Rehosting Considerations

What is Rehosting?

Rehosting is an approach to migrating business applications hosted on-premises in data center environments to the cloud by moving the application “as-is,” with little to no changes to the functionality. A common rehosting scenario is the migration of applications that were initially developed for an on-premises environment to take advantage of cloud computing benefits. These benefits may include increased availability, faster networking speeds, reduced technical debt, and a pay-per-use cost structure.

In our experience, rehosting is well suited for organizations under time-sensitive data center evacuation mandates, facing pressure from leadership to migrate, running COTS software that doesn’t support modernization, or those with business-critical applications on end-of-support technologies. These organizations often opt for a rehost then transform strategy, as reviewed in the following blog, Cloud Transformation Can Wait… Get Me to the Cloud Now!

Below we outline important considerations, benefits, and challenges associated with a rehost strategy, based on our real-world experiences moving both custom and packaged commercial on-premises applications to the cloud. We’ll also discuss steps to take when your migration initiative goes beyond rehosting, requiring the assessment of alternative migration approaches, such as re-platforming and refactoring.

Critical Considerations

When moving on-premises business-critical applications to the cloud, there are critical considerations that span technical, operational, and business domains. Below are three key components not to be overlooked when defining your cloud migration strategy:

  • Establishing a shared vision: Ensuring you have set goals and an executive sponsor.
  • Understanding your why: Why are you migrating to the cloud in the first place?
  • Defined business impact: What impact do you expect from your migration efforts and are your goals realistic based on the chosen approach?

Establishing a Shared Vision

Establish a Shared Vision with Stakeholders

The landscape of on-premises systems is often governed by many stakeholders, both business and IT, with competing goals, risk profiles, and expected outcomes from a migration effort. Having a clear vision for your rehost initiative with key roles and responsibilities defined is critical to the timeliness, investment, and overall success of your project. Finding an executive sponsor to unite the various groups, make decisions, and define the business goals and expected outcomes is vital in risk management.

As part of creating this shared vision, the executive sponsor needs to ensure:

  • Goal Alignment: Having a shared vision among various business and IT stakeholders set direction and expectations for the project. A shared vision allows all parties, including vendors and internal resources, to understand the goal(s) and the role they’ll play for the project.
  • Sufficient Budgeting and Resource Allocation: Appropriate budget and resources must be allocated for executing tasks related to this partnership, before the start of the migration effort to ensure timely project completion.
  • Proper Documentation of Existing Systems: Critical information about on-premises systems and operations is often either insufficient or missing entirely. System documentation is mandatory to migrate systems and uphold their intended purpose.
  • Product Ownership: On-premises business application suites are often acquired or internally developed. Original vendors may be out of business, so products are no longer viable. Conversely, the custom product may no longer be supported or understood due to missing source code. An owner needs to be designated to determine the future of the product.
  • Organizational Change Management: Without user adoption, your cloud migration will fail. Change management efforts enable cloud technology adoption and require proper planning and execution from the start.

The considerations outlined above should be discussed up front, and partnerships among stakeholder groups must be established to accomplish the intended goal(s) of migration under executive sponsor leadership.

Understand Your Why

Understand Why You're Moving

You’ve heard the stories about failed cloud migrations. Those stories often start with misaligned expectations and a rushed execution, which are among the top reasons cloud migrations result in a backslide to on-premises environments. Migrating to the cloud isn’t a silver bullet – not every organization will experience cost savings or even immediate functionality improvements from a rehosting project but there are many opportunities for cost avoidance and optimization of spend.

As an IT director or manager, it’s critical to ensure executive-level sponsors understand how different migration approaches align to anticipated outcomes. There’s often pressure from leadership to migrate to the cloud, and understandably with countless cloud benefits and the many challenges associated with aging on-premises solutions. However, understanding and communicating what’s realistic for your organization and how different approaches will address various business goals is crucial.

Data Center Evacuations & Unsupported Technology

Organizations migrating based on a mandated data center evacuation or the security and compliance risks associated with unsupported or end-of-support technology often look to a rehost strategy as a first step. This helps accomplish the business goal of reducing technical debt or remediating compliance concerns quickly.

