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Legacy Application Modernization: Benefits, Challenges and Approaches

Legacy-Application-Modernization-1 Legacy Application Modernization: Benefits, Challenges and Approaches

Organizations typically invest considerably to procure or develop custom applications that support critical business operations. Unfortunately, when these applications go out of date, replacing them with newer applications is often not an option due to the amount of dependency these generate over time. However, these legacy applications can be updated and reconfigured to work seamlessly with modern platforms that are more efficient than legacy monolithic frameworks.  

Migrating legacy applications to the cloud offers more comprehensive benefits such as platform flexibility, application scalability, robust security, and cross-platform compatibility. This article delves into the benefits of Legacy Application Modernization, related challenges and common approaches to migrating a legacy desktop application to the cloud.

 

Introduction to Legacy Application Modernization

Legacy applications require considerable investment to maintain competitiveness. More so, legacy applications follow a tightly coupled, monolithic architecture – that are susceptible to emerging security threats, are immutable and offer less scalability. As business dynamics keep changing, organizations relying on legacy applications must adopt consumer behaviour and embrace efficient models that enable holistic competence.

Legacy Application Modernization is a digital transformation strategy that repurposes existing software to make it compatible with modern devices and applications. Such applications can be rebuilt by rewriting the source code, augmenting the application or plugging the existing code and dependencies into a modern platform. 

 

Key Reasons to Modernize Legacy Applications

With legacy app modernization, organizations can advance their systems to stay competitive, pivot with changing consumer needs, and adopt advanced technology for efficiency. The following are some of the key reasons organizations embrace app modernization:  

Business Factors

  • Maintaining ageing applications costs more, so modernizing legacy apps lead to reduced operational costs
  • Modernizing helps organizations gain a competitive advantage using systems with enhanced performance and agility.
  • Modernized Legacy Applications boost efficiency and innovation since they are highly scalable, allowing for flexible deployment platforms and automation.
  • Improved customer satisfaction as modernized applications meets modern performance and user experience standards.

Technical Factors

  • Straightforward API integration with other software and third-party tools.
  • Modernization keeps applications secure from ever-evolving security threats.
  • Enhanced application performance with reduced security risks and reliable processes.
  • Enables adoption of efficient operating models and frameworks such as DevOps.

 

Challenges of Legacy App Modernization

While embracing app modernization, organizations face several challenges. Some of these include:

  • Resistance to change by employees/business stakeholders
  • Inadequate requisite skills for migration and post-migration phases
  • High initial costs 
  • Complex to replicate user-friendly systems
  • Lack of clarity on the right cloud model to choose 
  • Inflexibility and incompatibility with external APIs and tools.

These challenges remain critical factors for an organization’s hesitation to app modernization. However, with thoughtful planning and coordinated execution, the benefits of achieving operational efficiency surpass the challenges in the longer run.

 

Approaches to Migrate a Legacy App to the Cloud

While the best strategy for transitioning to the cloud varies with the organization’s requirements, there are common approaches that can ensure a successful modernization. 

  1. Assess and Audit the Existing Tech Stack

    Organizations must diligently assess the existing system’s performance and how effective it is for business processes. Doing so requires a comprehensive audit of related applications and infrastructure to establish whether the system is worth upgrading, and eventually helping to form the basis of the migration approach. Audit & Assessment also helps teams identify which software or infrastructure no longer adds value to the business, thereby helping to streamline migration efforts and costs. 

    Some important aspects to audit include:

    • Architecture An assessment of the application’s high-level architecture and components to identify bottlenecks that determine the most appropriate migration strategy.
    • Code – A comprehensive audit of the source code to detect code errors, vulnerability, and compatibility with the new platform. 
    • UI/UX – Assessing user interfaces, supported operations and processes to ensure user experiences are seamlessly migrated over and remain unchanged.

     

  2. Choosing the Right Migration Approach

    One key consideration before planning a cloud migration is to decide the right approach to adopt. Existing workloads, expected load, and projected business requirements are often common factors in determining the right strategy. Depending on the business case, organizations may follow one of the two approaches:

    Big Bang

    This strategy typically refers to a lift-and-shift approach where the entire application is re-hosted to the cloud in a single milestone. As a quick option, this approach allows the legacy platform to be decommissioned, while the organization’s entire workloads are deployed to the cloud in a single move. The Big Bang approach offers a shorter implementation time and is considered perfect for organizations that utilize smaller, non-complex workloads.

