Application modernization strategies for the post-pandemic panic

Application modernization strategies for the post-pandemic panic

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Accelerating digital transformation continues to lead the agenda for enterprise in 2022, with a new survey revealing that companies plan a 46% increase in transformation initiative spend for the coming year.

But, 81% of the same companies experienced failures, delays or setbacks in their 2021 modernization initiatives, costing them an average of $4.12 million and incalculable losses in competitive advantage. It seems a few lessons on digital transformation strategies still need to be learned.

“What’s very clear is that you can’t transform or modernize by lifting and shifting the legacy mess into the cloud,” said Doug Henschen (pictured, second from right), vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc. “That doesn’t give you the seamless processes, that doesn’t give you data-driven personalization, [and] it doesn’t give you a connected and consistent customer experience.”

Henschen spoke with theCUBE industry analyst Dave Vellante (pictured, left) during a panel discussion about modernization across the enterprise, which aired on theCUBE as part of a special “Application Modernization” event. Fellow industry analysts Sanjeev Mohan (pictured, second from left), principal at SanjMo, and Tony Baer (pictured, right), principal at dbInsight LLC, joined Henschen and Vellante for the panel discussion.

In a separate interview, Vellante spoke with Ravi Mayuram, chief technology officer of Couchbase Inc., about the tangible steps enterprises can take to accelerate their modernization, with a use case from Amdocs Ltd. head of technical product management Cédric Gégout. (* Disclosure below.)

The C-suite needs to lead enterprise transformation

The phrase digital transformation has become an amorphous buzzword used for various technological, organizational and cultural changes within an organization. It is often inaccurately conflated with application modernization, which refers to the specific task of updating legacy application architecture. The lack of understanding is characterized by executives who make unrealistic goal statements, such as “We want to run like Google,” according to Baer who sums up the goal of modernizing a business as being “all about connectedness; being connected to your customer, being connected to your supplier, being connected to the whole landscape that you operate in.”

That idea of connectedness, which is different from connectivity, extends to how a company creates its modernization strategy, according to Henschen.

“The C-suite, the line of business, the operations, the data and analytics teams, and the IT [department], everybody has a seat at the table to lead innovation and modernization initiatives,” he said. “The most successful companies don’t start by talking about technology. They start by envisioning a business outcome, by envisioning a transformed customer experience.”

The problem is, while improved customer experience is high on the list of results expected from application modernization, just 49% of the 650 respondents to the Couchbase digital transformation survey reported tangible improvements to customer experience from their digital initiatives. This circles back to the need to include all parties in the modernization process. Currently, 66% of companies continue to leave critical transformation decisions up to the information technology team with only 26% of initiatives led by the C-suite, according to the survey. It also points to the importance of modernizing application infrastructure as the first step toward a complete digital transformation.

The tendency to leave IT in charge is a lingering effect of the pandemic, when companies skipped the traditional crawl-walk-run maturity model and went straight to IT for implementing solutions.

“They were under the gun to quickly deploy into the cloud … so, basically, they did what they had to do under the circumstances,” Mohan said.

Now that the panic is over, important considerations for a mature cloud strategy, such as security, data privacy, governance and observability, are coming to the forefront. If companies don’t complete the application modernization process and implement a complete and mature cloud strategy, they will not be able to take full advantage of technological advances, such as 5G and artificial intelligence, nor will they maximize the potential of their digital spend.

“It’s only going to pave the cow path if the underlying app, if the underlying process is clunky. You have to modernize and take advantage of serverless, scalability, autonomous optimization, advanced data science,” Henschen said.

Watch the complete video industry analyst panel with Baer, Henschen and Mohan below:

A primer for fast and efficient modernization

Digital data isn’t a new concept for enterprises, which have been managing data since the early days of mainframe computers. These companies now own a sprawl of relational databases, data caches, search systems, and analytical systems that have become liabilities, preventing 82% of enterprises from modernizing their portfolios in 2021, according to Couchbase data.

“Legacy technologies were built for a different generation of applications,” Couchbase CTO Ravi Mayuram told Vellante, introducing his session on Accelerating Modernization for Customers. “The data silos and infrastructure that enterprises have is what’s holding them back in this whole effort in terms of modernizing.”