Reaping the Benefits of Cloud-Native Solutions

There are many other reasons organizations look to the cloud, such as staying competitive, increasing time to value, or the ability to innovate. To fully realize the cloud outcomes that motivate these decisions – including greater flexibility, scalability, data security, built-in disaster recovery options, and improved collaboration – additional planning and refactoring of on-premises applications are often required. In these cases, sometimes we see a rehost as the first stage (as leadership wants to see quick results or has made a public commitment to migrate to the cloud), followed by more advanced modernization efforts.

To get to the root of goals and expectations, consider the following questions as you build your roadmap:

  1. What are your business objectives for cloud adoption, and how will they help further the company vision?
  2. Is there a set timeline to complete the cloud migration effort?
  3. What internal and external resources are available to support a cloud migration?
  4. How many applications are in your portfolio, and do you plan to migrate everything, or are you considering a hybrid model approach?
  5. What are the technical requirements and interdependencies of your applications? How will you assess cloud readiness?
  6. What are the necessary governance, security, and compliance considerations?
  7. Who will be responsible for moving workloads to the new cloud platform? Who will perform the migration, and manage the workloads? Will you be doing it by yourself, or will it be a shared initiative?
  8. How do you intend to use automation to reduce manual efforts and streamline provisioning and governance?

As you answer the questions above, you may find that a rehost effort is sufficient. Likewise, you may choose to explore a lead horse application approach as part of your migration strategy to better understand the value derived from various modernization tactics.

Uncovered Benefits of the Cloud

Uncover Additional Cloud Benefits

If your organization is interested in exploring cloud benefits that go beyond what a rehost effort can provide, migration options that are more involved than rehosting may be worth your consideration. Organizations looking to modernize through re-platforming or refactoring may be motivated by cloud benefits such as:

  • Faster time to market, product release cycles, and/or pace of innovation
  • Enriched customer and end-user experiences
  • Improved employee technology, collaboration, and processes
  • Better reliability and networking speeds
  • Reduced cost of labor and/or maintenance
  • Ability to leverage emerging technology
  • Built-in disaster recovery options
  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Data security
  • Cost allocation for budgeting and showback/chargeback
  • Move from Capex to Opex (or realize Capex by buying resource commitments)

If you are facing tight timelines to migrate, a rehost effort can get you one step closer to realizing the above benefits. Through an initial migration, you can look to a proof of concept to gain a further understanding of the business impact various approaches have to offer while incrementally progressing cloud transformation.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO MIGRATION AND MODERNIZATION, DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WHITEPAPER.

Challenges

While rehosting is a faster, less resource-intensive migration approach and a great first step into the cloud, it comes with challenges and limitations.

The primary limitation of migrating certain on-premises applications to the cloud is the application’s inherent cloud compatibility. Specific applications have internal and external dependencies which limit their ability to take advantage of more advanced cloud benefits once rehosted.

While rehosting allows you to modernize the application environment, resulting in outcomes such as reduced Data Center costs, other cloud benefits aren’t fully realized. Outcomes such as elasticity and the ability to take advantage of cloud-native features are not available with a strictly rehost strategy.

While more cost-effective than on-premises hosting, sometimes it can be more costly to run applications in the cloud when rehosting, versus re-platforming or refactoring without a FinOps strategy to master the unit economics of cloud for competitive advantage. To show fast progress, rehosting is often a great transitional stage for working towards a cost-effective cloud solution, especially for organizations on a tight timeline. During this stage, managing cloud costs and realizing cloud value with a FinOps practice is key.

Feeling Stuck?

Not Sure Where to Start?

If you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, work with a consultant that’s been through various migration projects, from start to finish, and understands the common challenges and complexities of different approaches.

Whether you’re considering Azure, Office 365, Power Platform, or another cloud platform, AIS has a range of Adoption Frameworks and Assessments that can help you understand your options. With our help, create a shared vision, and align business goals to the appropriate migration approaches.

GET YOUR ORGANIZATION ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO CLOUD MIGRATION. CONTACT AIS TODAY TO DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS.

Lift n Shift Approach to Cloud Transformation

What does it mean to Rehost an application?

Rehosting is an approach to migrating business applications hosted in on-premises data center environments to the cloud by moving the application “as-is,” with little to no changes to the business functions performed by the application. It’s a faster, less resource-intensive migration approach that gets your apps into the cloud without much code modification. It is often a good first step to cloud transformation.