    Phased

    The phased strategy refers to an approach in which the application workloads are shifted to the cloud in multiple, small milestones implemented over a period of time. This approach is considered suitable for large migration projects where it takes time to train the staff and for organizations that consist of multiple business units. Besides this, a phased approach offers additional benefits such as easier change management and a lower risk of failed migration.

    More details on various cloud transformation strategies, including Rehosting, Replatforming, and Refactoring can be found here

  3.  Forming the Right Team

    As operating an application on a cloud-native ecosystem requires niche skills that are mostly different from an on-prem setup, organizations must plan to onboard the right team of experts who ensure legacy-to-cloud transitions are seamless. This can be done by reskilling its existing staff, hiring new resources or outsourcing to an external party to manage the transition as well as the BAU phase. Such experts are responsible for identifying components of the workload that require to be migrated and the challenges they may encounter.

    A commonly known strategy as part of the migration is to invoke the Agile model to ensure the transformation is comprehensive and highly collaborative. With the right Agile team structure, organizations can efficiently address emerging customer expectations and achieve operational excellence. 

    An Agile team structure primarily includes the following roles:

    • Product Manager
    • Program Manager/Scrum Master
    • Software Architect
    • Software Developers (Frontend/Backend)
    • DevOps Engineer
    • User Experience Designer
    • Quality Assurance Lead

     

  4. Appropriate Financial Planning

    Organizations must be wary of the associated costs of cloud migration. This typically involves an upfront lump sum for the shift and ongoing expenses during cloud usage. When budgeting for a cloud-based modernization, the migration program should identify financial projections of pre-migration, migration and post-migration phases. With appropriate budgeting, organizations unlock the comprehensive benefits of cloud migration as it helps teams allocate the right amounts of resources for configuration and deployment.

     

  5. Choosing the Cloud Service

    When migrating to the cloud, it is essential to pragmatically choose the right cloud service out of the following three models:

    IaaS

    Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) lets organizations acquire infrastructure resources such as storage, networks, processors and servers on-demand when required. Organizations only pay for the infrastructure they use for their workloads, which can be scaled to handle changes in resource demand. 

    Some popular IaaS offerings include Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

    PaaS

    With Platform-as-a-Service, cloud providers manage the hardware and operating systems that allow organizations to focus on developing codes and automating deployment pipelines. This improves efficiency as it eliminates tedious capacity planning, resource procurement and software maintenance. 

    Some popular PaaS offerings include Windows Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and the Google App Engine.

    SaaS

    In Software-as-a-Service, the software vendors develop applications to be offered over the web. With SaaS models, organizations only need to plan, develop and maintain the application for end-use, rather than maintaining the underlying infrastructure or related platform. 

    Some popular SaaS applications include Microsoft Dropbox, Google Workspace, Salesforce, and SAP Concur.

Conclusion 

As cloud computing enables rapid acceleration in enterprise growth, there is an emerging trend of organizations embracing the cloud to modernize legacy applications. Continuing the ongoing trend, a recent Gartner survey projects that almost 70% of organizations using cloud services today plan to increase their cloud spending in the future. 

Legacy applications are traditionally run on-premises, that rely on slow, monolithic frameworks.  As a result, legacy applications cannot keep up with the agility and performance requirements of modern devices. As organizations transition to the cloud to enable digital transformation and modernize applications, they must be mindful of the challenges and the right approach while doing so. The right migration strategy, however, depends on the type of application, budget and business needs. 

 

To know more on how Optimus can help you modernize your legacy applications, contact us here

 

Common Cloud Adoption Missteps during the Strategy and Planning Phase

Common_Cloud_Adoption_Missteps_2-1 Common Cloud Adoption Missteps during the Strategy and Planning Phase

 

There are many roadblocks along your journey to digital transformation. Following the guidance from the Cloud Adoption Framework closely is essential when undergoing your cloud migration.  While the Cloud Adoption Framework helps make cloud adoption easier, there are still several missteps that can lead you astray. In this article, we’ll briefly review the Cloud Adoption Framework, the main missteps made during the strategy and planning phases, and we’ll also provide some quick remedies to easily avoid these mistakes. 

