Rip and Replace or Extend and Embrace?

As most of you know, I don’t like the term “cloud” very
much. It isn’t defined, which means it can be anything. I prefer “distributed
computing”, which is more technically accurate and describes what you’re doing
in more concrete terms.

So when you think about Windows and SQL Azure, you don’t
have to think about an entire product – you can use parts of the system
together or independently to accomplish what you need to do. You can use the
computing functions, storage, and more and more I see folks leverage the
Service Bus to enable current applications to expose things to the web.

And that brings up the point of this post. Once you decide
that a distributed architecture works to solve a problem, you’re faced with a
decision: should you completely re-write your architecture to take advantage of
the current systems or should you just fold in new code that makes the data or
function available to the web?

Of course, the answer is always “it depends” on the situation
– and it does. But unless you’re fixing a problem with current code, I usually
advocate a migration approach. That means at the very least retaining the
business logic (again, unless it’s not currently working) and as much of the
code as you can. In fact, if you follow this paradigm, you’re on your way to
making a Service Bus out of the functions you currently have. You can expose
the results of a system rather than opening the system up. Let’s take an

Assume for a moment that you have an order-taking system
on-premise. That system performs many functions, one of which might creating a
Purchase Order. Your system might be enclosed, meaning that it has an
application that talks to a middle-tier, and then from there to a database
system. A query is generated from a screen, and passed along to eventually
compute, store and return a Purchase Order Number, along with other
information. Imagine now that you wire up the code not only to return the PO
number to the client, but to make that number available on an endpoint –
actually really not that hard to do.

Now you can make that PO number available to the web using
Azure. You could restrict who can make that call to the system, or open it up
to a broader audience. Or instead of the PO Number, you could make a product
list available. And you can go further than that – EBay, for instance, uses the
OData protocol (which is very cool in and of itself) which you can query from
the web. You could compare your company’s product catalog to what is on EBay,
and list the items you have there if there are no competitors in that space.
And on and on it goes.

So the point is this – where you can, retain what works.
Fold in systems like Azure where they make sense. Extend and Embrace.

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