Organizations with applications that were initially developed for an on-premises environment commonly look to rehosting to take advantage of cloud computing benefits. These benefits may include increased availability and networking speeds, reduced technical debt, and a pay-per-usage cost structure. When defining your cloud migration strategy, it’s essential to analyze all migration approaches, such as re-platforming, refactoring, replacing, and retiring.

CHECK OUT OUR WHITEPAPER & LEARN ABOUT CLOUD-BASED APP MODERNIZATION APPROACHES

Read More…

Exchange 2010 is at the end of its journey, and what a long road it’s been! For many customers, it has been a workhorse product facilitating excellent communications with their employees. It’s sad to see the product go, but it’s time to look to the future, and the future is in the Microsoft Cloud with Exchange Online

What does End of Support mean for my organization?

email security exchange 2010 end of support risks

While Exchange 2010 isn’t necessarily vanishing from the messaging ecosystem, support of the product ends in all official capacities on January 14, 2020. Additionally, Office 2010 will be hitting the end of support on October 13, 2020, which means your old desktop clients will also be unsupported within the same year. What this means is that businesses using Exchange and Office applications will be left without support from Microsoft – paid or free. End of support also means the end of monthly security updates. Without regular security updates and patches from Microsoft to protect your environment, your company is at risk.

  1. Security risks – Malware protection and attack surface protection become more challenging as products are off lifecycle support. Any new vulnerability may not be disclosed or remediated.
  2. Compliance risks – As time goes on, organizations must adhere to new compliance requirements – for example, GDPR was a massive recent deadline. While managing these requirements on-premises is possible, it is often challenging and time-consuming. Office 365 offers improved compliance features for legal and regulatory requirements. The most notable is that Microsoft cloud environments comply with most regulatory needs, including HIPAA, FISMA, FedRAMP, and more.
  3. Lack of software and hardware support – Lack of technical support for problems that may occur such as bug fixes, stability and usability of the server, and time zone updates. Dropped support for interoperation with 3rd party vendors like MDM and message hygiene solutions can mean your end-user access can stop working. Not to mention the desktop and mobile mail solutions already deployed, or perhaps being upgraded, around this now decade-old infrastructure.
  4. Speaking of old infrastructure – This isn’t just about applications and services. For continued support and to meet compliance requirements, you must migrate to newer hardware to retain, store, and protect your mailbox and associated data. Office 365 absolves you of all infrastructure storage costs. That is a perfect opportunity, and often a justification in and of itself, to move to the cloud.

It’s time to migrate to Office 365 . . . Quickly!

There are many great reasons to move your exchange environment to a hosted environment in Office 365. The biggest one being your company will no longer have to worry about infrastructure costs.

Here are some other significant advantages that you won’t have to worry about:

  • Purchasing, and maintaining expensive storage and hardware infrastructure
  • Time spent keeping up to date on product, security, and time zone fixes
  • Time spent on security patching OS or updating firmware
  • Cost for licensing OS or Exchange Servers
  • Upgrading to a new version of exchange; you’re always on the latest version of Exchange in Office 365
  • Maintaining compliance and regulations for your infrastructure whether Industry, Regional or Government
  • With an environment of thousands of users and potentially unlimited mailboxes, absolving your admins from the day-to-day database, storage, server, and failover management is a huge relief and cost savings by having your team focus on Exchange administration.

Another big cost for on-premises is storage: data repositories for mailbox data retention, archiving, and journaling. This value cannot be overstated – do you have large mailboxes or archive mailboxes? Are you paying for an archiving or eDiscovery solution? If you consider Exchange Online Plan 2 licenses (often bundled into larger enterprise licenses such as E3 or E5) they allow for archive mailboxes of unlimited size. These licenses also offer eDiscovery and compliance options that meet the needs of complex organizations.

The value of the integrated cloud-based security and compliance resources in the Office 365 environment is immense. Many of our customers have abandoned their entire existing MDM solutions in favor of Intune. Data Loss Prevention allows you to protect your company data against exfiltration. Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection fortifies your environment against phishing attacks and offers zero-day attachment reviews. These technologies are just the tip of the iceberg and can either replace or augment an existing malware and hygiene strategy. And all these solutions specifically relate and interoperate with Exchange Online.

