Posted by  Hugh Cox  Published on  30 Jul 2014
  • Data Strategy

Legacy is such a loaded word in technology and IT circles. Anywhere but an IT department, you’d be pleased to hear that a legacy was coming your way. But in IT, legacy probably refers to the technology you’ve been bequeathed by previous CIOs and are now stuck with because it’s too complex and too expensive to replace.

Legacy even sounds old-fashioned and leaden compared with the fresh and airy sounding cloud computing. And the business benefits are equally enticing, as cloud computing promises lower costs, scalability and greater agility. But while small companies may move lock, stock and laptop to the cloud, medium and large-sized companies will be far more circumspect about which applications and services they access from the cloud. Even if they wanted to move everything into the cloud, they almost certainly can’t do it right now.

So, with the cloudy outlook showing no signs of blowing over, CIOs are keen to find a way to make the old and the new, the legacy and the cloud, coexist. The great thing about cloud is that you don’t have to rip out and replace your legacy systems (even though you may secretly want to).

Many security-conscious or legislation-laden organizations choose to take advantage of cloud but within their own firewall and using their own business infrastructure. Setting up a private cloud means they are able to keep their data close and safe, while gaining some of the advantages of the cloud way of doing things, such as centralized management of hardware, some (but not as great as public) cost savings and improved reliability.

What’s becoming more common, however, are hybrid IT environments, a combination of public and private clouds, which enable organizations to straddle both the cloud and legacy IT worlds and exploit what both do well.

A June survey by Information Week found that most of the IT organizations often began the journey to a hybrid environment by first using a public infrastructure-as-a-service services, set up by business units rather than IT and then quickly began to rely on that public cloud for important business processes. Integration into a hybrid environment gave IT the chance to get to grips with problems such as poor security, data protection and reliability.

They are certainly becoming extremely common. Of the respondents to the Information Week survey, only 20% said they had no private cloud plans. Some 30% already had hybrid set-ups able to juggle workloads between private or public clouds and a further 32% were piloting that capability.

Using a hybrid cloud architecture enables you to continue to get value from previous investments in software, development or hardware. It can be a valuable tool to cope with demand shifts, building in contingency without having to fork out or more hardware. During a peak in demand, some cloud partners enable you to ‘burst’ through the private cloud and move non-sensitive data onto a public cloud, freeing up more space on the private cloud.

But it means you have to find a way to make these two environments do more than muddle along together. They must work together in harmony to provide a solid platform for business innovation. As every IT professional knows, integration is rarely easy to do and although there are vendors and technologies out there to help, it is not an endeavor that should be underestimated.

More than half the UK CIOs in an NTT Europe survey last year said the biggest barrier to cloud adoption was the complexity of their existing legacy infrastructure. Equally worrying was the fact that 60 % of the CIOs were concerned that their cloud providers didn’t appreciate the complexity of their legacy systems and were worried this might jeopardize any migration to the cloud.

The implication of the report was that although IT heads were cloud believers and keen to do more in the cloud they felt tethered by their legacy infrastructure and processes.

But it can still cost you to do nothing. Putting up with the inefficient processes or infrastructure of legacy means you may be paying too high a price in lost innovation and opportunities. The cost issue shifts from thinking about the cost and complexity of setting up a hybrid cloud to thinking whether the business afford not to invest.