Applications Unleashed #2 – Reborn in the Cloud
Once organizations have implemented or built their first cloud applications, they find they have a powerful, new development platform available. Now they need to leverage more of that platform, not only to create additional solutions but also to renew their existing application landscape. This may be a matter of simply ‘cloud-enabling’ aging applications by providing them with a new front-end and integrating them through the cloud. However, applications can be completely ‘reborn’ too, taking full advantage of living in the cloud.
Many factors are challenging the fear of modernization in the enterprise application space. In some sense, the imperative to be more agile drives IT to question why their apps should change so glacially. The profusion of new development tools combined with methodologies that espouse agility is breaking down barriers in traditional IT risk areas.
The threat of becoming irrelevant to the business is forcing many enterprises to ask “how can my apps be reborn in the Cloud?” This is particularly the case with the advent of a new generation of Software as a Service (Saas) solutions. There are also new, powerful cloud development platforms underneath. A quick look at the Salesforce App Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, or IBM BlueMix makes it clear that these Cloud platforms provide many different options to renew the applications landscape.
A SaaS solution? Only the beginning.
What should a CIO do to start delivering on the promise? Well, start segmenting the applications landscape. Conducting a systematic, facts-driven approach - like Capgemini's Cloud Assessment - on the portfolio of applications allows the enterprise to categorize and then make informed choices about the next steps in modernization. With the use of automated tools, the enterprise can start with higher-level application meta-data that identifies the low hanging fruit as well as the high impact applications.
One can then dig deeper with some topological insight from automated tools that can traverse the application’s testing environments and identify dependencies that become critical factors in cloud suitability and placement decisions.
The last step is identifying the extent of replatforming needed for each of these application segments. This step has to be aligned with the strategic IT direction of the company while keeping the option to align to the exciting new developments in the IT technology arena like software containers.
Following this approach, we see that the typical destinies of application renewal look different when the target environment is a cloud platform. To name the seven most obvious ones:
1. Replatforming applications makes use of the highly scalable and cost- effective deployment options of the cloud to run existing applications more effectively.
2. Resurrecting applications consists of adding Cloud-based, possibly mobile, front-ends to applications to augment and improve their functionality and user experience.
3. Rebuilding applications leverages the next generation of rapid development and deployment tools to quickly and effectively recreate applications.
4. Rebonding applications trusts the considerable integration power of Cloud platforms to eliminate redundant, overlapping, or non-aligned functionality.
5. Refactoring applications is about improving, or simply documenting, the structure of applications — a more than welcome by-product of assessing applications for cloud-based modernization.
6. Replacing applications involves taking a good look at the marketplace of cloud-based application to find replacements for the existing, typically custom-built applications.
7. Retiring applications relies on cost-effective cloud storage to archive core applications data for possible future use so that the applications themselves can be decommissioned.
Every organization needs to map its own cloud journey. For example, to reduce its total cost of ownership and improve agility, Dutch PostNL chose a full cloud strategy, focusing mainly on replacing existing applications by SaaS and rebuilding cloud-native applications, rather than replatforming workloads on a cloud infrastructure. Public cloud (Microsoft Azure in this case) was preferred to private cloud, with certain workloads kept on-premise only as a last resort. The entire IT landscape of 400 applications was systematically analyzed and then step-by-step made cloud-ready.
Sounds too good to be true?
Yes, it’s nothing less than a transformation, so there are risks to mitigate. The primary risk is interrupting the business services of the enterprise. This should be dealt with by involving business stakeholders right from the start of the modernization program. Business is going to benefit the most by the flexibility and agility of the cloud and if involved properly, it will be an enthusiastic partner in the journey.
Another risk that’s often raised is the “futility of trying to stay current” as the technological advance is relentless and innovation seems futile. The question that enterprises need to ask themselves then, is if they can afford to stay still. What is the competition doing during that period that can eliminate your future advantage? Actually modernizing the application landscape through a cloud platform can help leverage the technological advances while focusing on the IT agility needed for enabling business needs.
In conclusion, we could appropriately quote the famous author James Faust who said “a rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures.” Maybe he didn’t have modernizing applications in mind, but it sure does embody the opportunity of reimagining apps in the cloud.
Expert: Vikrant Karnik
Part of Capgemini's TechnoVision 2016 update series. See the overview here.