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When people first hear about the cloud, they typically envision some nebulous server in the sky. Moving apps to the cloud should be a piece of cake, they think. Simply pick them up, stick them in the cloud, and you’re done.

Reality, of course, is quite different. True, for simple, monolithic applications, you could provision a single cloud instance and simply port the code over.

The problem is, today’s applications are far from simple and rarely monolithic. Even a simple web app has multiple pieces, ranging from front-end web server code interacting with application code on the middle tier, which in turn talks to the database underneath.

However, in the enterprise context, even these multi-tier web apps are more the exception than the rule. Older enterprise applications like ERP run on multiple servers, leveraging various data sources and user interfaces, communicating via some type of middleware.

Migrating such an application to the cloud is a multifaceted, complex task that goes well beyond picking it up and putting it in the cloud. In practice, some components typically remain on premise while others may move to the cloud, creating a hybrid cloud scenario.

Furthermore, quite often developers must rewrite those elements that move to the cloud in order to leverage its advantages. After all, the cloud promises to provide horizontal scalability, elasticity, and automated recovery from failure, among other benefits. It’s essential to architect and build applications appropriately to take advantage of these characteristics.

However, not all enterprise cloud challenges necessarily involve migrating older applications to cloud environments. For many organizations, digital transformation is the driving force, as customer preferences and behavior drive their technology decisions – and thus digital often begins with the customer interface.

When digital is the priority, enterprises cannot simply build a web site and call it a day, as they may have done in the 1990s. Even adding mobile interfaces doesn’t address customer digital demands. Instead, digital represents an end-to-end rethink of what it means to put an application into the hands of customers.

Today’s modern digital application typically includes multiple third-party applications, from the widgets, plugins, and tags that all modern enterprise web pages include, to the diversity of third-party SaaS cloud apps that support the fabric of modern IT.

With this dynamic complexity of today’s applications, the boundaries of the cloud itself are becoming unclear. Code may change at any time. And there is no central, automated command and control that encompasses the full breadth of such applications.

Instead, management of modern cloud-based, digital applications involves a never-ending, adaptive approach to management that maintains the performance and security of these complex enterprise applications.

Without such proactive, adaptive management, the customer experience will suffer – and with it the bottom line. Furthermore, security and compliance breaches become increasingly likely as the complexity of these applications grows.

It’s easy to spot the irony here. The cloud promised greater automation of the operational environment, and with increased automation we expected simpler management. But instead, complexity exploded, thus leading to the need for more sophisticated, adaptive management. But in the end, we’re able to deliver greater customer value – as long as we properly manage today’s end-to-end, cloud-centric digital applications.

-Jason Bloomberg, President, Intellyx

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. 2nd Watch is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.

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