Why your modernization push must start with data

BrandPost By Paul Gillin
Mar 06, 2020
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

Simplify and Rationalize as Part of Your Transformation

istock 1159763173
Credit: iStock

As organizations race to transform themselves around new technologies like cloud platforms, software as a service (SaaS), data analytics, and edge computing, the data that’s locked up in their legacy applications becomes not just a cost burden, but an inhibitor to business agility.

However, that data often has considerable value. Legacy systems shouldn’t be a liability for the long term, though. By taking a staged approach to application modernization, organizations can switch to contemporary, cloud-based platforms and shut down aging applications when the time is right.

The evolving IT landscape is a diverse one comprising both cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Mordor Intelligence estimates the global hybrid cloud market is growing 22% annually and will near $139 billion by 2023. Technology providers and service firms are responding with products and services that help customers manage these environments and migrate with a minimum of pain.

Any IT modernization strategy should begin with data. Adopting a generalized data taxonomy enables data to be cross-referenced and joined across systems and protects against data becoming isolated or forgotten. Even if data must reside in legacy applications for the long term, it should be accessible for use in analysis and decision support.

Data integration software can mitigate the complexity of moving legacy pre-relational databases to a relational platform. NoSQL databases help companies mine analytical value from transaction data stores. Streaming data integration software, combined with change data capture, can speed migration from on-premises to cloud databases—with zero downtime.

Simplify As You Transform

The strategy should also seek to simplify the IT environment. Over the years, organizations tend to accumulate point solutions that can add up to a complex and poorly integrated landscape. In many cases the functions these point solutions were acquired to address can now be purchased as extensions to modern applications. A modernization campaign is also a good time to evaluate legacy hardware that is no longer supported and move the applications housed there to standard infrastructure.

Evaluate the current application portfolio to determine which are the best candidates to move to modern on-premises or cloud infrastructure with the least cost and disruption. Many software vendors are encouraging their customers to move legacy on-premises applications to the cloud—and providing tools to assist them. In some cases, the best bet might be to scrap what’s in place and move the data entirely to a SaaS provider.

Legacy applications that have been extensively customized are a bigger challenge. Organizations need to evaluate the cost of continuing to run them in-house, considering factors such as the availability of skilled administrators and developers, maintenance fees, infrastructure requirements, and scalability and performance needs.

Keep Agility as a Goal

A less tangible consideration is the impact of legacy systems on organizational agility. Software built from scratch or heavily modified can lock a business into an old code base, limiting the ability to migrate or even update to newer versions. Modern cloud applications use application programming interfaces (APIs) to expose data and services. That means customizations can be applied without modifying the core code. APIs also enable ecosystems to develop. Some large SaaS vendors have literally thousands of partners that add value to their platforms through additional functionality or industry-specific extensions. The business value of these ecosystems can be a powerful argument for modernization.

Some legacy applications that can’t be decommissioned can be virtualized to provide a degree of flexibility and portability. Others may need to continue running on existing infrastructure for the long term. In those cases, the primary concern should be ensuring that the necessary maintenance skills are available, either in-house or through a third party.

As a rule, organizations should seek to move to off-the-shelf solutions wherever possible. This approach minimizes the risk of lock-in, ensures that updates and patches are easy to apply, and paves the way to the adoption of agile development practices. Few CIOs believe that running infrastructure is core to the success of their business. By simplifying and modernizing their environment, they can smooth the transition to an agile, data-centric business.

For more information on modernizing data, visit dxc.technology.