Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Flint Brenton, Karthick Viswanathan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Microsoft Cloud, @CloudExpo

Microservices Expo: Article

Modernization of IT: Solving a Legacy of Business Problems & Applications

Are we building applications or supporting the business?

I talk to a lot of CIOs. I met with one in early May who oversees the IT operation of a $6 billion yearly entertainment-related company with about 7,000 employees. This top-notch exec was all about transforming a huge investment in existing IT infrastructure into a new dynamic, extensible and agile platform that would propel the business forward - not hold it back. This guy is busy figuring out how to keep a Boeing 777 up in the air while simultaneously re-fitting aircraft to make it best-in-class.

That's what IT should be all about.

But in some organizations, it's not. Either the message from the top gets lost as it percolates down through the IT organization, or the message from the top isn't the right one to begin with. Either way, for those unfortunate IT organizations, IT is a ball-and-chain that holds the enterprise back, rather than gives it the capability to move forward.

Great Software Comes from True Understanding
About 9 months ago, I wrote an article entitled "Great Software from Great Requirements: A Software Best Practice" on my personal blog. The gist of this article was that great software comes from a true understanding of the needs of the business.

Mr. David Chassels, CEO of UK-based software firm Procession, posted a rather lengthy comment (and series of questions) on this posting.  My response to his comments and questions ended up being longer than the original article - at which point I decided "this might as well be a new article." Turns out, my response ended up morphing into TWO articles (I'll publish part 2 tomorrow).

I'd encourage you to read Mr. Chassels' comments - but as I started responding to him in train-of-thought style, and as the number of paragraphs kept growing, it occurred to me that David and I agreed on one key principle.

Why Does IT Exist, Anyways?
When you boil down what I said in my Requirements article and what Mr. Chassels said in his commentary, it comes down to a couple of very simple and common-sense things:

  1. The very reason IT exists is to support the people who do "business things"
  2. Anything else that IT does (apart from what is necessary to accomplish #1 above) represents deviation from the "golden path", and is bad.

Focus on the Business
During my discussion earlier this week with the aforementioned CIO, he discussed his major IT challenges. Every single IT priority he brought up was business-related. Things like being able to leverage every bit of new technology to capture new customers, integrating new corporate (i.e., company) acquisitions far faster than before. These are business problems he's solving.  His "customer" is the business.  He "gets it".

Not even once did he mention ANYTHING along the lines of "I want to drive SOA adoption throughout IT" - or anything that would indicate that he views IT as the customer.

It's not that I dislike SOA. Not at all!  I rather like the concept.  No hate mail please from the SOA contingent.

I simply wanted to make the point that this particular executive made it clear that his job was to solve business problems -  in the best possible way for his particular organization.  Other (as in "not this one") executives that I've met with have fallen down that slippery technology slope where they confuse technology goals and initiatives (like SOA adoption) with business needs.

IT Culture Dysfunction
When execs fall down this slippery technology slope, something bad happens: the customer for IT becomes IT - not the "business".

In many such IT organizations, the message percolates down in a powerful fashion from the top through to the directors, managers, architects and developers.

You see an distinct disdain arise in the IT group for "stupid business people." Architects and developers become king. Users are fearful of IT. Lots of application design meetings contain discussions along the lines of "that's a stupid thing to do, we know better." IT ends up doing what IT wants to do - not what the business needs IT to do.

As much as I'm impressed by the intelligence and capabilities of RedMonk (a technology analyst firm), I'm in violent disagreement with one of their key tenets: "We believe that developers are the most important constituency in technology."  I believe that the business users are the most important constituency. In pretty much every case, I always come down on the side of the customer.

Getting Back to Chassels' Comments
Mr. Chassels' elegantly wrote about the need to change the way that business software is developed - so that the business person is "in the driving seat", as he put it.

I agree.

As of about a month ago, I started working for Dell as a Software Strategy Director, so I no longer work for my own company doing paid advisory services.  However, when I used to do such things, most of the time my recommendations would resemble the following:

  1. Figure out the business needs (from the business people)
  2. Focus on "Assembly" rather than "Development" whenever possible.  Acquire components, turn existing software investments into components.  Connect them together, re-use them.  Turn them into a flexible asset.
  3. Find SaaS software that you can subscribe to that does what you need.  If you can't find SaaS Software, find a "software appliance" that does what you need. If you can't find an Appliance, find off-the-shelf On-Premises software to license.
  4. Connect your existing applications and your new ones (SaaS, Appliance, On-Prem) with "Next-Gen" off-the-shelf Integration solutions that are Cloud-managed like Boomi, InformaticaCloud, Snaplogic, MuleSoft Mule iON, etc., so you can automate your business processes across the multiple application systems.
  5. Find creative ways to "fill in the gaps" between what you bought/subscribed to and what you need.  Create Mashups, extend the SaaS/On-Prem applications, leverage the Integration platform you licensed.
  6. Do custom development as a last resort.  Such custom development will always be necessary, but don't ever go there first.  That applies not only for applications, but also (and even more so) for integration.

