Modernizing Business-Critical Apps for the Cloud

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When working with clients to develop strategies for getting their applications ready for the cloud, I often suggest profiling as a first step. Technical, operational, demographic, and business attributes are used to determine an initial recommended disposition path for applications based on business and IT value. These options could include reinvesting, replatforming, retiring, or retaining existing applications:

In my last post I talked about the importance of revisiting portfolio strategies in light of opportunities presented by the cloud, 3rd platform, and micro-services.

In this post I’d like to focus on a particular set of applications—those that are either business-critical or at least important to the business—those that would be placed on the right hand side of the chart for replatforming or reinvestment.


These applications are most important to the business, and create the greatest amount of angst when it comes to how to leverage the cloud to deliver more speed and agility.

The choices facing CIOs wanting to modernize business-critical applications for the cloud are numerous. And they’re not that different from those facing long-time homeowners. Tired of living in the same house for 20 years and need to do something new? You have three basic options:

  • Teardown. Rip down the current house and rebuild
  • Remodel. Upgrade or renovate sections of the home
  • Move. Relocate to a new house

And so it is with business critical applications. CIO and application stakeholders have three major choices for modernizing their business critical application for the cloud:

Teardown. Rewrite for 3rd platform

Sometimes you’re better off just starting from scratch. Decomposing and rewriting monolithic legacy applications and the underlying data fabric on PaaS using microservices can unlock valuable IP. It can also accelerate innovation across smaller independent services. This is particularly true for customer and market-facing applications that require constant experimentation to drive innovation.

Homes that have suffered catastrophic damage need to be rebuilt. CIOs are finding that years of underinvestment and neglect have created unsustainable levels of technical debt that will require full rewrites of key applications to keep pace with the market.

Remodel. Refit and refactor for the Cloud

In other cases, you like the basics of the home you have, but want to modernize or remodel a room or two. So it is with applications that don’t necessarily require rewriting of business functionality, but do require modification to take advantage of cloud infrastructure.

Refitting or factoring applications to cloud models can help capture agility and cost efficiency benefits. While, at the end of the day, applications need to be designed for the cloud to take full advantage of elastic infrastructure, refitting and reconfiguring applications for industry-standard cloud OS and service provider models can still deliver compelling benefits.

Move. Replace with SaaS

Just as with your house, sometimes you’re just tired of the dealing with the same old headaches and want something new. Sometimes you want to maintain important business capabilities, but don’t want to deal with the “house” of infrastructure anymore. In many cases, the right choice is to migrate existing applications and functionality to a 3rd party SaaS provider.

Of course the portfolio modernization options are, in reality, more complex than that. In many cases there can be overlaps. Legacy applications rewritten for microservices will likely have components that will be replatformed to PaaS and the cloud. Also, different approaches are required for different types of applications. This is not a one-size-fits-all exercise.

So with so many options for cloud modernization, how should CIOs approach the problem?

As we’ve worked with our clients we’ve found a consistent three-steep success pattern for modernizing application portfolios for the cloud:

  1. Segment the portfolio based on business context. First, CIOS must understand the business context of their applications and how applications align with critical KPIs and goals. And finally, they must understand the role the applications play in supporting the overall business value chain and segment the portfolios accordingly.
  2. Develop appropriate cloud modernization strategies. Next CIOs must determine the optimal approach for cloud modernization across the broad spectrum of opportunities that exist. Does it make most sense to rewrite or just to replatform? Which cloud platforms and service providers make most sense? An explicit strategy is developed based on business context and processes, as well as technical considerations.
  3. Build an integrated business case and roadmap. Finally, CIOs need to understand if the juice worth the squeeze. This is more than just understanding the TCO benefit from migrating to a flexible, elastic infrastructure. This is also about understanding the business benefits of speed, agility, and faster time to market. Overall roadmaps should be developed that reflect the hard and soft benefits to the business.

EMC helps clients on their application portfolio modernization journey. Our services leverage the EMC Adaptivity platform, which helps us ensure that not only are decisions objective and transparent, but that analytics can be automated to enable rapid analysis across large enterprise portfolios. Several recent clients I’ve worked with are developing Cloud Modernization and “Migration Factory” models based on our services and platforms.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you modernize your application portfolio for 3rd platform and the cloud.

About the Author: Scott Bils

Scott is a Senior Director in the Dell Technologies Consulting Services organization. In his role leading the Americas Digital Transformation Practice he is responsible for services in the areas of Cloud Native Applications, DevOps / Infrastructure as Code, Big Data Analytics and IOT. Scott blogs and speaks frequently on the topics of application, cloud and digital transformation. Prior to Dell Technologies Scott co-founded a leading boutique consultancy focused on helping large enterprises and service providers navigate the issues associated with cloud and ITaaS transformation. Scott was also the Founding CEO at Conformity, a venture-backed provider of the first enterprise-class management and governance platform for cloud applications. Prior to Conformity Scott held senior executive roles at Scalable Software and Troux Technologies, and also worked at McKinsey and Co. and Accenture. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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