Let’s face it: modernization is getting long in the tooth.
While modernization only became popular in the last decade or so, enterprises have been conducting legacy modernization and application modernization projects ever since the first RPG and COBOL apps were deployed.
Naturally, no business wants to be left in the dust with obsolete technology, trailing behind nimbler competitors who gain market share and attract customers with more modern, modernized applications.
Modernization is just too critical an endeavor to ignore. But before we embark on a huge application modernization initiative that could consume resources and affect our entire digital estate for the next decade, are we missing something in our definition of modernization?
What has changed about modernization in the past 10 years, and how might our change in perspective over this time update our approach?
Digital transformation driven change
Competitive pressure to continuously deliver needed functionality better, faster, and cheaper hasn’t changed – in fact it’s been the only consistent KPI objective of IT for decades.
Now the playing field has shifted to digital transformation (or DX), which no longer represents incremental improvements – but instead a wholesale reorientation of everything the organization does around technology that meets specific customer needs.
All of the enablers of the digital backbone needed for DX were falling into place – faster software delivery methods, cheaper, faster, and smaller systems, and storage, elastically scalable cloud computing, ever-increasing bandwidth.
But when the pandemic came on the scene, it suddenly exposed just how weak this digital backbone was for many companies. Information workers had to find ways to work from home, teams and partners suddenly had to collaborate remotely, supply chains started getting stretched thin, and customers all expected new on-demand, digital services to meet them where they are.
The hardest part? Since everyone is being forced to transform at the same time, there’s little help in the way of partners or new talent coming on to assist DX initiatives. Nobody expected modernization to take on a DIY ethic ten years ago.
Everyone must figure out how to deliver new services faster on their own – perhaps a Digital Integration Hub (DIH) may come to the rescue…
Magically breaking silos into services
A great decoupling that started in the last decade is underway today. Experts agreed that to become more agile, enterprises need to break down data silos and decompose monolithic apps. Like magic modern dust, architects of this change would sprinkle some service-enablement in just about every corner of the business.
Early web services integration approaches, data pipelines, lakes, and SaaS applications started this trend, then eventually morphed into today’s extremely heterogeneous landscape of addressable APIs and streaming data services, perhaps supporting stateless, ephemeral microservices in hybrid cloud architectures.
We are continuously marching toward a distributed future. Nobody could have anticipated this would mean everyone would have to deal with a mess of hundreds or thousands of service interfaces to account for that are rife with inconsistencies, once many of our monoliths exploded into countless data operations and functions.
Sorting out the upstream and downstream dependencies of all of these services, while still in the process of unwinding core systems that were handling live business, now becomes the biggest challenge.
This begs the question: Should we rip and replace the monolith, or leave it and layer?
Fortunately, there are new options on the table for service-enabling existing core systems and silos, while effectively leaving them in place to support ongoing business. Functions can be progressively spun off, optimized for cloud scalability, and represented as first-class API-driven services, while the legacy applications and data are still in place.
Bank Leumi is a major national retail bank that managed to modernize while having it both ways. They leveraged GigaSpaces Smart DIH to accelerate the time-to-market of new digital services, by decoupling digital applications from core banking systems and creating an operational data store that will power hundreds of new digital services, as well as enable Open Banking.
Moving the core closer to the edge
The most evident example of the changing nature of modernization is the mobility revolution. With virtually all users performing daily tasks on ubiquitous, powerful smartphones, the adoption of mobile applications for business use followed suit and grew just as quickly.
A decade ago, modernization for mobility may have meant making app UIs and mobile web pages ‘responsive’ – meaning the content of the app would stretch to display properly on the screen. That’s now just par for the course and UI flexibility is built into mobile frameworks.
Today, companies are concentrating modernization efforts on the performance and security of their mobile apps. Customers will always want new digital services. Now they demand that the apps they use are responding to every user request with near-instantaneous round trips to get needed data, and active security measures to prevent the loss of sensitive and personal data.
New protocols like 5G will only increase data traffic and accelerate the performance expectations of customers. And to further this concern, this revolution isn’t limited just to smartphones. A swarm of new IoT devices and sensors are entering the commercial market as well – each adding to the data chatter and environment complexity.
In these situations, architects seek out a hybrid cloud and on-prem application topology, where operational data and service logic can either run in a container on a public cloud IaaS, or on the enterprise’s own on-prem infrastructure.
Modernization efforts can be layered on and prioritized around delivering a better customer experience, on whatever edge the code and data will meet customer needs. Teams maintaining the top layer applications don’t need to care if underlying data sources and services are swapped out underneath the surface using a DIH.
IT modernization is surely the gravity of the hour
Ten years ago, modernization might have simply meant replacing old technologies with newer ones. Now we can consider it in much more abstract brushstrokes as an innovation engine for delivering new high-performance capabilities to customers.
Once you can decouple systems of record from applications, you are no longer exclusively bound to legacy systems and you can start modernizing the underlying systems at your own pace.
A digital integration hub can offer a graduated path to modernizing modernization, without the redundancy of having to refactor the application estate for every dependency.
Jason Bloomberg was hosted in a recent GigaSpaces webinar. To watch the session, click here.