Exploring cloud modernization challenges and the path forward

by | Jun 16, 2021

When considering cloud migration and modernization, many organizations are focused on moving workloads, reducing costs, and shifting from traditional on-premise data centers. But this only a small piece of the true modernization opportunity.

Organizations must embrace new software delivery paradigms across practices, architectures, and deployment methods to facilitate change in all parts of the organization. By taking advantage of cloud modernization, it is possible to maximize impact, improve the customer experience, and improve the bottom line while doing so.

However, some of the biggest problems most modernization projects face are also the most basic:

  • what do we modernize?
  • how do we prioritize and rank projects?
  • when do we begin?

In this article, we’ll explore these questions and guide you along in your journey to modernization.

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Approaches to cloud modernization

Each application has different needs, and you can move to the cloud in more than one way. Consider all aspects of your current situation as well as the end goal before getting started. Here are five common approaches for cloud modernization, as well as considerations, in order of cloud maturity level from least mature to most mature:

1.   Replatform (lift and shift)

This faster, less resource-intensive migration moves your apps to the cloud without any code modification. The key is to spend minimal time and money, yet realize the benefits. But not all applications lend themselves to this method, and you might find yourself running into internal and external dependencies.

2.   Move, then modernize

This strategy is also known as platform as a service (PaaS). In it, you run your apps on a cloud provider’s infrastructure. Developers can reuse languages, frameworks, and containers leveraging code that’s specific to the company. The downside might be missing capabilities, transitive risk, and being tethered to a particular framework.

3.   Modernize, then move

Support modernization requirements by modifying or extending existing code; then move to the cloud. Using this method, you can leverage the cloud characteristics of your provider’s infrastructure but does also mean incurring upfront development expense.

4.   Replace with SaaS

When requirements for a business function change quickly, this approach of buying the technology avoids the time and investment of mobilizing a development team. But you may face issues like inconsistent data semantics, difficult data access, and being locked into a vendor.

5.   Rebuild or refactor

By re-architecting cloud-compatible legacy applications, you can fully realize all the benefits. But this approach typically involves significant recoding. Not all applications warrant this investment, but those that do will find value long-term.

Determining your functions

Once you determine your overall approach, considering the delivery vehicle for your applications will help determine if you should be using virtual machines, containers, or serverless functions. Modern application design patterns are based on the principles of scalability, statelessness, and high availability — and can still be delivered by using a virtual machine. There’s no standard rule for which is best.

Cloud-native development is an approach to building, running, and improving apps based on well-known techniques and technologies. It’s a way to build and run responsive, scalable apps in any environment, whether it be public, private, or a hybrid cloud:

Serverless

When developers don’t have to provision servers or manage scaling, routine tasks are abstracted by the cloud provider. As an event triggers app code to run, the cloud provider dynamically allocates resources. The user stops paying when the code finishes executing. In addition to the cost and efficiency benefits, serverless frees developers from routine and menial tasks associated with app scaling and server provisioning.

Container

Containers help alleviate issues and iterate faster across multiple environments.

By separating areas of responsibility, conflict is reduced between development and operations teams. Developers can focus on their apps and operations teams can focus on the infrastructure. And, because Linux containers are based on open-source technology, the latest and greatest advancements can be used as soon as they’re available.

Virtual machine

Everything inside the virtual machines is configured individually for the apps you run in them. The host operating system simply acts as a foundation for VMs to run. With VMs, you can run an entire operating stack in a virtual machine.

Related article: 5 keys to planning a successful cloud implementation

Getting buy-in for modernization

One of the greatest challenges we see IT leaders face today is getting organizational (and budget) buy-in for modernization efforts. Too often, businesses focus on the costs of these initiatives without taking into account the benefits modernization can provide.

When putting together your business case for modernization, consider framing up how moving to the cloud is part of your business strategy to:

  • Fight competitive threats and enable you to develop technology that your business requires; you’ll be able to create and deploy new features faster
  • Break your innovation crisis and be empowered to develop new strategies that don’t rely on outdated tech stacks
  • Replace your house of cards, moving away from constraints about fragility and not being able to test properly
  • Attract technical leaders and not have one lone specialist who is the only one capable of repair for a specific system
  • Restructure, merge, and acquire because older versions of middleware can quickly become a drain on budgets

Modernization can be thought of as a way to make the most of your existing investments, no matter what your industry. But consider the bigger picture. How can you best meet your overall business goals? What applications would you start with?

