Cloud hosting may be the future, but on-premises hosting is the present

ATLANTA — The opening keynote speech at Citrix Synergy 2019 featured actress Sonequa Martin-Green, who opened the speech saying, “The future starts right now.”

For many Citrix customers, however, the cloud-centric future that Citrix is building is still years away because they need to maintain their day-to-day operations. Some use cases lend themselves to cloud hosting, but other uses dictate that IT maintains some on-premises hosting as a hybrid approach or even exclusively on-premises hosting.

Factors such as resource shortage for IT, legacy applications, cost of hosting desktops and security compliance have some organizations wary of shifting to a cloud hosting approach.

Existing infrastructure and legacy apps

Washington University in St. Louis recently invested $8 million to build up its VDI, so a migration away from this new data center and on-premises hosting isn’t the top priority of Tom Courtney, Citrix engineer for the university.

“The VDI is modern, and it’s performing well for us; the users aren’t reporting any issues with lag or latency,” Courtney said.

Courtney’s users in the School of Medicine access resource-intensive applications to view CT (computerized tomography) scans, MRI results and other images that are crucial to providing patient care.

“I absolutely see some of the benefits of moving some hosting workloads to the cloud, but we’ve already made this investment and things are going well so far,” Courtney said.

Some organizations need to focus on maintaining existing processes and don’t have the resources to undertake a major project. A migration away from existing back-end infrastructure and management methods takes time, and some IT departments don’t have the time to maintain current operations while running a proof of concept for new technologies.

“It’s too hard to jump right in and put everything in the cloud [because] there’s too much legacy stuff in users’ workflow; IT needs to keep the doors open today,” industry analyst Jack Gold said.

If IT wants to bring a new application onto its users’ desktops or mobile devices, it can host it on the cloud, subscribe to a SaaS offering that hosts the application for the organization or use on-premises hosting. With existing legacy applications, such as old, custom line-of-business applications, IT professionals don’t have that flexibility.

We have to follow HIPAA, so there are a lot of aspects of our deployment that can never move to the cloud.
Tom CourtneyCitrix engineer, Washington University

“On-premises legacy apps are still going to be a major component of enterprise application management moving forward,” Gold said.

Compliance and cost

Certain industries, such as finance and healthcare, are highly regulated, which limits IT departments in these organizations from hosting desktops, applications and data on the cloud.

“We have to follow HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], so there are a lot of aspects of our deployment that can never move to the cloud,” Courtney said.

One aspect of healthcare IT that is unregulated by HIPAA and could move to the cloud is disaster recovery (DR) desktops that don’t store sensitive data. DR is critical in healthcare because it is a 24-hour business that can’t afford a failure to deliver desktops to healthcare professionals.

“We’re based out of Houston, which is flood central, so DR is critical in situations like that,” said Alisharoz Mohammed, Citrix engineer at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

The current Kelsey-Seybold Clinic DR data center is about 100 miles away from Houston, but Mohammed was considering moving some of these to cloud hosting. The challenge he sees is the potential added cost of hosting all those desktops in the cloud.

“Hosting DR in the cloud doesn’t automatically provide savings, especially when you’re an organization that needs to keep about 60% of its desktops backed up,” Mohammed said.

Moving forward

Just because organizations aren’t adopting cloud hosting quickly doesn’t mean that cloud hosting isn’t the way of the future. Organizations can’t afford to overlook a potential opportunity to improve their IT management processes.

“The fact is, if you’re not thinking about the future, you’re going to be stuck with these difficult-to-manage legacy applications forever,” Gold said.

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