The Cloud Computing Platform
The cloud is an architecture, mainly for web-based applications, that provides as much computing power as you need, when you need it ('on-demand'). The cloud architecture could be privately owned on premises and run by an organization for its own needs, but the biggest advantages, and hence the current trend, come from 'public clouds' - hosted services that offer companies on-demand computing, without having to invest ahead of their needs. They pay according to use, which might vary even in the course of a day, due to continually changing requirements such as peaks, connectivity, DR, database access, storage space, CPU power and other infrastructure needs.
The providers are big companies like Google, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft offers its Azure cloud platform, which has a fairly clear set of services and business model.
Windows Azure and other cloud providers can make a significant impact on an organization's economics in the following ways:
- Large savings in operational costs
- Increased accessibility – being internet based, it has a reach extending to virtually every computing or mobile device around
- Endless scalability (both up and down), on-demand and without purchasing new infrastructure
- It can be free of the bounds of client installations and associated administrative overheads
- No capital investment in application server hardware
- Increased efficiency in administration
- 99.9% availability or more
40 Billion Lines of Client/Server Code
The problem is that to take advantage of the cloud's promise of lower cost of ownership, the applications must be built to work on that platform. Even existing web applications cannot always be transferred to Azure without some changes, but for C/S (client / server) applications, the task appears insurmountable.
Estimates indicate that there are some 15 billion lines of code in active VB6 systems today, with other .Net applications adding another 7.5 billion. Add Oracle forms, Power Builder, Delphi, Magic, Cobol, SQL Gupta and other C/S systems and the total estimate goes above a phenomenal 40 billion lines of code driving desktop enterprise applications and products in 2011.
This poses a technical challenge with major economic implications – how to get legacy client/server software working on the cloud?
New Systems for the Future
So can companies utilize cloud computing with their Legacy Software? Well, they could rewrite their applications for the web, but that is effectively developing from scratch, which involves risk, time and money and you never really know when you'll finish; it can take years to write a large system. Is it being done? For sure; newer systems are always replacing older ones, but that isn't really the issue. The question that companies want to know is how they can make the most effective use of the huge investment they have made over the last 3 decades by putting their existing systems on the cloud now and benefitting from the much lower cost of ownership. A further economic and operational consideration is the expertise already built up in the existing development team.
Ironically, there are also inherent weaknesses in web-based systems, due to their browser interface. The HTML/browser UI user controls are limited compared to the rich desktop GUI with its drag and drop, right click popup menus and fast response to actions. Web 2.0 and Ajax technologies are meant to bridge that gap but they are still evolving and are currently complex to implement.
Virtualization, Migration and CloudMove
One solution that has surfaced as a way to get your legacy systems on the web is virtualization, with Citrix XEN App, VMWare and Microsoft RDS being the most well known. This is an encapsulation approach that is quick to implement and fairly low risk but incurs costly overheads in its server resources, maintenance and cost of accessibility. Limitations such as a few dozen users for each server, required use of VPN, complexity in troubleshooting and the need to install each client individually make it a time and money consuming solution, especially when many users need to be served.
A second rapid C/S-to-web approach is migration, whereby the legacy code is converted to run natively on the cloud. The massive differences between C/S architecture and the web make such a migration highly complex and hard to automate and, to date, only two companies have chosen the automation path. One is Nexaweb, which has developed a migration engine to a Java servlet environment. The other is Gizmox, with Instant CloudMove, a part of its successful Visual WebGui .Net development platform.
The Instant CloudMove Solution
Visual WebGui Instant CloudMove takes a migration approach combined with a virtualization engine. Through its unique virtualization framework, a layer existing between the web server and the application and its highly automated process, Instant CloudMove converts legacy applications to native .Net code and then optimizes it for Microsoft's Azure platform. This produces new software that runs fast and efficiently on the cloud while retaining the desktop user controls from the original app. It also offers a modernization alternative complementing the automatic migration process with user interface modernization. The underlying Visual WebGui framework implements an exceptionally light HTTP/XML web protocol using AJAX which remains transparent to the developers.
Automation that reduces costs dramatically is the essence of the product. The process is structured is such a way that it reduces the number of human decisions to a bare minimum. It can almost be said the Instant CloudMove is 'C/S to web for dummies'.
But perhaps the greatest strength of Instant CloudMove is how it handles security. The issue of security is a major problem on the cloud, due to AJAX-based GUIs. Visual WebGui, however, implements AJAX in a completely secure fashion. It opens a single secured channel and the server side components will not accept input of any type or from any region of the application that is not expected. Its input algorithm in many ways resembles a web application firewall, blocking any malicious or out-of-place input.
To this end, the company prides itself with an open offer of a $10,000 prize to any hacker who succeeds in compromising a Visual WebGui application.
Instant CloudMove comprises two tools – the CloudMove Assessment Tool and the CloudMove Transposition Tool. The first is an essential aid in analyzing the source application and estimating its suitability for transition to the cloud platform. It can review a number of apps and rank them according to their suitability for migration, and even predict their running costs on Azure. The Transposition Tool's job is to turn that estimate into reality, by transposing the .NET code to work efficiently on the Windows Azure platform.
Gizmox is offering the CloudMove Assessment Tool absolutely free so ISV's and enterprises alike can see just what the migration is going to involve before they decide.
A bonus of using Instant CloudMove is that after the system is up and running on the Azure cloud platform, continued web development can be done in a pure .Net environment through the highly successful Visual WebGui Professional Studio, maximizing existing resources on the new platform.
Instant CloudMove is a major cost saver for enterprises and ISVs looking to leverage cloud platform technology now. The contributory factors to this are:
- It provides a realistic path to the cloud model now seen more than ever as a highly cost-effective infrastructure, compared to existing platforms.
- It lets that path be taken quickly and with minimal changes in HR and expertise requirements.
- It runs highly efficiently on Microsoft Windows Azure cloud, a resource-based model, consuming less CPU and less bandwidth than web solutions and therefore costs less to run.
- It produces web applications with rock-solid security and a rich GUI, just like the original C/S application.
And on top of all that, by facilitating the move to cloud, Instant CloudMove expands the availability and accessibility of the (once) legacy application to virtually any computing device or mobile phone, giving a SaaS model to ISVs and unlimited user scope to enterprise apps.
For more information: Gizmox Instant CloudMove
Download Instant CloudMove Assessment Tool free!