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By Toby Weiss
IT teams and consultants talk a lot about modernization of IT and have done so for years.
First, it focused on virtual machine technologies in the early 2000s. We consolidated and optimized our seas of servers to improve operational benefits. Next, we moved up the stack to thinking of “services” instead of servers with Shared Services organization models. Private clouds, with associated governance and show-back principles to standardize and share a broad pool of IT resources, became the technology enabler.
Then the focus deepened to our IT Operating Models to be more service centric in our approach to serving business units. Ultimately Public Cloud providers and the rise of SaaS industrialized the notion of sharing IT infrastructure and application functionality without owning it. This easy access, bypassing highly structured governance, gave developer teams in our business functions the ability to rapidly adapt and create new code to achieve business results more quickly through improved user experiences and business processes.
These platforms also helped drive innovations for developers to create more modern applications – microservice architectures, PaaS, and Functions as a Service. Ultimately, we pivoted from focusing on operational IT to developer-centric IT.
Today, cloud services are the hallmark of how we consume or want to consume IT services on or off premises – the cloud everywhere concept. On-premises microservice architectures, enabled by an evolution in container platforms for the next generation of developer-friendly environments.
But why? To what end were all these efforts? What are we really trying to do when we modernize IT? These are important questions to me, personally, as I steer the HPE Pointnext Services Hybrid Cloud Practice in the right areas for our customers as well as our ability to service them with expertise.
Fundamentally, applications automate our business processes to provide better experiences and outcomes for our customers. The faster we can improve and continuously improve those processes, the better the outcome or experience we deliver. The underlying assumption is that IT organizations provide innovation a frictionless path to improving our customers’ experience. Part of reducing that friction can be attributed to modern microservices architectures. Containers and container platforms support these software architectures and now promise a path for developers to leverage for refactoring legacy applications as well as developing net new cloud-native applications.
The growing importance of cloud-native computing
A common reason to refactor is to make our existing complex legacy applications easier to change. This allows the agility we seek to adapt to business processes more quickly and improve our customers’ experiences for a competitive response to our markets. More modular applications align to the microservices architecture concepts. And container platforms are a key to supporting this approach.
We see a rise in container platforms and developer-friendly environments for container-based application development. Our Director of Cloud Native Computing, Shohei Maruyama, leads a global practice to help organizations adopt container-based approaches that enable organizations to begin the complex journey of modularizing complex legacy applications. I thought I would take his insight to address these questions and report on what he hears directly from our customers.
Q: Shohei-san, how has the container adoption journey progressed since we first considered this approach for legacy app modernization?
“The year 2020 was the year most enterprises adopted container and cloud-native computing technologies that hadn’t already adopted it. There are many reasons for it. One is that enterprises need to achieve continuous innovation and continuous deployment to drive the speed we need for app modernization today.”
Q: How has adoption of container technology affected this speed to innovation?
“Within the last 20 years, enterprise IT experienced shifts, such as bare metal to virtualization and on-premises to a hybrid model (on-premises & off-premises) mainly for optimization purposes. However, traditional enterprise IT architecture and delivery models and even IaaS-based (lifted and shifted) public cloud platform architecture and delivery models cannot meet the need to be more agile, flexible, efficient, optimized, and innovative at the same time, together with continuous deployment. A fundamental change of workload architecture was needed to meet those requirements. Yes, container technology and cloud native computing technologies are the ‘GAME-CHANGER’ in many industries which are driving cost-saving and innovation at the same time, with IT agility for business outcomes.”
Q: If container technologies are now used in many industries to meet the top-down aspirations from business leaders, how do you see this manifesting?
“The fastest growing demand I see is in the telecommunication & media industries. This is to accelerate the transformation of services because of the shift to 5G. The demand in the industry is not only to address the core telecommunication service platform, but also the multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform. Service lifecycle and its management and operation requires telecommunication providers to shift to network function virtualization (NFV) and now to shift further to cloud-native, computing-based network functions (CNF) on NFV for a revised core telecommunication platform. Edge computing requires lightweight workload architecture with better lifecycle management, and operation requires a new workload development and deployment model which leads to adopt container technology and its orchestrator, Kubernetes. The telecommunication media industry is certainly one of the industries seeing the growing adoption of container technologies.”
Q: Any other adoption trends that you see?
“The second industry we see having high container adoption is the financial services industry. There are big consumer-interaction shifts here, so adopting container technologies for their business’s continuous innovation is necessary. We all see the direct impact of social changes such as more online trading, cashless transactions, block-chain based value delivery, and AI-based / no-manual operation service delivery, requires more dynamic enterprise IT transformation than any other industry. Supplying more cognitive, personalized, and automated financial services, leveraging a huge amount of data accumulated over time, led enterprise IT to re-architect many of their core and as well as new workloads into more agile, flexible, and efficient architectures based on containers. Certainly, there are more industries rushing to adopt container and cloud-native computing technologies. The common driver among such enterprises is innovation for end users with more personalized and cognitive services. We see the adoption in hospitals, restaurants, transportation, manufacturing, and service providers.”
Modernizing IT depends not only on operating model maturity, cloud-everywhere principles, modern elastic compute infrastructure, and new cloud-native applications. It also depends on updating and retrofitting existing legacy applications that run core business functions; that automate the business processes that bring innovative solutions to our customers. I personally view the modernization of legacy apps as the long pole in the tent. This is challenging work and takes ambitions driven at elevated levels in our companies to see them through. We believe the adoption rate for containers and container platforms is higher than what most research institutes predict due to the social and business changes that ensued in 2020. Container platforms help support that long pole in the tent.
With so many industries adopting this approach of supporting microservice-based architectures for their applications, increased agility will result from refactoring efforts, bringing innovation at speed to improve all our customers’ experiences. Reflecting on my earlier comment about leading the hybrid cloud practice, it should come as no surprise that in recent years Shohei-san’s cloud-native practice has received increasing investments aimed at helping HPE customers modernize their approaches to their application platform.
Toby has a combined 27+ years at HPE in field service, technology consulting, project management, practice leadership and WW practice and portfolio leadership roles. Today, Toby is our VP of Hybrid IT Practice Competency Center in Advisory and Professional Services. He leads a global team to modernize our SAP services portfolio, expand Cloud Native Computing and Container Services, and incubate Open Source Software and HPE Infrastructure Automation capabilities. Toby’s ambition is to bring together the strengths of HPE, our partners, Open Source, an HPE Pointnext Services to position HPE for the next generation of market-leading platform-as-a-service capabilities.
Also Featuring Shohei Maruyama
Director, HPE Pointnext Services, Cloud Native Practice