Apps vs. Ops: How Cultural Divides Impede Migration to the Cloud


Many groups within the IT organization have significant stakes in the decision-making process when it comes to moving production applications to virtualized servers or to the cloud. One group in particular, the application owners, can take opposing viewpoints when it comes to these two technologies.

Web applications, as we all know, are the lynch pin of most organizations today, serving as either mission-critical or revenue-critical functions of the business. The job of an application owner depends on making sure the critical business applications they oversee run smoothly and meet performance and availability goals. If an organization’s e-commerce web site has a four-hour performance outage, you can be sure its application owner will be in hot water. At the same time, however, application owners face constant pressure to get new functionality developed and rolled out quickly to meet the demands of the business.

This results in an interesting organizational dynamic. When it comes to virtualization, a technology usually seen as a key enabler of cloud computing, application owners typically are typically resistant to the change. They often cite performance degradation and scalability concerns as the primary reasons to refrain from moving mission-critical applications to virtualized infrastructures. IT operations teams, on the other hand, push for virtualization adoption to achieve cost savings through server consolidation and manageability gains.

At the same time, when it comes to moving a mission-critical application to the cloud, it’s the application owners who often drive the effort, while the IT operations teams are the ones resistant to change. Application owners look at cloud as the alternative to get new business functionality rolled out quickly, but the internal IT operations teams cite lack of control and uncertainty about SLAs as reasons to block the move critical applications to the cloud.

In both cases, other than the real technical issues related to security, performance and scalability, the IT culture plays a key role. This struggle in IT departments is based far more on tools, measurements and accountability rather than a fundamental divide. Because virtualization administrators’ superiors rate their underlings on the level of virtualization achieved, and because application owners’ superiors look for constant uptime and SLA adherence, it’s no wonder these two camps have become impenetrable silos. Both retain (and perhaps guard) their specialized knowledge and have no understanding of the measurements and standards by which the other functions.

Both virtualization and cloud are maturing from a technology perspective, and more and more mission-critical applications can gain from the advantages they bring. But the key for a virtualization- or cloud-migration project to succeed is paying attention to resolving the internal IT conflicts in addition to the technical issues.

Visibility, measurability and accountability are the most important factors that can help resolving these conflicts. Better visibility and measurability into application performance, both before and after the change, helps alleviate the fears about performance degradation that application owners have when virtualizing their apps. Similarly, real-time visibility and automated response abilities alleviate the concerns the IT operations teams have about losing control when moving apps to the cloud. When application owners are considering deploying an application in the cloud, they should definitely consider integrating the right tooling and reporting mechanism so that lack of accountability doesn’t become an organizational issue hindering the success of the project.

Jyoti Bansal is founder and CEO of App Dynamics.

Image courtesy of Picasa user tonywarrawee.

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Mitch Greenwald

We are experiencing the exact same cultural dynamics in the SMB market place. It is important to find a strong willed leader/sponsor that has an agent of change mentality


I’ve said it over and over again: IT is the most thankless job of them all. Users want apps and they do not care HOW they were delivered. When was the last time you heard a user open their app in AM and say: “These IT guys are awesome, look at this, my app is still up”? As businesses move to the cloud, the IT function will become a utility, just like electricity is today. You pay for it every month but you do not really care if it was generated using hydro, wind or solar. Yes, I do live in Pacific Northwest ;)

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