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Things to Consider: Moving EDI to the Cloud – Part 1

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The exception here is that you are moving the very heart of your logistic operations, so you’ll want to look twice before you leap.

So, you are thinking of moving your on-premises EDI to the cloud? The migration process will be very similar to bringing other on-prem appli­ca­tions up the cloud, with the primary benefits, caveats, and challenges also being comparable. The exception here is that you are moving the very heart of your logistic operations, so you’ll want to look twice before you leap.

The benefits of migrating your EDI to the cloud are many, not just the following:

Economics – Reduced cost for hardware, maintenance, licensing, and other nagging costs, because the burden of ownership and upkeep is no longer yours from both a hardware and personnel resource standpoint. PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) takes this even further than IaaS (Infra­struc­ture-as-a-Service) by providing dynamically scalable func­tion­ality in a pay-as-you-go fashion that is especially attractive for businesses that have highly cyclical volume. You will generally only pay for what you need when you need it.

Out of the box functionality – Features and connectors that allow you to build and protoype solutions rapidly to investigate “what-if” scenarios and/or viability of an idea or concept.

Redundancy and resiliency – Leaders in the cloud services space build multiple data centers within a region to complement the fault tolerance within each center and even extend that to geographic redundancy (at a premium). This ensures services are always available even in worst case scenarios; something only the largest enterprises can match or consider doing on their own.

There are, however, trade-offs and consid­er­able effort involved in building a production ready solution. Whether you are performing a lift and move to IaaS or migrating to a processing model that utilizes all that the latest cloud-based PaaS archi­tec­tures have to offer; the you need to consider:

Control of your environment – The more you take advantage of these advanced features and func­tion­al­i­ties, the more control you relinquish relative to what happens and when. While providers do their utmost to manage change so that it minimizes disruption, stuff happens, and you are at the provider’s mercy until it is resolved. Geographic redundancy using “blue/green” instances of your environment, or multi-cloud envi­ron­ments using different providers can mitigate such potential issues, but they come with consid­er­able additional cost and complexity. While not as drastic as on-prem solutions, the investment is not trivial.

Security – There are some myths concerning security and how using the cloud shifts some of the burden of this function to the provider. This is only true in a ‘global’ sense, and in fact because many PaaS features are essentially web services, the onus rests squarely on the user to ensure every endpoint is secure. It also rests on the user to make sure the appropriate features are enabled to properly isolate appli­ca­tions and/or services from intrusion.

Metered versus discretely billed features/functions – Many features on cloud platforms are billed by the hour and/or storage unit (metered), while others can be billed by execution or as a lump sum monthly. Having a good profile based on your actual use of the application under load is key in getting an accurate under­standing of your cost. Calculators on provider web sites are generally an estimation at best, and they can be off by an order of magnitude if there is not real-world data and a solid under­standing of your entire application ecosystem.

Design patterns – Having a good under­standing of your problem space is crucial in developing and imple­menting an archi­tec­ture that will serve not only your immediate needs but also your longer-term strategic vision. There will generally be more than one approach to achieve the results you are looking for given the wide array of features and capa­bil­i­ties at your disposal. Each has its pros and cons when viewed through the various lenses of performance, cost, flexibility, or other consid­er­a­tions that may be relevant to your specific use case.

With all of the benefits yet many complex­i­ties that come with migrating your on-prem EDI solution to the cloud, you may be wondering, “where do I start?” In our next installment, we will look at some answers to that question from both a do-it-yourself perspective as well as some of the potential benefits of using a solutions service provider.