Related article: The cloud: From cost center to profit center

Prioritizing cloud modernization efforts

When you’re thinking of leveraging APIs to connect data, applications, or other business elements, legacy systems can be an excellent place to start, as there can be immediate time and cost savings in tackling them first. These highly integrated applications can be complex and challenging. Using APIs to decouple them from the infrastructure can start the process to shift monolithic apps into more granular, cloud-based functions.

In considering systems that could be moved to the cloud, the idea of modernization is comingled with migration. Instead of moving from version to version of an application, your modernization plans now probably involve the cloud. This presents a number of unique decisions.

You’ll have to make choices about the applications you prioritize to move into the cloud, and the pace to change is rapid. It is not just if you will modernize but when and how fast. For every system, no matter how advanced, technical debt eventually accumulates to the point where change is necessary.

Choosing which applications to modernize

As organizations move to the cloud, they are creating new ecosystems, placing the customer at the center of everything that happens. Front-office functions are no longer the only consideration to update. Taking a customer-centered approach allows faster response times, increases in speed, and efficiency, and creates advantages over competitors. The customer relationship can be redefined, enabling companies to better understand needs, wants, and purchasing patterns.

Consider the applications that power the customer journey across functions and departments:

  • Front office – Customer-facing website and mobile experiences
  • Middle office – Analytics and customer insight apps
  • Back office – Employee-shared services, including records and transactions

Focusing on customer-related applications can prove results quickly, and improve buy-in for future cloud modernization projects.

Related webinar featuring Forrester: Addressing the Cloud Modernization Imperative

The path to cloud modernization

When evaluating potential cloud modernization opportunities, there are five key steps, 1) Align; 2) Design; 3) Connect; 4) Implement; and 5) Enable.

The five key steps of implementing cloud modernization opportunities are 1) Align; 2) Design; 3) Connect; 4) Implement; and 5) Enable.

Alignment and strategy development

When planning for modernization, consolidate and charter all elements of the modernization strategy. By partnering with key leaders across the business, you can be sure that all parties are involved and understand the project’s implications. When you are ready, capture and socialize the roadmap across programs and initiatives, getting everyone on board. Remember, cloud is only one part of the modernization puzzle.

Design and adoption

Once you’ve aligned stakeholders, it’s time to define your north star for the architecture and technology of your approach. Examine key cloud platforms and then capture and socialize reference architecture. You’ll also evaluate the type of microservices, containers, and serverless design. There are many ways to achieve your goals, but do keep in mind that some architectures can become incompatible.

Connection and Integration

Beyond middleware, integration can connect and allow data to be shared across teams. On the other hand, having separation of data can enable federation and autonomy. Legacy applications can be modernized and, in some cases, replaced. Innovation can be spread across bespoke, SaaS, and legacy investments. APIs are the key to unlock modern architecture.

Enabling modernization across the enterprise

This is a cyclical process, and when you near the end of implementation, it might be time for another project! The modernization process is always in flux and for almost all, efforts are never fully complete. You’ll continue to learn as you iterate and be able to refine the work you’re doing across the organization.

Implementation

When it’s time for implementation, it’s important to contain the risk. Make changes across your portfolio one by one. Prioritize your timeline by business case and stick to the reference architecture you built previously.

Remember that the path to cloud modernization isn’t just a straight line, it’s circular to reflect the ongoing process.

Remember that the path to cloud modernization isn’t just a straight line, it should be circular to reflect an ongoing process.

Leveraging cloud and API strategies to enable true digital transformation

Digital transformation powers innovation and increases an organization’s ability to meet and exceed customer expectations. However, for companies with outdated IT systems and legacy applications standing in the way of progress, modernization is the way forward.

Wherever you are on your organization’s journey to modernization, we’ve got resources to help you along the way. Your next step? Watch our recent webinar with special guest Forrester: Addressing the Cloud Modernization Imperative to discover more about what’s going on in the market, what cloud modernization entails, and how to build your business case.

About the author

Fusion Alliance
Your digital transformation partner.

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