Digital transformation often requires refreshing and possibly rewriting legacy applications with modern architecture in mind. Many believe that choosing a cloud provider must be the first step in that journey. For businesses, this could become the classic case of “putting the cart before the horse.” Digital transformation at scale requires an open philosophy and mindset: The cost, timeline, and risks of being beholden to one or two cloud providers too soon in this modernization journey often result in an eventual slowdown or worse still, projects that don’t get off the starting block.
We don’t expect CIOs and other business leaders to have many questions fully answered as they contemplate application modernization. For example:
- Which workloads and what tiers of which applications are better suited for running on which cloud provider?
- Which cloud provider provides better price/performance in the medium to long term?
- Who poses a greater risk of vendor lock-in?
- How do I maximize return on invested capital in my own IT infrastructure in the short and medium term before I move capex to opex?
At the same time, such questions cannot hold up the inevitable modernization required to fuel digital transformation.
Consider this alternative: Organizations can “modernize in place” without rushing into navigating a shifting cloud landscape. Begin by embracing a “modern on-prem” environment―a spot in your own data center where you can begin this journey. This could enable you to fully leverage assets that are already on your books. It also helps manage the risks of accommodating your unique business policies while retaining control over compliance to the regulatory environment of your industry.
Applications modernized in place could move to your cloud provider of choice at an appropriate time, once you have evaluated all the pros and cons. This step-by-step journey helps organizations jumpstart modernization efforts while minimizing risks and maintaining operational flexibility.
So how do you modernize in place?
- First, you want to ensure you have an “open” philosophy. After all, if you want to fully exploit a competitive cloud provider landscape, you want to retain all architectural options at the time of your choosing.
- Second, evolve from simple infrastructure virtualization and think container-based architecture instead.
- Third, make private cloud an integral part of your enterprise cloud strategy.
Companies like Red Hat, for example, provide enterprise-grade support built on open-source technologies to help companies modernize applications. Red Hat OpenShift allows an organization to effectively operate a hybrid multi-cloud environment without fear of vendor lock-in. The technology uses Kubernetes, a portable, extensible, open-source platform for managing workloads and services. It orchestrates the automation of application deployment, scaling, and management.
Applications modernized using Red Hat OpenShift can run in a cloud like environment on-prem (private cloud) or any public cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or IBM Cloud. A modernize-in-place strategy allows enterprises to retain control while digitally transforming. It also allows flexibility to pick and choose the right platform for each function.
Open source, open options
The big benefit of open-source technology is the ability to align with various vendors and adjust as necessary. While throwing all in with one of the cloud heavyweights may have advantages such as better integration, economies of scale and dealing with only one vendor, remaining cloud independent clearly has short- and long-term benefits.
The CIO of one of our large financial services clients, for instance, shared his company’s cloud modernization strategy. The company modernized in place with a private cloud behind its firewall and expects ~50% -- 70% of workloads to be deployed in that environment by 2025. He anticipates the remaining ~30% -- 50% to be shared across Google, Amazon, and Azure public cloud—each for different reasons. The company used Red Hat’s OpenShift as the underlying modernization platform, effectively maximizing control and flexibility to implement a hybrid multi-cloud strategy.
By modernizing in place, an organization can keep more options open. The journey can be managed in a relatively risk-averse and cost-effective way, one step at a time.