The knock-on effects of building modern applications atop legacy infrastructure include data not being available at the time when the customer is engaged, data governance and security issues due to the wide-open threat surface, and increased costs due to cloud inefficiencies.

Another factor preventing companies from accomplishing an effective modernization is that the business value of the investment is not clearly articulated.

“It just becomes a technology modernization conversation without a company benefit,” Mayuram said. This links with the point made by the panelists on the confusion over the definition of transformation.

That the entire company must be involved in the development of a transformation strategy is another point that Mayuram agrees with the panel on.

“If you just leave it to like an IT thing, they end up being reactive. But the proactive strategies are the ones that actually succeed, because they understand that this is an enterprise transformation. It could be disruptive, [but] it is what is required for the enterprise to get to the next level or to be relevant in the modern economy,” he said.

The fastest and easiest way for companies to release themselves from the burden of legacy infrastructure is to opt for a fully managed database-as-a-service, such as Couchbase Capella, Mayuram pointed out. Built on top of the Couchbase server, Capella benefits from Couchbase’s combination of the flexibility of a JSON schema for continuous delivery with its N1QL (SQL++) language, which allows developers to query the Couchbase database without learning a new language.

“We have closed the gap,” Mayuram stated. “If you know how to program to relational systems, you have the one-to-one equivalent of that in Couchbase.”

This week’s release of Couchbase 7.1 adds a host of new features to the database. Mayuram highlighted the new storage engine, saying that “building storage engines is a very difficult endeavor, and we took that on knowing that what we can achieve here would be a game-changer.” With a 10X efficiency increase in terms of expensive memory-oriented resource consumption, the new release reduces running costs and opens the use case to “more classic disc-oriented applications which are not that performance-sensitive, but they’re more cost-sensitive,” Mayuram added.

Couchbase’s expansion of its Arm processor support also means cost savings for customers, according to Mayuram. And enhancements to Couchbase’s analytics service enable customers to run analysis directly on JSON without requiring the operational side of the database, with higher availability and disaster recovery and Tableau integration for easy visualization.

“In one swoop [Couchbase] becomes that database server which can both handle your in-memory capabilities, that speed, and hyperscale, as well as the classical disc-oriented, classical relational database use cases,” Mayuram stated.

Watch Mayuram’s complete video session below:

Amdocs’ ‘drastic choice’ to go all-in on cloud-native pays off

Rounding out the event was a session with Cédric Gégout, head of technical product management at Amdocs Ltd., which provides full operations and business support systems to communications service providers. Amdocs recently completed a six-year modernization journey with Couchbase.

“What we wanted to build is a full cloud-native solution that can work on any cloud, then can scale very easily and can address multiple use cases,” Gégout said, recalling how the company made what he then considered “a very drastic choice” when they decided to completely replatform its portfolio.

Couchbase’s Cross Data Center Replication, or XDCR, technology was an important factor in Amdocs decision to switch to Couchbase’s server from its existing Oracle’s WebLogic Server.

“The XDCR technology … enabled us to build a very modern architecture with deployment on multiple agents, to have disaster recovery, active sites, you know, things like that which are becoming the main requirement for our customers now,” Gégout said.

Ninety-five percent of Amdocs portfolio is now cloud-native, and the radical decision the company made in 2016 is paying off.

“We live in a world where our customers need to be able to test a new feature quickly. They need to be able to scale the system in a matter of hours,” Gégout said. “And the only way to achieve these business requirements is to be cloud-native.”

This will only become more essential with the advent of 5G, according to Gégout.

“Things will become much more complex, will become much more distributed. You cannot work anymore with the monolithic architecture,” he said. “The database is in no way different; [it] needs to follow the same kind of architecture,  needs to follow the same principles.”

Learn more about Amdocs’ application modernization journey in the complete video session with Cédric Gégout below:

If you’re interested in learning more about application modernization strategy and success stories, sign up for the Couchbase roadshow as it tours the USA this summer. You can check dates and locations here

(* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the “Application Modernization” event. Neither Couchbase Inc., the sponsor of theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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