Application Modernization from an Operations Perspective

application modernization in bimodal ITBimodal, or multi-speed, IT is a recognition that software delivery in larger businesses is happening at different rates. It’s a description of the state of the world in which businesses recognize the fact that newer, more modern software is being delivered faster, and that older, more traditional software is being delivered more slowly.

When people talk about bimodal IT, they’re often acknowledging the fact that applications designed from scratch to run in the cloud have certain characteristics that make them easier to deploy more quickly. These applications usually aren’t tied closely to the infrastructure that they’re running on because they were designed in cloud systems where you don’t control those factors. The result is greater automation and the ability to quickly deploy and build those systems.

We’ve realized, as an industry, that these application modernization practices are useful and completely applicable to systems that were not born in the cloud. Skytap is helping customers realize these same types of benefits with more traditional applications that weren’t built around cloud, consuming cloud resources, or automated.

Most companies are going through several steps to modernize their applications. Often, it begins with simply removing bottlenecks or constraints from their existing software development lifecycles. A business may have a large integration environment where the work of many different people all comes together to be validated and tested. That can be a huge bottleneck in businesses because those testing environments are shared, are frequently over-subscribed, and sometimes they’re even broken by the previous build. So, the first step toward modernization is often adopting virtual data centers and cloud-based environments to eliminate physical resources as a bottleneck to development teams working in parallel.

Step two in the application modernization process for many companies is to begin adopting DevOps and agile practices. This usually means the integration of continuous integration and continuous delivery, as well as adjusting the organizational structure to accommodate those goals. Skytap Cloud makes it much easier to accomplish these goals by providing environments that are compatible with traditional applications, so you can apply techniques like continuous integration to a traditional app that can’t easily be deployed with automation.

The third step for many companies in application modernization is to start improving the actual underlying technical architecture of their applications. We’re seeing many companies starting to adopt containers and microservices as a primary route to more flexible, scalable architecture. Many enterprises have very large monolithic applications, and they often find opportunities within those applications to pull components out of them and rebuild them as microservices that are much easier and faster to ship, have shorter release cycles to test, and ultimately, give teams direct ownership. If you have smaller components, it’s easier for teams to own those components end to end, from software development all the way into production.

We have customers at all three stages of modernization. We have a large entertainment company that’s really in stage one, where they’re trying to remove bottlenecks from their existing processes. So they have a fairly big, monolithic application, and they were using a single QA certification environment to do all the final validation before they released anything. That environment became an enormous bottleneck in their software delivery process because it was often down or polluted with bad data or builds. They were able to bring their application into Skytap largely unchanged, thanks to our capabilities for traditional infrastructure, and begin doing certification testing in parallel.

Traditional applications are often designed at the same time or in direct relation to the infrastructure supporting them. This causes dependencies that make it difficult to migrate traditional applications from on-premises infrastructure to a standard infrastructure-as-a-service cloud provider.

Most infrastructure-as-a-service cloud providers designed their platforms to meet the characteristics that they think applications should be built to, rather than compatibility with existing applications. What Skytap has done is designed a cloud, and environments in our cloud, that are specifically designed to mimic the characteristics of traditional on-premises infrastructure. This allows companies to take their existing applications and move them into Skytap relatively unchanged so that modernization—at whatever pace best fits their business—can begin a lot sooner.

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