Part 1 of 2: Technical debt: How to overcome the excessive weight of your outdated infrastructure
Whether you need to do an in-place tech refresh to keep the emails flowing or a full blown digital transformation, understanding the well-worn paths and technology enablers to host modern IT workloads without friction applies universally. Let's take a look at what today's options are to modernize your IT services into lean, mean, service-providing machines.
Sometimes the best recipe for success is a totally different cuisine of food from what you're used to. When there isn't a clear and seamless line-of-sight to modernize your existing workload to the latest strategic technology for your business, sometimes it is easiest to cap existing workloads as they exist and innovate against a totally new operational model as a planned transformational venture. The innovation and efficiency opportunities offered by injecting new technology aren't always clear during early budgetary or resource planning for refresh events. When highly utilized critical systems require modernization, consider leaving legacy systems alone (Cap) while first iterating against a totally fresh approach to learn what your future holds and set concrete targets (Grow).
This approach provides an opportunity to challenge the operational and consumption model of a service you provide to your customers or within your organization. Would a serverless framework of on-demand cloud functions be the best way to deal with your variable workload? Is compute-heavy number crunching 24/7/365 what your business needs? Trying a fresh green-field approach can shine a light on efficiencies not possible within the constraints of an existing system design.
Once you are happy with the benefits of a new approach and how it operates in practical terms, retirement or structured migration from legacy systems can begin with minimal risk. It's far easier to see how to get there, when you know exactly where you want to go.
"Lift-and-shift" describes a method to move workloads as they exist currently to a different operational environment. By itself, this method doesn't address current strategic problems other than the location where the workload operates. In the modern IT era, being able to move a workload is powerful but not a competitive edge. I recommend thinking of a Lift-and-shift migration as step-1 of a transformational journey which involves refactoring your applications and systems to most efficiently operate within the new platform strategy you choose.
If we consider public cloud platforms, gaining cost efficiency, elasticity of scale, and world-class availability requires adoption of cloud-specific administrative techniques and orchestration. While these things shouldn't unnecessarily tie your workloads to specific cloud platforms, they are unique considerations inherent to operating public cloud workloads effectively.
Alternatively, if we consider maintaining a workload in a traditional hosted data center or on-premises environment, maximizing the value extracted from your hardware and software investments as you refresh and reinvest is critical. Turning IT services from a cost center into the data-driven engine that powers your strategic business growth can be real for businesses of any size. IT doesn't have to just be "overhead" and moving fast and with extreme efficiency isn't relegated to Cloud workloads, it's an operational posture that can be implemented anywhere.
Using the "Strangler" method once an existing workload has been shifted to your provider of choice allows a structured and safe methodology to incrementally improve your systems in-place, where they're intended to operate long term. The magic to the method is first innovating quickly on the lowest risk and easiest to change system components while leaving high-inertia high-risk systems for later in the process. The Strangler pattern is well-proven when challenging monoliths stand in your way. It provides an opportunity to break complex services apart and grow distributed teams to work collectively against a common larger goal.
Refactoring in-place also helps build operational maturity and solves for many of the Hybrid IT challenges such as complex network extension or high network egress charges. Consider "Lift-Shift-and-Strangle" as the whole story when your business goals include strategic change of your IT services consumption.
Tune in next week for part 2: How to overcome your technical debt.
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