The three pillars of IT modernization
First, cloud computing happened. And eventually, we all started to get used to the idea that technology could be fed down a pipe from a datacenter using the internet into our increasingly mobile computing devices wherever we are on the planet.
Then, after a while, people started to understand more of the elements that go into making up any given individual ‘instance’ of cloud power.
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In a cloudy IT world where everything is potentially available as-a-Service (-aaS), we start with Infrastructure (IaaS), we move up to Platforms (PaaS) and then we finally get to applications in the form of Software (SaaS).
Broadened, borrowed & brutalized
This three-staged approach to cloud construction has been broadened, borrowed and (some would argue) brutalized/bastardized into marketing-spin by cloud vendors keen to attached the aaS acronym to their individual corner of the market in recent years.
Brutal borrowing or not, we can see a similar three pillars reflected at the core of technology systems today as they start to become re-engineered to take advantage of cloud computing.
The industry loves to call it ‘digital transformation’, but let’s just call it modernization. There is a move to modernize IT in three distinct pillars.
Infrastructure modernization is all about getting the backend of IT ready to talk to the connectivity protocols populating the web, the cloud, [the] blockchain and the orchestration services (such as Kubernetes) bringing it all together.
Process modernization is the action to break down individual elements of our software as we ‘separate out’ distinct and discrete functions.
Once we define these individual elements of computing, we can tailor and finesse them to make them more efficient as we also apply automation intelligence to them in order to start making the machines look after the machines.
Process modernization is closely related to services modernization and allows us to more fully embrace the as-a-Service (aaS) notion of componentization and compartmentalization in the cloud.
Application modernization isn’t focused on we use our apps; it is laser focused on how we create them. This pillar features analysis reporting so that we can continuously assess how apps are being used and find out what they need to more of – and perhaps less of too.
In the longer term, application modernization also helps us perform software debugging more effectively and may even see us ‘reverse engineer’ some of our apps to make them better. We will, quite literally, go backward to go forwards.
By way of full disclosure, these ‘pillars’ are borrowed and broadened (although hopefully not too brutalized) from Micro Focus, a company known for its work with the COBOL computer language.
Often derided as outdated and past its time, COBOL is in fact still widely deployed by many financial institutions.
Micro Focus has clearly had to coax many of its customers along a path of IT modernization, given the age of many of the systems it encounters on a day-to-day basis.
According to a new IDC White Paper, sponsored by Micro Focus, Flexible modernization approaches toward digital transformation (June 2018): “Businesses around the world are engaged in platform modernization initiatives to position their organizations for an era of business transformation, much of which is driven by new regulatory environments. In other words, businesses want to modernize to enable competitive differentiation and they need to modernize, both as a competitive response and for regulatory compliance.”
Micro Focus is of course not alone in its mission to popularize the notion of application modernization. Other key players in this market include Dell EMC, Progress, Capgemini, Accenture and analyst house Gartner has a whole glossary category devoted to it.
The takeaway message here is simple to spot: legacy software that has been hanging around for a while is, very often, software that still works.
So, it’s often a good idea to think about how the business can ‘expose’ some of its older systems to the edge of the cloud and perform a degree of modernization rather than a roughshod process of ‘rip and replace’.