Which Applications Should Be Kept On-Premises?
Farnum’s deep understanding of his needs and workloads allowed him to make thoughtful decisions on how DRC could best employ the cloud. He began by defining what he calls his “hierarchy of needs” — those things that are most important to the business and produce the most value for DRC’s customers.
“The No. 1 question is, ‘How do I continue to provide a cost-effective solution, so that we can continue to lower our price and provide the technical benefits that our clients are looking for?’” says Farnum.
He looked at legacy applications that were due for an upgrade and planned ahead to make sure that their replacements were cloud-native. “Applications originally built using monolithic design patterns or any relatively current microserviced applications that required feature updates were possible targets for cloud modernization,” says Farnum.
He also looked for solutions that could manage the periodic annual resource burst at testing time, using the cloud to eliminate having to build and maintain excess on-premises capacity needed for only a short period of time each year.
“That’s where serverless comes in,” says Farnum. “It’s called FaaS: Function as a Service.”
FaaS is a step beyond Infrastructure as a Service, allowing DRC to write code inside a serverless framework without incurring costs for a hypervisor or an operating system. “All our latest cloud-native applications are targeted for serverless with the goal of being cloud-agnostic and portable,” he adds.
Farnum looked to containerize as a microservice all elements that weren’t suitable for serverless. Finally, at the legacy layer, hypervised systems and single machines for discrete applications remain in place.
On-premises, DRC operates two data centers that run Dell EMC VxBlocks, allowing for storage of and access to scanned image data onsite.
“That’s our traditional on-premises infrastructure; that’s where the vast majority of our compute and our engine runs,” says Farnum. With that, the company uses VMware NSX for replication of virtual machines between the two data centers.
DRC is also experimenting with a small onsite Nutanix cluster, which includes the App Mobility Fabric and Container Services tools.
“Nutanix is exciting in that they are releasing features that focus on how to deliver business value through simplification of infrastructure and software development, improving the speed at which I can build the next application by eliminating overly complex traditional infrastructure,” says Farnum. “They are working to bring cloudlike capabilities on-premises.”
MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read why businesses should deploy consider a virtual private cloud.
A Cloud-First Strategy Helped Engineers Do Their Jobs
Woodard & Curran, a national engineering, science and operations firm, ended up in a different place than DRC. But
the questions the company asked along the way to find the right solution, rooted in business needs and a solid cloud-adoption strategy, are similar.
In the early 2010s, the Portland, Maine-based company was running a multiple-network storage solution that was bogging down engineers and scientists as they tried to access files from offices across the country via WAN.
When Ken Danila, the company’s director of information systems, joined the firm, the leadership had already decided that the current solution was untenable, and a project was underway to consolidate its physical infrastructure in a colocation facility.
“There was already the infrastructure and administration in place to operate an IT infrastructure that was outside of our physical offices,” says Danila. “So, for us, it was a matter of getting into the mindset of moving from a location where we could visit and see our rack and touch our servers to a fully virtualized environment in the Microsoft Azure cloud.”
Ultimately, Woodard & Curran kept only a minimal footprint of on-premises computing resources in its 25 offices. For its particular needs, a cloud-first strategy makes the most sense; it saves around $350,000 a year and can completely onboard a new office in as little as 10 days.
Today, Danila says, nearly everyone appreciates how the cloud has changed the way they work.
“When we started this five years ago, change management was huge. There was a lot of angst and fear,” he says. “But now, I often hear, ‘I can’t believe we ever ran our business any other way.’ ”