Decomposing Application and Systems Architecture To Drive Continuous Modernization

  • February 17, 2022
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Understanding Legacy Decomposition

As businesses grow and evolve, they often carry the baggage from previous iterations of IT infrastructure and software development. What's left is technical debt, and properly addressing it can be costly and time-consuming. As a result, it's often easier to build upon what you have rather than rearchitect as you push forward. This choice results in legacy application environments that are often a clumsy mixture of monolithic component structures mounted onto a bewildering array of hybrid infrastructures. These are commonly represented by a tightly bound mesh of interconnectivity between databases, middleware components, application services and user interfaces. Decoupling these connectivity points requires an in-depth knowledge of service architecture and the business capabilities it supports. Logically segregating related areas of functionality from the individual software and hardware components that support its utility is not an easy process. Whether you're looking at systems that support inventory management, process financial transactions or manage customer relationships, context is king.

The days of easy lift-and-shift are gone, fading into obsolescence. Modernizing applications requires an understanding of true business context. This understanding comes from looking at the dimensionality of services tendered and the IT systems and software supporting them. Improving core business capabilities and improving IT ROI is a key pillar in the transformation journey, but it doesn't stand alone. It would be best if you also considered the advantages of modern platforms, the value of a process-driven approach to change and workforce enablement to support the core asset that makes all business endeavors possible — your employees. Establishing the right culture to embrace digital readiness and evolution is no simple feat and aligning personnel development and lines of business with downstream digital transformation are keys for long-term, sustainable growth and unlocking better customer experiences through innovation.

Step 1: Discover and assess

If you are an on-prem Java shop transitioning into a cloud-native enterprise, you could be dealing with untracked dependencies, outdated libraries or packages, unintentionally exposed attack surface areas and a slow change release process requiring extensive end-to-end testing for new app functionality. PaaS and SaaS solutions might sound tempting, but what you'll first need are continuous integration, unit testing and security-focused re-architecture.

If you are a .NET enterprise hosted on a private cloud looking to implement modern DevOps in a containerized context, you might be considering the following scenarios:

  • Updating your framework versioning to expand compatibility,
  • Extending/wrapping core functionality to be more platform-agnostic, or
  • Deciding the most cost-efficient runtime environment.

Ultimately, the goal of a discover and assess period is to uncover all related services and dependencies, which allows you to gain a functional understanding of how your IT landscape is enabling your business operations. Portfolio rationalization will enable you to map out that web of connectivity, driving the next step of candidate analysis. Segmenting applications into different approach buckets, whether re-platforming, refactoring or rearchitecting, allows business leaders to prioritize segments of the portfolio to focus on, and build momentum towards, a full modernization journey. Please note that this should not be a process disconnected from financial analysis. Digital funding pools are increasingly driven by business expansion, so building the correlation between improved technological capacity and the ability to secure new business, enables ROI calculations that move beyond simple cost reductions.

Step 2: Design and build

Choosing a modernization approach involves prioritizing the transformation of your application portfolio to maximize ROI and business agility. Increased business agility, better management of regulatory and compliance risks and cost reduction are three parallel objectives that play a strong role in creating a modernization roadmap. Whether you are a financial institution trying to accelerate your product development and release cycles to deliver more customer-centric services or a consumer goods company trying to optimize your supply chain to implement rapid delivery for the holidays, the need for change is omnipresent and spans all industries. We have reached a point where most CEOs, including large, multinational organizations, rely on CTOs and CIOs to enable their organizational vision through technology.

When it comes to picking a service integrator to facilitate your digital transformation journey, it is important to choose an integrator committed to delivering measurable outcomes and partnering for long-term business evolution. Today's marketplace demands partners with:

  • Relevant tooling to rapidly digest a distributed applications environment,
  • Accelerators that can facilitate the process of code parsing and generation, and
  • A solid approach for organizational change management to impact lasting change and successful handoff.

The modernization journey should be forward-looking and successfully balance issues that might make sense for your specific client environment. A few common issues that can influence design and build approaches include:

  • Pursuing vendor-lock for economies of scale,
  • Abstracting infrastructure to a container-based paradigm for better portability,
  • An organizational approach to upskilling talent, and
  • The adoption of open, vendor-agnostic solutions in a hybrid or multi-cloud context.

Step 3: Deploy and manage

Digital modernization is a spectrum of continuous evolution and ongoing analysis; it is fair to say that it is a journey that never ends. DevSecOps implementation mirrors this iterative, integrated approach to developing software and releasing it quickly. Automation accelerates feature and application release schedules while improving workflows for developers and other system engineers and integrators. Even from operations or running managed services, there are opportunities to drive modernization initiatives. Examples can include driving additional AI capabilities into operational workflows, such as automated service triage or building predictive monitoring capabilities with AI to get ahead of outages and perform system changes to prevent downtime.

Even a mature IT enterprise that has embraced modern applications architecture patterns and frameworks running in a cloud-native environment and implements a sophisticated DevSecOps CI/CD pipeline has room for improvement. Perhaps cost savings can be enjoyed through intelligent performance tuning and configuration optimization for on-demand resource availability that reduces idle capacity. Alternatively, a modern application stack does not necessarily demand a modernized data architecture; the enterprise might benefit from a data re-architecture effort to migrate to a non-relational database model that better handles unstructured data and enables faster application development.

Embrace change

Change can be unnerving, but embracing it enables people and organizations to reach new heights. NTT DATA can help guide you on your transformation journey, whether your starting point is:

  • Rationalizing your portfolio to understand the mesh of applications that makes up your enterprise,
  • Decomposing a business-critical monolith to move off mainframe services,
  • Rearchitecting a tightly coupled application stack that is impossible to update or improve, or
  • Bringing better operational efficiencies to your managed services and understanding how to best drive business intelligence and make the most of your service and app data.

We bring understanding and deployable tooling to jump-start your modernization journey, delivering modernization by leveraging technical expertise and practical experience. Our partner-centric approach to transforming enterprise IT environments into modern operating paradigms aligns application modernization to organizational change management.

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Imran MacMillan

Imran brings a passion for digital transformation and building customer-centric products to our team and experience in cloud enablement, application modernization, infrastructure delivery, and product management. In his own words: "I'm excited to be part of a team that is finding better ways to deliver technology improvement platforms for organizations small and large. In a sector that's constantly undergoing change, building resilient strategies that can enable our people to transform a client's digital footprint is what I look forward to most."

Before joining NTT DATA, Imran served as a Technology Implementation Manager at Deloitte, where he had the opportunity to work on major enterprise cloud migrations deploying hundreds of applications to millions of global users. Imran has a wealth of experience across the technology services domain, from developing applications and infrastructure to building migration frameworks for active datacenters.

Imran enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, and reading a good book on the beach in his free time. He is based in Monterey, California.

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