Procedural vs. Declarative
Mr. Chassels tosses in some quotes from Bill Gates on Procedural vs. Declarative application development.  I'm not about to get into a debate with Bill Gates on this topic.

I'm simply going to put "declarative" application development methods in the same bucket that I put off-the-shelf applications as well as off-the-shelf integration stacks.

What I mean by that is that all of the tools I just mentioned serve to minimize the chasm that has traditionally existed between the business user and the IT solution to the business users' problems.

So think Chassels' got it right when he stated that innovative companies "tackle the 'interpretation gap' between IT and business...and business people are becoming the decision makers on IT spend with informed knowledge."

One Area of Strong Disagreement
Chassels' mentioned that "software remains a bit of a mess".  I respectfully disagree.

Software remains a LOT of a mess. A really great big giant mess.

Legacy Application Modernization Mess

The Legacy Application Problem
Sure, the state of NEWLY deployed software is better than ever.  But the vast majority of deployed software out there isn't new.

An astonishing amount of pre-Y2K software remains.  Great big expanses of old Client/Server code written PowerBuilder and other tools now considered ancient.  First generation Web applications on platforms like ColdFusion.

Ancient ERP systems so heavily customized that nobody knows how they work anymore.  Mountains of Mainframe and AS/400 application in COBOL, RPG, Natural, etc.

These applications are monolithic, gigantic, brittle, expensive to maintain, nearly impossible to change.  They are the anti-thesis of "agile".  They represent an enormous ball-and-chain to the enterprise.

They soak up huge amounts of IT budget, leaving little left over for supporting new business initiatives.  Almost all large organizations have this problem to one degree or another.  These legacy applications are in dire need of "modernization" - broken up into re-usable "rationalized" re-usable components that can be linked together, integrated with other systems via a modern Integration stack.

Organizations will never be able to maximize their ability to address the needs of the business users until they figure out a way to deal with this issue.  For some larger organizations, this will take hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) and 3,4,5 or even 10 years.

The issue of  legacy applications in need of modernization is the single largest barrier in most large companies to IT truly being able to become an agile, competitive asset to the business.

Legacy Application Modernization - Huge Step Forward
Legacy Application Modernization
brings IT and Business Users closer together. Legacy Application Modernization is a huge step forward for large IT shops, and truly helps companies tackle that "interpretation gap", and puts business users in the drivers seat.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Many organizations adopt DevOps to reduce cycle times and deliver software faster; some take on DevOps to drive higher quality and better end-user experience; others look to DevOps for a clearer line-of-sight to customers to drive better business impacts. In truth, these three foundations go together. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 21st Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, industry experts will discuss how leading organizations build application success from all...
Most of the time there is a lot of work involved to move to the cloud, and most of that isn't really related to AWS or Azure or Google Cloud. Before we talk about public cloud vendors and DevOps tools, there are usually several technical and non-technical challenges that are connected to it and that every company needs to solve to move to the cloud. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Stefano Bellasio, CEO and founder of Cloud Academy Inc., will discuss what the tools, disciplines, and cultural...
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory?
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
The nature of the technology business is forward-thinking. It focuses on the future and what’s coming next. Innovations and creativity in our world of software development strive to improve the status quo and increase customer satisfaction through speed and increased connectivity. Yet, while it's exciting to see enterprises embrace new ways of thinking and advance their processes with cutting edge technology, it rarely happens rapidly or even simultaneously across all industries.
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
The last two years has seen discussions about cloud computing evolve from the public / private / hybrid split to the reality that most enterprises will be creating a complex, multi-cloud strategy. Companies are wary of committing all of their resources to a single cloud, and instead are choosing to spread the risk – and the benefits – of cloud computing across multiple providers and internal infrastructures, as they follow their business needs. Will this approach be successful? How large is the ...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
With the rise of DevOps, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in Enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery for the business. When it comes to adopting containers in the enterprise, security is the highest adoption barrier. Is your organization ready to address the security risks with containers for your DevOps environment? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist, NA West at Red Hat, will discuss: The top security r...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
Today companies are looking to achieve cloud-first digital agility to reduce time-to-market, optimize utilization of resources, and rapidly deliver disruptive business solutions. However, leveraging the benefits of cloud deployments can be complicated for companies with extensive legacy computing environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, founder and CEO of Metavine, will outline the challenges enterprises face in migrating legacy solutions to the cloud. He will also prese...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
‘Trend’ is a pretty common business term, but its definition tends to vary by industry. In performance monitoring, trend, or trend shift, is a key metric that is used to indicate change. Change is inevitable. Today’s websites must frequently update and change to keep up with competition and attract new users, but such changes can have a negative impact on the user experience if not managed properly. The dynamic nature of the Internet makes it necessary to constantly monitor different metrics. O...
Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, was first introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. The initial version HTTP/0.9 was designed to facilitate data transfers between a client and server. The protocol works on a request-response model over a TCP connection, but it’s evolved over the years to include several improvements and advanced features. The latest version is HTTP/2, which has introduced major advancements that prioritize webpage performance and speed.