The Key to Application-Driven Transformation. Unremarkable Name, Remarkable Impact

BrandPost By Peter J Zandstra
Jan 26, 2021
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

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Credit: istock

This article is the second in a series of three pieces discussing application modernization-driven transformation. My earlier article addressed how digital transformation initiatives involving application modernization can easily stall, how so many encounter pitfalls end up moving only the most simple applications, and how often organizations have even higher IT costs supporting both new and old legacy applications.

We presented three fundament characteristics of successful planning as a framework, while incorporating the use of the “Right Mix Advisor” to successfully complete the application modernization journey. At a high level these were as follows:

  • Business Discovery: Top-line catalogue of what IT services are required for the business

  • Application Discovery: Application functions and detailed components to provide the IT services

  • Hybrid View: Detailed information on all elements that provide each component and function

Now, this article will explore the “Right Mix Advisor” approach in more detail. Underpinning this approach is two types of business applications. Those that address the:

  • “Need to work” – Run the current business, day-to-day business needs

  • “Need to win” – Innovate and create competitive advantage

Analysts still report today that 60-70% of legacy business applications remain expensive and “land-locked” on-premises, often in proprietary technologies. In addition, these workloads that haven’t moved tend to be the ones that are core to the business, including revenue-generating workloads that could bring tremendous value to the business if modernized. However, for these applications a move to hybrid cloud is complex and has a lot of risk, exacerbated by caution emanating from the impact of the pandemic.  

Organizations must then balance the risk of adopting innovation within given budgets and resource boundaries while also running the business. It’s a tough spot to remedy for most – but unless remedied, it also increases risk and cost if they wait much longer.

Modernizing legacy applications can be a daunting task, especially for those with a large legacy footprint. Modern software applications are developed by targeting a variety of devices, platforms, and browsers. But legacy applications were designed to meet specific needs or work a certain way within a particular environment.

Deconstructing inflexible legacy architectures requires a deep and accurate understanding of how an application behaves within its current environment and what its requirements are. Organizations should have comprehensive knowledge of what the application’s dependencies are with other systems; what the business, technical, functional, and implementation requirements are; and what the security and compliance requirements are in order to determine  the right migration strategy and then weigh the timing and cost based on risk, ease of migration, and impact on the business. 

Using Right Mix Advisor helps organizations determine the right mix of hybrid cloud strategies and hybrid cloud infrastructure targets, based on the workload catalog. This considers all business application requirements and doesn’t ignore the more challenging and unique legacy applications. It is not a “move everything directly to public cloud approach” but rather one that strikes the right balance and the steps to success. It accounts for the business and technical needs of the application with the level of complexity, risk, time, and cost to move it. It spans the landscape from simply re-rehosting legacy applications to being composable for container infrastructures, and to re-architecting to stateless and microservices, enabled for agile DevOps.

At the center of the Right Mix Advisor approach and tooling is an outcome, given to customers, called  the Master Data Repository (MDR). This is a “record of truth.” The data contained within the MDR becomes exposed transparently for analysis, weighing each application candidacy against various constraints, stakeholder priorities, and business benefit perspectives in making decisions around moving to hybrid cloud, both at the infrastructure level and the workload level. 


Master Data Repository and Discovery

The discovery phase incorporates organizational or industry-partner tooling, as appropriate. This phase creates a top-level view of what the business needs for it to operate, which group owns what, and how the business service is delivered. This layer shouldn’t care about what vendors, infrastructure, hardware, or software is in place or even selected; it simply captures what functions the business needs from IT Services to operate, to what volume, to what scale, and how it scales. 

Aside from the discovery function itself, some examples of the weighting factors brought into it from an established MDR that are considered closely, and must continually be refreshed throughout the transformation journey for true success, include:

  • Type of Application (core vs innovative)

  • Organizational Goals / Readiness

  • Complexity/Inter-dependencies

  • Costs/Benefit or Business Impact/Returns

  • Disposition/Lifecycle/Competitiveness

  • Actionable Plan

Master Data Repository and Assessment for Planning

A solid plan to address application modernization should consider both complex and simple applications.  It should provide deeper insights into legacy application challenges and provide the clarity for what the viable targets are to move to cloud, how to move them, in what order to move them, what to modernize, and what to keep on-prem. Application data discovery and assessment should drive the plan of action with a roadmap. It is the MDR that provides the basis for these considerations.

What we are seeing today, utilizing Right Mix Advisor, is that about one-third of a client’s  “easy” application migrations from legacy environments to public cloud have been completed, or will be soon, and net-new application development is predominantly cloud-native. What is left is the difficult workload or those not wanting to be touched because they’re business critical. The MDR provides the necessary information and planning criteria to address all of this legacy workload. By cyclically running the discovery function it helps determine, at the planning phase, the target cloud endpoint and migration strategies for each application along journey lifecycle. The refreshed MDR is at the center of this, providing the basis for continuous and evolving insights into migration strategy, processes, plans, dependencies, budget/financials, etc., throughout the transformation or digital journey (discover, assess & plan, detailed design, build & migrate, operate & optimize) while maintaining simplicity and efficiency.

Here, what we are looking for, are the functional components, applications, interfaces, queues, and any areas that support the business services but in slightly more granular way.  Here, we capture application owners, lifecycle information, development roadmaps, software details, testing and release cycles and owners, security models, business continuity, and compliance requirements.  We learn how application lifecycle changes are handled in the organization, who approves, testing strategies for application releases, and more. We also explore how each functional team (ie., security or ITOps) views their level of criticality their contribution might be as individuals.  

Master Data Repository and Infrastructure

The final layer to capture is the infrastructure view of how these business applications and workloads reside and interface on the overall IT Infrastructure. HPE has built powerful scanning tools over the many years in the data center consolidation/transformation space, combined now with tools from VMware, Microsoft, and several of our close partners, and now some of the HyperScalers as well. All of this data is converged into a single “record of truth” for our customers’ overall environment.  

HPE’s Right Mix Advisor program offers the clearest steps that organizations can take to navigate the pitfalls of modernization journeys. Beginning with a combined “IT and business view” that defines the services catalogue required to support the business, ultimately leading to the “hybrid view” with the single repository of “truth.” The Master Data Repository might be a boring name, sure, but it is the secret behind many successful transformation journeys today. 

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About Peter J Zandstra

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Peter Zandstra leads the Worldwide Hybrid-Cloud Application Modernization & Migration Practice at HPE.  With 25+ years building his expertise he brings hands-on and management experience to develop, innovate, and continually improve programs, services and automation tools, along with carefully selected partner ecosystems. Peter and team work with clients locked-in to legacy platforms and applications, or stalled in modernization cycles, to unlock or progress them into a transformed, “right mix” hybrid cloud IT Services organization.  Peter splits his home life between Saint Louis, USA and Winnipeg, Canada where he is also registered as Professional Engineer.