Why Cloud Adoption Doesn’t Mean Dumping Your Legacy Tech

A young cheerful businessman holding a cardboard box with an illustration of a white cloud


It has been widely accepted by now that cloud computing is not just computing for the future but is the most effective computing for now in terms easy deployment, flexibility and even costs.

The result is that most enterprise over the past 5 years have moved to the cloud and access whatever applications they need though private our public clouds.

Forrester Research

Notwithstanding the advantages of cloud, it also leaves a lot of enterprises with a lot of legacy applications that cannot be just ripped out or decommissioned by many of them still play a significant role in the enterprise or contact data reservoirs that have not been migrated to the cloud.

Take the example of enterprise content management systems. According to Forrester’s recent Wave for Content Platforms the enterprise content management (ECM) market continues its evolution to cloud-first, flexible, extensible platforms.  If modern content platforms now dominate the vendor landscape, and customers continue a steady pace of migration to these platforms — away from aging, on-premises repositories, the Wave reads, vendors with mature offerings have rearchitected their platforms to take full advantage of cloud scalability.

On top of that, the research adds, newer cloud vendors continue to invest in advanced capabilities for governance and automation. All vendors are embracing AI and ML to automate routine activities and are building design and development tools to help their clients deliver tailored user experiences and meet specific vertical requirements. In these circumstances, the future and use of legacy applications are a key part of the digital transformation of many enterprises.

Related Article: Why Cloud Should Be Your Default Setting

Planning for Legacy Technology

Most organizations have complicated technology ecosystems that must be audited, documented, and unraveled just to start planning a move — so, moving to the cloud is not something that should be rushed. Organizations should take the time to plan properly to understand the outcomes of all their systems, Daniel Herndon, director of cloud services at Long Beach, Calif.-based Laserfiche, said.

Not all software is the same and understanding the priority of your systems is a great starting point for planning the future of legacy systems. “Moving all of an organization’s technology to the cloud will take time, and the timeline of the migration will help to determine the future of legacy systems,” he said.

Understanding the product roadmap of your legacy technology could reveal the future path of migration to the cloud. It might be the case that the introduction of a future cloud service falls within the timeline of the organization’s larger migration strategy. It may also be the case that your software provider will offer attractive discounts for sticking with them, which offsets the expense of maintaining the internal resources.

It is also possible that some legacy technologies will never move to the cloud. Some systems handle sensitive workloads that must remain in the corporate network or need to support integrations with sensitive systems. In these cases, web APIs can be used to integrate these legacy systems with the cloud-based systems. So, even if the technology is not available or cannot be supported in the cloud, there are still options available that allow these technologies to remain a vital part of the enterprise’s technology ecosystem.

“Migrating to the cloud isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many factors that drive the planning, strategy, and execution of an enterprise’s cloud migration, and the current and future capabilities of a legacy technology should all be considered when making end-of-life decisions about your legacy technologies,” he added.

Planning for Cloud Migration

Will Milewski is SVP of cloud infrastructure and operations at  Westlake, Ohio-based enterprise content services provider Hyland Software. He points out that that the move to the cloud does not preclude the continued use of these applications. There are scenarios where enterprises may choose to stay with their legacy on-premises technology – including if those companies have numerous, highly customized installations that would have to be re-implemented or ported to the cloud, thus presenting myriad challenges to the customer.

Additionally, if an enterprise has a desire for specific administration capabilities or access, those may also lead to remaining with on-prem solutions; in the cloud, enterprises would be bound by parameters with the hosted offering.

If an enterprise has decided on a shift to the cloud but is still bound to legacy contracts, it should express its desire to move from on-prem to the cloud to its ECM provider; that provider likely has a program or options to re-do their current contract to enable cloud-hosted solutions.

“For the provider, meeting its customers’ needs – in this case, shifting to the cloud – is its highest priority, and cloud-based solutions also allow an ECM provider to ease the operational and administrative burden on its customers,” he said.

When migrating from on-premises to cloud-based technology, enterprises should be active participants in the process and partner with their provider to ensure the smoothest possible transitions. Providers will seek to identify all end points and third-party integrations that may be impacted by the migration, and customers can ease that process by directing their provider to all processes and systems that are part of their business.

He added that there are significant risks lurking if migrations are not executed properly, but customer participation in the process can help lead to the best possible outcome.

If an enterprise is in the early stage of identifying a cloud provider, they should evaluate not only the provider’s platform and whether it meets their specific business needs, but also these key factors:

  • The provider’s security track record – including any breaches
  • The provider’s ability to serve my applications from multiple locations, in a Disaster Recovery setting, for example
  • The provider’s auditing standards – what national and international standards they adhere to ensure the standard of operation you would be getting from your provider.

The Cloud as a State Of Mind

The cloud, however, is a mentality, not a location, Ugur Tigli, CTO at Palo Alto, Calif.-based MinIO, added.  The cloud refers to RESTful APIs (AWS’ S3 to be specific), seamless scale, containerization and orchestration (Kubernetes), object storage and automation.

“If one adheres to the principles of the cloud, the physical location becomes irrelevant. AWS, GCP, Azure, the private cloud, the Kubernetes distributions (RedHat OpenShift, VMware Tanzu), edge clouds they are all in play. Choices are made based on performance, control and economics,” he said.

In these circumstances, how does one handle a move to a cloud native content management system when legacy technology and contracts are involved? The answer is to start with the storage component. Object storage is the primary storage on the cloud and as such, it is supported by most of the vendors on Forrester’s Wave.

The key to an enterprise cloud journey is to disaggregate the compute/application layer from the storage layer. In the context of the question. His answer is to have the technologies store their documents, files, videos and pictures on object storage, The application begins the bridge by selecting cloud native storage. 

 This provides the optionality the enterprise needs going forward. With an S3 compatible object store, the enterprise can migrate the application layer to the cloud (public, private, hybrid) or swap it out entirely. The impact is minimized because the “stuff” that matters is already on the “cloud” the application that interfaces with it will catch up.

“Enterprises that have bought content management systems simply need to follow that lead – it provides the “tomorrow” optionality they desire with the performance they demand today,” he said. “They can keep their contracts until they expire or their vendor provides a cloud native front-end to pair with the backend.”

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