Application Archiving in the Cloud

Introducing “Cold Storage” of complete application systems in the Cloud.

Traditional application archiving is often described in one of two ways:

1) Archiving – this is where you have an application that has accumulated large amounts of historical data that exists on Tier 1 primary storage within the data center. The basic concept is that you take some of the older, infrequently accessed data and “archive” it or move it to some other read-only data warehouse that utilizes less expensive storage. The idea is to save money by reducing the pressure to expand more expensive storage and potentially reduce those costs over time. The application system remains “active” but with only newer relevant data.

2) Decommission (aka Retire) – this is where you extract all the application data required for business decisions or regulatory/compliance and then completely shut down the original application. On the surface, this sounds viable, but it might not be appropriate in all situations. Perhaps the original application takes its natively created data and combines it in real-time with data from other systems, or maybe the data includes proprietary or licensed data from another vendor. On top of that, the application’s architecture might be based on legacy technology like IBMi (AS/400) or maybe AIX (IBM Unix).

The net-net is that it might not be possible to “shut it down” even though the application is only needed on an infrequent basis. In this case, you are incurring all the costs of keeping that system alive.

Option #3, Application “Cold Storage” via the Cloud.

What if you could take a complete application “system” in its current as-is state and put it in the cloud? That means move the application to the cloud without fundamentally changing its current architecture. That would include both the data and the equivalent infrastructure. Then turn the entire system on or off when needed in an on-demand model.

When powered “off,” the cloud resources are not consuming compute resources, only storage. This means there are potential savings for on-prem resources since they now live in the cloud. It is now possible to truly decommission on-prem resources. When powered “on,” the application behaves exactly as it did before. The same servers, same hostnames, same IP addresses, etc. that existed on-prem, but now those resources live in the cloud. All the major cloud vendors also support “pay as you go”, so you are only incurring full cloud costs while the “frozen” application is up and running.

When the application is not needed, hit the “off” button for the entire application system. All the servers are powered down in the cloud, and it sits frozen until needed again.

What if the application is based on IBMi or AIX? This should be no problem since vendors like Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud offer “Power” in the cloud. You migrate your LPAR to the cloud, connect the cloud back to on-prem via some form of direct connect, and the components in the cloud look just like another subnet on your overall corporate network. For x86 based architectures, the concept should be easy to visualize.

But it is not all wine-and-roses. You do have to do the work to migrate the application to the cloud. But your goal should be to migrate the application “as-is” without changing it. Another way to think of it is to “re-host” the application, which then off-loads on-prem resources. For the cold storage concept, you are not re-architecting to use all cloud-native services. You can weigh the effort to do a one-time migration against all the costs of maintaining the application on-prem.

The biggest sticky point might be licensing. You’ll need to inventory all the packages being used on the cold storage candidate and make sure you understand the licensing implications of using them in the cloud.

The recent industry event that truly enables the cold storage concept on a wide scale is the ability to support Power (IBMi/AIX) in addition to just x86. With the ability to run Power in the Cloud, many Enterprises have the opportunity to “freeze” many of their infrequently used applications, creating potential on-prem cost savings. 

Don’t toss it out, freeze it!

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