but there’s another aspect that should not be missed- interoperability. As you would already know, each system has its own set of components, working in tandem with each other, along with the cloud service provider they have been hosted on. Keeping the need for a strong sync among all these components- the concept of interoperability has also surfaced.

Interoperability emphases on the capability of the system’s components to work in a new environment, just as well as they had been in the previous one.  Typically, the components of a Cloud System include the following:

  •         Hardware
  •         Operating systems
  •         Virtualization
  •         Networks
  •         Storage
  •         Software (Application frameworks, middleware, libraries, applications)
  •         Data Security

The absence of the interoperability capabilities can sometimes mean being stuck to one Cloud Service provider, especially if your business has been associated with one for the longest time. It’d mean meeting many difficulties in upgrading your system and even making any sort of changes to the application being hosted on this particular cloud service.

The possibility and extent of interoperability can often be judged by assessing the cloud service provider closely, especially their protocols and architectures. If it is rigid at the roots, it’s probably not the best decision to go ahead with.

Importance of Cloud Portability- Why is it a key aspect of a successful business?

The reasons for an enterprise to opt for portability could be many, with the most prominent one to be more flexible and customizable to their customers’ needs. However, there’s an entire list of other crucial reasons that that compel a business move from one cloud provider to another. Some of these include:

  •  A sudden increase in the overall hosting cost
  •  A sudden halt on the business operations by the provider company
  •  Frequent changes to the services being offered, without prior warning or notice
  • Steep fall in the overall quality of the service- not meeting basic requirements or not achieving decided SLAs.
  • Any other dispute that may have risen between the Cloud Service Provider and the business
  • Delayed response after escalations leading to longer downtimes
  • Breach of security or compromised data security

Now that we have established how important Cloud Portability and Interoperability can be for businesses, let’s dive into the various categories of the same.

  • Data Portability: Any business, especially in today’s time would usually have a good amount of data stored on their cloud service provider. Take for example a SaaS product whose crucial customer related data is hosted on the Cloud would think ten times before moving on to another provider. They would have to evaluate how simple or complicated would the data migration process be.

If the data cannot be moved in a hassle-free way, they are probably not hosted on a very advanced Cloud platform. Being stuck in a traditional environment, which also costs higher in some cases can be a forced decision for which the business would have to pay- both in quality as well as monetarily.

  • Application Portability: Each application has a set of components that interact with their Cloud environment. If these components and features are dependent on their Cloud service provider for their functioning, application portability can be a cumbersome task for the enterprise. However, if the components are not platforming specific and can function smoothly on other platforms too, porting to another platform would be almost effortless.

Quite commonly, a problem in porting is often encountered in case if different environments are used for development and operations. Cloud contributes heavily in cutting the silos between Dev and Ops and ties them together. The success of application portability is largely dependent on this.  

  • Platform Portability: This category of portability simply refers to the ability of an application to run on any system without it being written in a supporting language.  To state it simply, the cloud service provider supports all applications irrespective of the language they are written in.
  • Application Interoperability: Simply means interoperability between the various components of an application deployed on the system. A lesser-known fact is that applications built on the basis of design principles witness better interoperability that those which are not.
  • Platform Interoperability: This refers to interoperability between the different components of the platform deployed on the system. Platform interoperability is an important aspect, as application interoperability also cannot be achieved in the absence of platform interoperability.
  • Management Interoperability: Since Cloud services are enabling enterprises to work in-house and eliminate dependency from any other third party, going forward, self-service capabilities would be predominant. Under this category, the interoperability between Cloud services such as SaaS, PaaS or IaaS and concerned applications related to self-service is assessed.
  • Publication and Acquisition Interoperability: This is essentially the interoperability between different platforms, including PaaS services and online marketplaces.

Challenges and Factors to Consider along the Way

Moving from one cloud to another can be an expensive exercise. After carefully evaluating the need for porting and the new platform your business is being moved to, there can still be a number of challenges surfacing on the way. If considering multiple factors is making your choice difficult, it is always advisable to take support from a cloud managed service provider as they can not only consult you on the best-fit provider but also help to manage the infrastructure moving forward.

Outlined below are a few factors to be considered:

  • Cost: If you plan to move your application to another Cloud, you naturally have to move the data as well. And it’s a given that this data is extremely crucial to the business. However, most Cloud service providers have pricing models that charge a small amount to get your data into their Cloud and a significantly higher amount forgetting out likewise. In most cases, this is done to dissuade the customer from leaving their Cloud services.This is where the customer needs to carefully evaluate the overall ROI keeping in mind the portability expenditure and the hosting charges of the new provider.
  • Mobility: Another factor to consider, which can also be an obstacle, is the degree of Mobility of your data. Mostly, on moving data from one Cloud service provider to another, the ability to move the workload from one host to another should also be assessed.
  • Interoperability: If interoperability is ignored in the initial stages of migration, the overall data migration can be badly affected. There is always an absolute need to ensure the functioning of all applications and their components when moved to a new environment.
  • Privacy and Security: As any data stored in Cloud is crucial to the business, the concern for privacy and security arises automatically. It is safe to assume that protecting the privacy of customer data is always at the top of the priority list.
  • Monitoring and Audit: While a service provider would always assure the customer on the smooth functioning of their services, it is a good practice to regularly monitor the services in-house too, making sure that SLA’s are met at every step. In case if required, hire a good cloud managed service provider that could monitor the infrastructure regularly ensuring zero downtime.

Rewards of Achieving Cloud Portability and Interoperability

It’s true that Cloud porting is a very critical decision, hence it must be evaluated at every step. However, once cloud portability is achieved, the benefits that an enterprise can enjoy are multifold.

Firstly, the business is no longer locked-in with one Cloud service provider, they always have an option to move in case of any hiccups. Many a time, service providers end up changing SLA’s midway of the contract or start compromising on the quality of the service being provided. In a scenario like this, being stuck with such a service provider can be hazardous to the business.

Secondly, it is always a great idea to have your application deployed on multiple cloud servers. Many companies opt to go with a similar deployment so that in case of problems with one provider, the application can still run in isolation without any downtime. To be able to host an app on different providers, it is absolutely necessary to ensure cloud portability and interoperability right from the beginning.

Let’s face it, Cloud Portability allows your business to be more flexible and agile. In today’s time, every enterprise must aim to achieve complete Cloud Portability and Interoperability, keeping in mind the various considerations discussed in this blog.

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