The trend toward cloud-based applications and services is well underway as enterprises see the advantages in cost, efficiency, and agility. Largely absent from this march to the cloud have been mission-critical applications, which remain locked within legacy systems in the data center. Understandably, IT leaders want to make sure they can meet the security and availability requirements of mission-critical apps in a cloud environment before making that leap.

But as cloud technologies mature, this is starting to change. New approaches are emerging that offer the potential to meet the demands of business-critical applications in private cloud environments. At the heart of these new approaches lies a new mindset. IT leaders need to adopt an application-centric approach to cloud services rather than an infrastructure-centric approach. That means building cloud environments that go beyond “commodity services” and deliver robust capabilities to meet the needs of mission-critical apps. I believe there are three steps to achieving this successfully.

Step 1: Rethink your approach to availability

It goes without saying that availability is non-negotiable for business-critical apps. And until lately, “cloud” and “high availability” are terms not normally used together. That’s because traditional hardware-based fault tolerance approaches don’t lend themselves to the elastic, virtualized nature of cloud computing environments. That’s where software-defined availability (SDA) comes to the rescue. With the new generation of SDA solutions, failure recovery is abstracted from the application, enabling mainframe-like availability levels in a cloud environment running on low-cost commodity hardware.

This abstract approach also means you can achieve business-critical availability without completely re-engineering the application. In essence, you are deploying availability as a cloud service—dramatically reducing cost, complexity and risk.

Step 2: Focus on orchestration

Orchestration means making sure every bit of data moving around in the cloud ends up exactly where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to. This requires sophisticated solutions with the intelligence to dedicate the right resources, when and where they are needed.

The fact is, many applications are only “mission-critical” at certain times. For example, you might have a financial application that has high availability requirements during specific times in the accounting cycle. Today’s advanced cloud orchestration solutions allocate the appropriate resources to support this availability requirement—dynamically and automatically. When this level of availability is no longer required, resources are redeployed seamlessly. The result: availability when you need it and optimized computing resources at all times.

Step 3: Leverage open source technologies

What’s the point of embracing the flexibility and cost efficiencies of the cloud, if you’re going to lock yourself in with expensive, proprietary technologies? Taking advantage of open source technologies and architectures like OpenStack, Linux, and KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) enable you to avoid costly license fees while allowing the flexibility and interoperability to create cloud environments using best-of-breed solutions—like SDA and orchestration solutions discussed above.

The open source cloud ecosystem is growing and maturing rapidly, and fostering tremendous innovation as it goes. I believe building on this evolving open source foundation will pay huge dividends in agility down the road.

There you have it: Three critical keys for moving business-critical apps to the cloud. Embracing these crucial success factors, and the innovative technologies behind them, just might be the bridge to the cloud your IT organization has been looking for.