CHECK OUT OUR WHITEPAPER & LEARN ABOUT CLOUD-BASED APP MODERNIZATION APPROACHES

Some other technologies that seamlessly work with Exchange Online and offer integral protections to that product as well as other Microsoft cloud and SaaS solutions:

  • Conditional Access – Precise, granular access control to applications
  • Intune – Device and application management and protection
  • Azure AD Identity Protection – Manage risk levels for associate activity
  • Azure Information Protection – Classify and protect documents
  • Identity Governance – Lifecycle management for access to groups, roles, and applications

Think outside the datacenter

data center transformation services

There are advantages to thinking outside the (mail)box when considering an Exchange migration strategy to the cloud. Office 365 offers an incredible suite of interoperability tools to meet most workflows. So while we can partner with you on the journey to Office 365, don’t overlook some of the key tools that are also available in the Microsoft arsenal. These include OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Teams; all of which could be potential next steps in your SaaS journey! Each tool is a game-changer in their own right, and each will bring incredible collaboration value to your associates.

AIS has helped many customers migrate large and complex on-premise environments to Office 365.

Whether you need to:

  • Quickly migrate Exchange to Exchange Online for End of Support
  • Move File services to OneDrive and SharePoint Online for your Personal drives/Enterprise Shares/Cloud File Services
  • Adopt Microsoft Teams from Slack/HipChat/Cisco Teams
  • Migrate large and complex SharePoint farm environments to SharePoint Online

Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered.

What to do next?

Modern Workplace Assessment for Exchange 2010

Take action right now, and start a conversation with AIS today. Our experts will analyze the current state and rollout migration of your organization to Office 365 quickly and seamlessly.

To accelerate your migration to Office 365, let us provide you a free Modern Workplace assessment to evaluate comprehensively:

  • Organization readiness for adoption of Office 365 (Exchange and desktop-focused)
  • Desktop-focused insights and opportunities to leverage Microsoft 365 services
  • Develop total cost of ownership (TCO) for migrating Exchange users to Office 365 including fees for licensing
  • Migration plans cover detailed insights and approaches for service migrations such as…
    • Exchange to Exchange Online
    • File servers, personal shares, and Enterprise shares to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online
    • Slack / HipChat / Cisco Teams to Microsoft Teams
    • SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online

GET AN ASSESSMENT OF YOUR EXCHANGE 2010 ENVIRONMENT

Wrapping Up

Migrating your email to Office 365 is your best and simplest option to help you retire your Exchange 2010 deployment. With a migration to Office 365, you can make a single hop from old technology to state-of-the-art features.

AIS has the experience and expertise to evaluate and migrate your on-premise Exchange and collaboration environments to the cloud. Let us focus on the business of migrating your on-premises applications to Office 365, so you can focus on the business of running your business. This is the beginning of a journey, but something AIS is familiar and comfortable guiding you to seamless and successful cloud migration. If you’re interested in learning more about our free modern workplace assessment or getting started with your Exchange migration, reach out to AIS today.

NOT SURE WHERE TO START? REACH OUT TO AIS TO START THE CONVERSATION.

Driving value, lowering costs, and building your organization’s future with Microsoft’s next great business technology

Lately, I’ve been helping folks understand the Microsoft Power Platform (MPP) by sharing two simple diagrams.

The first one is below and is my stab (others have made theirs) at contextualizing the platform’s various components in relation to one another.

The Common Data Service (CDS) is the real magic, I tell people. No matter which app you are using, the data lives there in that one CDS across your entire environment. (And no, folks outside your organization don’t get to use it.) This means that data available to one of your apps can be re-used and re-purposed by your other apps, no wizardry or custom integration required. I promise, it just works. Think expansively about the power of this in your organization, and you’ll come up with some cockamamie/brilliant ideas about what you can do.

These are the types of data-driving-business-function that geeks like me always dreamed of.

A diagram of Microsoft Power Platform components

Then there’s PowerApps, in purple. Most folks think of this as a low-code/no-code app development tool. It is, but it’s more. Imagine that there are three flavors of PowerApps:

  1. Dynamics 365, which in the end is a set of really big PowerApps developed by Microsoft
  2. COTS apps developed by Microsoft partners (including AIS), available for organizations to license and use
  3. Custom apps you build yourself

Point Microsoft PowerBI at all of this, then mash it up with data from outside of your CDS that you get to via hundreds of out-of-the-box connectors, automate it all together with workflows in Flow…and you’ve got Power Platform in a nutshell.

When I’m presenting this to a group, I turn to my next slide pretty quickly at this point.

