Last week we laid out some basics of what we call the “Full PaaS” approach to legacy app modernization. While it might not make sense in every situation, we recently completed a modernization effort using the Full PaaS approach. Here’s some background and the steps we took…

Stop Playing Legacy App “Whack-a-Mole” 

Our enterprise customer developed and owned a budgeting application. The application was over five years old and built on tech that — while modern at the time — had become “stale” over the years.  Usage patterns for the application included huge spikes in demand during specific times of the year, and the need to meet these demands prompted the team to “reactively” invest in servers with more memory, better networking equipment, and other fixes. Problems were only addressed as they cropped up, with no time for long-term planning.

Yet despite throwing money and equipment at those problems, the issues with the platform continued, while customers were demanding more functionality. Unfortunately, since most of the application team’s time was spent reacting to operating issues, that simply couldn’t happen. Additionally, the application team’s O&M budget shrank over time, leaving a smaller staff responsible for the application.

After analyzing the application, we determined that three tiers of the application (compute, cache, database) could be moved to the “as-a-service” model with a reasonable amount of refactor, for two main reasons:

  • This model would address the seasonal demand challenges by leveraging “auto-scaling” capabilities built directly into the services the application would now be consuming.
  • As an added benefit, these services allowed scripted deployments, automated monitoring, and easier provisioning of “test” environments to get new features in the hands of users more quickly.

The 7 Steps to “Full-PaaS” Modernization

Once we chose the Full PaaS approach, we completed the modernization effort by following these seven (high level) steps:

  1. Analyze application dependencies: This includes compute and data tiers, software architecture, reliance on existing resources.
  2. Identify services to replace legacy components: Not everything will port directly, so map out your replacements ahead of time.
  3. Establish candidate PaaS architecture: Choose your cloud platform, specific services to be used, and architect the flow of communication between the services.
  4. Validate with internal stakeholders: We talk to everyone from operations staff to security to business users of the application.
  5. Refactor your application code: Target the PaaS services included in the candidate architecture.
  6. Automate your application delivery and integrate CI/CD: This is one of the biggest benefits to this modernization approach, so take full advantage of it!
  7. Establish a living roadmap for ongoing improvement: We’re looking for both ongoing improvements to delivery automation and for any additional applications that can also adopt the model.

FREE HALF DAY SESSION: APP MODERNIZATION APPROACHES & BEST PRACTICES
Transform your business into a modern enterprise that engages customers, supports innovation, and has a competitive advantage, all while cutting costs with cloud-based app modernization.

If you’re looking to modernize a legacy application, there are quite a few paths and approaches to choose from. Today, let’s look at “Full PaaS” modernization, which re-architects legacy applications to target cloud-native “serverless” technologies wherever possible.

This can solve many of the most common challenges organizations face when dealing with legacy applications:

  • The need to provide modern capabilities, innovate faster with limited resources
  • Your existing infrastructure is expensive and difficult to provision, maintain, scale, secure
  • Your existing staff could improve efficiency by focusing on their strengths
  • Your customers expect evolving, innovative functionality that relies on expensive, complex underlying technology

Why “Full PaaS” Modernization Is Different

Going the “Full PaaS” route allows your company to take advantage of the “best of the best” that the public cloud has to offer, including:

  • The responsibility for delivering platform quality shifts from IT staff to industry experts (uptime, security, etc.)
  • Managed offerings for all application components provide peace of mind and zero day-to-day maintenance.
  • You can immediately and automatically leverage the innovation and improvements being applied (almost constantly) to the underlying cloud platform.

Once your application is migrated, you’ll enjoy vastly improved speed, flexibility and agility. Modern PaaS platforms offer opportunities to automate and extend delivery processes as a core feature of the service, which creates a lower barrier to entry to incorporate modern, innovative technology for improvement of your software products.

And of course, we can’t talk about moving applications to the cloud without mentioning the cost savings and lower total cost of ownership. You’ll eliminate significant effort required to build, maintain, and evolve the “foundation” of your application’s infrastructure (servers, networking equipment, monitoring stack, data backup and disaster recovery, etc.). This, in turn, will let you focus your development resources on core competency, avoid inefficiencies related to effort not directly focused on improving the quality of your software products.

Sounds Great! Any Drawbacks? 

Well, yes. There are a few things to consider before taking this approach:

  • More significant application refactor or re-architecture could be required, which can include more significant up-front investment.
  • More potential for vendor lock-in specific to a specific cloud provider than other modernization approaches.
  • Existing staff may need to invest in modernizing existing skillsets and deeply ingrained ideas about “the way things are done” – instead emphasizing “software-defined” principles (networking, automation, monitoring).

