What is a Cloud Application?
A cloud application simply refers to any software application that is deployed in a cloud environment rather than being hosted on a local server or machine. The term "cloud environment" describes how an IT organization has configured its IT infrastructure to support cloud applications. There are three different models that are popular today:
- Private cloud - private cloud infrastructure is used exclusively by a single organization. Its resources are not shared by other organizations, and access to these systems is not available for the public. IT organizations can choose to build their own private cloud infrastructure on-site or to have a 3rd-party company host and maintain the infrastructure off-site. A private cloud environment acts as a private network, creating a secure environment for applications, services and users.
- Public cloud - public clouds can offer low rates for data storage capacity and flexible computing power due to economies of scale. Companies that own and operate public cloud infrastructure deliver on-demand computing services to a variety of customers across industry verticals. These companies own all of the hardware, software and supporting infrastructure needed to deliver the services, which customers can typically access on any device with internet access. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Oracle are three well-known examples of public cloud service providers.
- Hybrid cloud - hybrid cloud environments use API technology to combine public and private clouds together into a single environment. With a hybrid cloud environment, IT organizations can share data and applications between on-premise servers and third-party public cloud applications, creating additional options for application deployment and optimization.
The most important innovation associated with the cloud is the delivery of computing services such as servers, storage, databases, networking functionality, applications, data and analytics through the internet and on a flexible, on-demand basis.
How to Deploy a Cloud Application
- Know what Applications are Good Candidates for Cloud Deployment - Older legacy applications running on mainframes simply aren't meant to be moved into the cloud, and for some complex applications, migrating them to a cloud-based model might necessitate a complete rewrite of the application. Organizations need to accept that not all of their existing infrastructure can be easily deployed to the cloud, but there are times when the effort of re-architecting an existing application can be justified. Ultimately, IT organizations need to conduct due diligence investigations to understand what modifications will be required to prepare an application for cloud deployment.
- Choose the Best Deployment Model for Your Needs - Each new cloud application deployment requires IT organizations to make a decision about how the application should be hosted. Using a private cloud environment is more costly, as you'll miss out on the savings associated with flexible data capacity and your organization must host the infrastructure on-site. Meanwhile, public cloud services offer the best value but may not be ideal for your most sensitive data. Privacy, security and cost are all key concerns when deciding how to deploy a cloud application.
- Focus on Deployment vs Migration - When an organization makes the decision to move away from the traditional data center operation paradigm and towards a private cloud configuration, it is often motivated by a desire to consolidate applications and infrastructure spread across servers. While consolidating servers can lead to cost reduction, application deployment should be the focus of cloud service implementation.
- Plan for Changes in Application Performance - Before an app is deployed in the cloud, your organization should bench mark its performance in the traditional data center environment and determine a minimum acceptable standard. The cloud environment functions much different than a physical server, so you will have to monitor the performance of a newly deployed cloud application and optimize it over time.
- Invest in New Monitoring Tools for Your Cloud Application - The monitoring tools that were sufficient in traditional IT environments are no longer effective for the cloud. Organizations that depend on cloud applications use purpose-built monitoring tools called cloud management platforms (CMPs) to keep track of security threats, compliance status and application performance across all cloud systems.
Cloud Application Advantages and Disadvantages
Cloud Application Advantages
- Cost Reduction - cloud application deployment can be accomplished in a relatively short time span with little to no up-front investment in IT infrastructure. Not only are organizations spared the expense of purchasing servers and other equipment, but they also save on the administration, power, air condition and maintenance costs associated with operating it. Cloud services also usually offer flexible cost models, so businesses only pay for the storage and capacity that they use.
- Reliability - cloud service providers have the infrastructure in place to guarantee high levels of service up-time and availability for your applications, including readily available back-up servers in case of an unplanned service interruption. When the system breaks, it's your service provider's responsibility to fix it - not yours.
- Ease-of-Management - organizations today can implement cloud management platform (CMP) solutions to streamline the management of cloud applications and services deployed across multiple cloud environments. CMPs use an extensive catalog of APIs to pull data from throughout the cloud environment and feed it into an integrated system where your IT organization can easily monitor performance, security and compliance.
Cloud Application Disadvantages
- Downtime - when an application is deployed in the cloud, an internet connection is required to access it. An unplanned internet outage could therefore cause a significant business interruption by disrupting access to cloud applications. Cloud service providers may also experience technical outages from time to time, during which all of your applications and data would be unavailable.
- Control - The major trade-off that organizations make for the cost savings of cloud application deployment is control. Cloud infrastructure is owned, managed and operated the cloud service provider, meaning that the organization has no actual control over back-end infrastructure. This makes cloud application deployment ideal for organizations that only want to manage applications, data and services, but not the physical hardware side of their IT.
- Security - As organizations increase their number of cloud application deployments, it becomes more difficult to continuously monitor the security status of the IT infrastructure and ensure that applications in the cloud do not contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited through cyber attacks. Cloud management platforms such as Sumo Logic allow IT organizations to aggregate data from applications in the cloud and use it to achieve continuous monitoring of security threats and vulnerabilities.