A rearranged look at Microsoft Power Platform

Here I’ve essentially re-arranged the pieces to make my broader point: When we think about the Power Platform, the emphasis needs to be on the Platform bit. When your organization invests in this technology, say via working with an implementation partner such as AIS or purchasing PowerApps P1/P2 licenses, you’re not just getting a product or a one-off app solution.

What you’re getting is a platform on which to build your modern business. You’re not just extending Office 365. Instead, you’re creating a future where your organization’s data and business processes are deeply integrated with, driving, and learning intelligently from one another.

The more you leverage the platform, the higher the ROI and the lower the marginal costs of those licenses become. A central goal of any implementing partner ought to be guiding organizations on the journey of migrating legacy systems onto the platform (i.e., retiring legacy licensing + O&M costs) and empowering workers to make the platform even more valuable.

We don’t invest in one-off apps anymore, i.e. a CRM in one corner of your network where you run your sales, something in another where you manage your delivery, clunky Human Resources Management off over there where you take care of your people, etc.. No, what we care about here is the platform where you integrate all of the above — not through monolithic one-size-fits-all ERP — but rather through elegant app experiences across all your users’ devices that tie back to that magical Common Data Service.

This is what I mean when I tell folks sky’s the limit, and thinking about your entire business is what’s called for here. It’s because Power Platform gives us the ability to learn and grow with our customers, constituents, vendors, employees, and other stakeholders like never before.

That’s what has everyone at Microsoft so excited. I am as well.

I want to learn from you. How do you make Power Platform understandable to those who haven’t thought about it too deeply? How does your organization make it valuable as a platform rather than just a product? I love to build beautiful things, so inspire me!

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.

CHECK OUT OUR WHITEPAPER & LEARN ABOUT CLOUD-BASED APP MODERNIZATION APPROACHES

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.

GET YOUR ORGANIZATION ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO TRANSFORMATION. CONTACT AIS TODAY TO DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS.

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.

In this blog post, I discuss an app modernization approach that we call “modernize-by-shifting.” In essence, we take an existing application and move it to “managed” container hosting environments like Azure Kubernetes Service or Azure Service Fabric Mesh. The primary goal of this app modernization strategy is to undertake minimal possible change to the existing application codebase. This approach to modernization is markedly different from a “lift-and-shift” approach where workloads are migrated to the cloud IaaS unchanged with little to no use of cloud native capabilities.

Step One of App Modernization by Shifting

As the first step of this approach, an existing application is broken into a set of container images that include everything needed to run a portion of the application: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, and settings. Approaches to breaking up the application in smaller parts can vary based on original architecture. For example, if we begin with multi-tier application, each tier (e.g. presentation, application, business, data access) could map to a container image. While this approach will admittedly lead to coarser-grained images, compared to a puritanical microservices-based approach of light-weight images, it should be seen as the first step in modernizing the application.

Read More…

I put together a two-part video presentation on how (and why!) to take on-premises applications and move them to the cloud (specifically the Azure PaaS platform), and how to do it quickly.

The second video continues the process and covers app modernization with Service Fabric.

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.

Best of Texas AwardTwo years ago, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) came to AIS with an outdated online budgeting tool called the “Texas Reality Check” for middle and high school students. The application, designed to give students a clear sense of how much their desired future lifestyle will cost and what education and career choices will support it, was plagued by performance and accessibility issues…and its young target demographic was simply tuning it out.

AIS modernized the site for teen sensibilities, streamlined the underlying information architecture for easier use, overhauled the content strategy and user experience, and made it fully compliant with the latest accessibility guidelines.  You can read more about our work on this project here.

The new and improved Texas Reality Check has since gone on to become the most popular application of the Labor Market and Career Information Department (LMCI) of the Texas Workforce Commission. And now it’s been honored with a 2018 “Best of Texas” Award for Best Application Serving the Public. The awards highlight the Texas state government’s top creative tech implementations of the year, for both internal improvements and public-facing services like TRC.

“Governmental and educational leaders in Texas are leveraging technology to improve cybersecurity, enhance citizen service and advance emergency response, among many other things,” said Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “Congratulations to this year’s Best of Texas winners for the vital role they are playing in advancing information technology in Texas.”

We’re really proud of our work on this project and thrilled that school students all across Texas have responded to the site in such a positive and engaged way. We hope the application continues to inspire them to dream big…while also equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve their goals.