The urgent shift to modern apps: A matter of boom or bust

Speed to market must not come at expense of security, visibility and control


Sponsored The path to digital transformation may be a familiar one, strewn with unfulfilled objectives and regrets. It pays to start the journey with clear strategic goals and objectives. Galvanised by the risk of losing competitive advantage – or worse, fading into obsolescence – many organisations have tried to accelerate transformation by leveraging the advantages of application modernisation.

The global COVID crisis has only reinforced what many IT organisations already knew – they must rapidly increase agility and accelerate innovation to better serve customers and ride out future disruptions. Although CIOs have successfully migrated some applications to the cloud, a McKinsey study found that around 80% of them report not having achieved the agility or business outcomes they sought from application modernisation.

Many organisations modernise applications in hopes of harnessing newer approaches – including newer languages, frameworks, and infrastructure platforms – to extend their lifespan, reduce the resources required to run them, and increase the agility, efficiency and reliability of deploying them, among other benefits.

Common approaches include lift and shift, for example re-hosting the application from a legacy on-premises server to a cloud platform. This requires minimal rewriting of code. The other extreme is to rewrite chunks of the application’s code to benefit from modern infrastructure and tools, including containers. This is usually required in breaking a monolithic application into smaller interconnected pieces, such as microservices.

The middle path between these two is re-platforming, which entails complementary updates, such as modifying or replacing the application’s backend database to work on a cloud platform.

CIOs who adopt microservices can imagine them as building blocks of a digital future. They give teams of developers autonomy over how applications are built and deployed, resulting in faster time to market. Strategically, these modern applications and architectures empower CIOs to address disruptive trends in their industries before there is any negative impact on their business.

Strategic sense

Clearly, the monolith-to-microservices journey toward an agile, digitally transformed future requires considerable financial and resource investments. Yet, risks can be minimised with a sensible approach to application modernisation driven by clear business objectives and best practices.

While discussions around application modernisation often focus on monolithic applications, not every application needs to run as a microservice. Some monolithic applications continue to deliver critical value and purpose as they are. However, rewriting the code might be the better route for applications that are so tightly coupled with existing systems that the time and effort needed to modernise them outweighs the benefits.

So, the first strategic step for successful app modernisation is to conduct a thorough assessment of candidate applications. Evaluate each app’s technical characteristics, its suitability for a shift to the targeted platform, the ROI of such a move, the application’s interdependencies with other systems, and other criteria.

Another key requirement is for CIOs to develop a long-term roadmap to effectively manage business resources as well as the performance and availability of existing applications. This facilitates a piece-by-piece approach to application modernisation rather than all-at-once.

Additionally, the orchestration and automation of operational tasks are also necessary to ensure that development, operations, and security teams can sustainably manage the cloud and containerised apps at scale.

For this reason, NGINX has explicitly built its business on tackling these challenges with a solution stack to help bridge the application modernisation gap.

It’s about enabling traditional workflows and applications to be more scalable, flexible, and high-performance. It’s about enhancing applications to provide the interfaces and experiences that business partners, stakeholders, and customers demand, with minimal disruption to other parts of the business that rely on traditional application interfaces and integrations.

Steps that allow IT teams to begin modernising the application stack include finding a way to decouple interdependent components of monolith applications, abstract services from the hardware on which applications run, and integrate the application stack with DevOps workflows and ecosystem partners to avoid any platform lock-in.

More than speed

A pivotal business objective of application modernisation is to facilitate faster time to market. But this should not be achieved at the expense of application security, visibility, or control. These elements are reflected in NGINX’s own modern application platform, which brings together monitoring, security, troubleshooting, and workflow management across multiple locations and clouds.

Security

Apart from application security solutions, monitoring tools provide powerful insights into how applications are performing and the level of digital experience they provide, while ensuring they remain secure. Further, process automation and systems intelligence are needed to respond speedily to security threats and customer demands while mitigating the risks that frequent app releases and updates can create. Traffic visibility can also reduce complexity and improve security in microservices environments.

Visibility

In F5’s 2021 State of Application Strategy study, 95% of respondents reported that although they have a wealth of data, they are missing the insights into the app performance, security and availability that they need to protect and evolve their infrastructure and business.

For example, improving visibility in Kubernetes – an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerised applications – gives organisations insight on what is deployed, strengthens security and compliance by detecting vulnerabilities and attack vectors, and improves troubleshooting efficiency by discovering app issues before problems affect user experience, among other operational benefits.

As part of its multi-year digital transformation project, Íslandsbanki, Iceland's second largest bank, deployed the NGINX Plus dynamic application gateway, and has attained higher levels of operational agility, stronger security, and improved visibility. The solution has catalysed the bank’s DevOps roadmap and its ongoing move towards infrastructure as code.

Control

Simplicity is a key enabler on so many levels when it comes to modernisation. Complex systems are too hard to control or change at the speed and scale needed to attain agility. Hence, the NGINX Controller and NGINX Instance Manager control-plane offerings, for instance, are designed to manage the entire NGINX infrastructure with a single management layer.

CapitalOne, a major US-based bank, simplified its infrastructure by deploying NGINX to replace three different commercial API gateway products. The move enabled the bank to deliver higher performance with fewer servers and led its internal teams to now package their own internal platform for application development based on NGINX.

While breaking and modernising legacy applications may be a complex and costly undertaking, NGINX tools augment purposefully clear and sound strategies by providing CIOs with the security, visibility, and control needed to optimise cost, usage, and value of precious resources.

Ultimately, the success of your application modernisation strategy hinges on whether it reinforces your enterprise’s digital transformation efforts to produce desired business outcomes as well as added value to customers and stakeholders.

Sponsored by NGINX (part of F5)


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