This approach targets the highest level of maturity for cloud adoption, where you’re consuming cloud native features as a service to provide all of the building blocks for your application.  This won’t fit right away for all situations, as organizations balance an application’s internal dependencies with the need to modernize.  However, this approach can provide significant benefit for legacy application teams given the right circumstances.

FREE HALF DAY SESSION: APP MODERNIZATION APPROACHES & BEST PRACTICES
Transform your business into a modern enterprise that engages customers, supports innovation, and has a competitive advantage, all while cutting costs with cloud-based app modernization.

So Is “Full PaaS” the Right Approach For Me?

AIS looks for the following characteristics when evaluating this approach:

  • The team is willing to invest a bit more time and money up front to modernize in return for the benefits listed above.
  • The team has significant challenges managing infrastructure which aren’t fully addressed by more basic lift-and-shift or “containerization” app modernization approaches. In many cases this comes from a slow erosion of operations and maintenance (O&M) staff over time, leaving developers responsible for all portions of development and delivery.
  • The team is interested in providing evolving features, but is constrained by the lack of innovation on the current platform.
  • The team releases updates/features too infrequently and is under pressure to improve the “cycle time.”

Next week, we’ll take a look at the specific steps involved in the “Full PaaS” modernization approach, and share an example of a successful legacy app modernization project the AIS Team recently completed.

In support of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, you’re invited to join us for a very special edition of the Microsoft Azure Government Meetup!

On October 24th, the Women Leading Government Cybersecurity Meetup will feature an exciting panel of experienced government cybersecurity professionals. ALL are welcome to attend this FREE event for networking, refreshments and fascinating insights and discussions on:

  • Today’s cybersecurity landscape in government and top priorities
  • Best practices in cybersecurity along with challenges and lessons learned
  • Future of cybersecurity in government and the cyber workforce

The evening will wrap up with a security demo along with Q&A.

This Meetup is presented in partnership with the Women in Technology D.C. Chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, a community of local professionals that believe in making it easier for women to imagine, begin and develop a career in IT. We’re very excited about this one, so check out the full agenda, speaker bios and RSVP here!

If you’re not in the D.C. metro area, you can join us via livestream on Oct. 24 starting at 6:35 p.m. at aka.ms/azuregovmeetuplive. And be sure to join our conversation on Twitter using #AzureGovMeetup.

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If disaster strikes, would your organization survive? Let AIS help you plan for the unknown.

AIS’ work with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) was showcased as a Microsoft Featured Case Study. This customer success story was our most recent project with NFLPA, as they’ve sought our help to modernize multiple IT systems and applications over the years. We were proud to tackle the latest challenge: Creating a single, shared player management system, using Dynamics 365, for the NFLPA and all its sister organizations.

The Challenge

This case study was featured on Microsoft. Click here to view the case study.As the nonprofit union for NFL players, the NFLPA constantly looks for ways to better serve its members—current and former NFL players—during and after their football careers. But multiple player management systems across the associated support organizations resulted in poor customer service and missed opportunities for NFLPA members. Valuable data captured by one department wasn’t accessible to another, causing headaches and delays when licensing opportunities arose, and limited the organization’s ability to be proactive about the challenges members face after retirement.

The Solution: A Single Source

We used Microsoft Dynamics 365 to create a single, shared player management system, called PA.NET, for all the NFLPA organizations. We customized Dynamics 365 extensively to meet the unique needs of the NFLPA and integrated it with the organization’s Office 365 applications.

At the same time, we shifted all legacy IT systems (websites, financial applications, and others) to Microsoft Azure, giving NFLPA an entirely cloud-based business.

The Results: More Opportunities, More Time, Fewer Costs

With one master set of player data and powerful reporting tools that employees use to find answers to their own questions, the NFLPA can uncover marketing and licensing opportunities for more players and identify other ways to help its members.

Because PA.NET automates so many previously manual processes, it frees up hours of drudge work each week for NFLPA employees, which they convert to creative problem solving for members. And its IT staff has freed up 30 percent more time by not having to babysit infrastructure, time it uses to come up with new technology innovations.

By moving its business systems to the cloud, the NFLPA can scale its infrastructure instantly when traffic spikes—such as when football season ends and licensing offers heat up. No more over-provisioning servers to meet worst-case needs. In fact, no more servers, period. With cloud-based systems, the NFLPA no longer has to refresh six-figure server and storage systems every few years.

Read the full Microsoft Featured Case Study here to learn more about our work and more about great work the NFLPA does on behalf of its members.

SCORE LIKE NFLPA. WORK WITH AIS. Transformation is on the horizon for your organization. All it takes is the right partner. With the experience, talent, and best practices to lead you to success, AIS is the right partner for you.