The Most Bang for the Apps Mod Buck: Application Re-Architecture

Application re-architecture provides the most value and yields the greatest long-term payoff from an application modernization initiative. The re-architecture pathway offers the best course for achieving the CIO’s modernization goals when enhanced functionality, modernized processes and near-term enablement of cloud and mobility are the desired results.

As we have seen, an initial Dell Services Federal Government (DSFG) application assessment identifies how a federal agency’s existing applications align with its mission. A general guideline is that if it’s not a mission-critical app, it’s best not to invest further in it. The opposite is true if it is mission-critical; in that case, the application becomes an appropriate candidate for re-architecture.

It’s important to point out that most apps that were written in the 80s and 90s provided federal agencies with value around an agency-specific task. Today, the demands of technology are far more complex, and program managers increasingly face such challenges as mounting pressures to leverage big data, channeling information to appropriate constituencies via mobile devices, and tapping the modern capabilities associated with cloud.

The bottom line is that re-architecture is not a Band-Aid; it provides a substantial, longer-term fix that supports the gradual, sustained introduction of greater agility for government agencies. As such, it also comes with a higher price tag than the shorter-term application re-hosting approach. However, it is important to bear in mind that the added expense helps make the agency future-ready, rather than simply prolonging the maintenance of outdated applications that are inevitably destined for retirement.

The vast majority of IT service providers use any of three popular (but largely ineffective) approaches in moving enterprises to a modern solution. The first approach is often called screen scraping, which assumes all of the functionality is captured on a screen, from which the SI rewrites the application. Unfortunately, the action that developers wrote at the database layer is typically missed. We’ve seen this in various agencies where regulations change annually and the coders must make adjustments behind the scenes. The next approach is code conversion; this essentially drops the old COBOL code into a black box that “automagically” converts it to JAVA. While some of the code looks like JAVA, it acts like its original design, which is often called “procedural.” (This is similar to using an online translation service to change English to Spanish or French; while the verb tenses may be accurate, the meaning is often lost.) Finally, some software providers rely on their own developed solution as a one-size-fits-all, Commercial- or Government-Off-The-Shelf (COTS or GOTS) solution. This approach forces the agency to change its processes and cannot meet its unique functionality needs.

DSFG does not employ any of the above approaches in our work with federal agencies, because we believe that the only source of truth is the code itself; that is, the application code together with the database logic. Our approach first analyzes all of the agency’s code into known use cases. Next, we “break it down” into functionality pieces, providing a mapping of the functionality and optimizing the code with redundancy, orphans, and re-use capability. We then build the new target language, based on that agency’s specific architectural requirements, so the agency gains an essentially flawless, modern application that addresses its unique needs and satisfies every use case.  A key benefit of this approach is the creation of more flexibility, so the agency can future-proof the application for use in the cloud or other options. Overall, the cost of the newer platform is significantly lower, as the maintenance cost alone is reduced in this new environment.

This is my final blog in our DSFG application modernization series. As I wrap up our series, I hope our previous blog posts about the importance of a strategic modernization roadmap and the benefits of application re-hosting have shed some light on the topic of application modernization, and how it can help your agency and make it future-ready. DSFG is always ready to help. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions.

DSFG is ready to serve as your trusted IT partner. We offer a proven, 20-year heritage with federal agencies and success with more than 1,350 IT initiatives for over 350 federal government and commercial organizations of every size.

Learn how apps mod can help you with application re-architecture by DSFG. Contact a Dell federal government expert today.

About the Author: Sanjeev Nehra