 

A Review of The Cloud Adoption Framework

Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure was developed as the One Microsoft cloud adoption approach. It consolidates advice and guidelines from Microsoft professionals and customers throughout the industry into one best practices guide. It shares the full lifecycle framework with detailed tips and information. If you want to learn more about the Cloud Adoption Framework, check out our previous article on the topic here.

In this article, we’ll be going over cloud adoption antipatterns. Antipatterns are missteps that occur during the cloud adoption process, usually in the design, planning, or implementation stages. They are often blockers that prevent organizations from reaching goals and achieving innovation. Next, we’ll cover common cloud adoption missteps that occur in the planning and strategy phases and how to avoid them. 

caf-diagram Common Cloud Adoption Missteps during the Strategy and Planning Phase

Cloud Adoption Framework diagram provided by Microsoft.

Common Cloud Adoption Missteps During the Strategy Phase

The strategy phase of the Cloud Adoption Framework looks at documenting business strategies and outcomes from your organization so that key stakeholders and your team members have a clearer picture of what’s going on. Two main antipatterns can take place during this stage of cloud adoption: inadequate motivation and misaligned motivation.

Inadequate Motivation

When an organization adopts the cloud without clear or well-defined goals in mind beforehand, many issues often follow. It’s hard to measure project performance without predetermined indicators of success. If a company announces cloud-led strategies without thinking through what that actually entails, it doesn’t truly give them the benefits of cloud adoption.

Organizations can avoid this simple mistake by defining their goals and KPIs before embarking on their cloud adoption journey. In doing this, measures of success become more clear and project success also becomes replicable.

Misaligned Motivation

Sometimes cloud adoption plans can fail when motivations are misaligned or not properly communicated within a company. For example, if a business sees a benefit in a specific cloud adoption strategy but does not share that with the rest of the organization, other departments have a more difficult time onboarding these strategies and implementing them.

This issue can be mitigated by clearly outlining and sharing reasons for specific cloud adoption strategies with the entire company. It creates a cohesive environment within the organization that allows for those strategies to be built upon successfully and with ease. 

Common Cloud Adoption Missteps During the Planning Phase

The planning phase of the Cloud Adoption Framework looks at taking the goals formulated during the strategy phase and turning them into a tangible plan. This cloud adoption plan can then guide teams to stick to the strategies they came up with previously, as well as helps to prioritize cloud adoption motivations. There are three main antipatterns that often take place during this stage: wrong operating model, wrong service model, and replacement instead of modernization.

Wrong Operating Model

In choosing the wrong operating model issues such as misunderstandings, extra pressures on the IT department, and more can ensue. This is due in part to the fact that the operating model is not lining up with the company’s priorities and goals as defined in the strategy stage. 

One way to mitigate this issue is by comparing models with your current operating plan before switching over. By analyzing the pros and cons of each model and weighing the benefits, it will be much easier to find the right fit. To learn more about comparing cloud operation models, read this guide from Microsoft.

Wrong Service Model

It’s important to properly look at and understand the differences between a PaaS and IaaS service model. Some may assume that a PaaS service model is more cost-efficient but that’s not always the case, and making this assumption can sometimes lead to product delivery delays, unexpected cost increases, and more. 

The best way to avoid this issue is to minimize disruption to your business at the beginning of the cloud adoption process. Using IaaS and gradually adopting a PaaS model will allow for less disruption and will also give your team some time to gain cloud adoption skills.

Replacement Instead of Modernization

Replacing large and complex products or application environments is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. Yes, it’s true that working in old, complex architecture landscapes is far from ideal and can lead to delays and issues. But completely replacing these systems is often very costly and involves many risks. 

Instead, looking at modernization as an option is a better alternative. Small, persistent changes to your systems can often have a bigger and safer impact than completely switching your software. As well as this, it’s often quicker and usually much cost-efficient. 

 

What’s Next?

This blog article is the first of a four-part series focussing on common cloud adoption missteps. Follow along with us to learn about some common errors in the next stages of the cloud adoption framework. 

 

 

Many organizations find it beneficial to work with a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) when undergoing cloud adoption. Read our article on the benefits of using a CSP here

If you’re interested in having Optimus as your CSP, you can reach us at this email: info@optimusinfo.com

Optimus has Earned the Modernization of Web Apps to Microsoft Azure Advanced Specialization

Optimus_Adv_Specializationi_banner-scaled Optimus has Earned the Modernization of Web Apps to Microsoft Azure Advanced Specialization

 

Optimus Information is pleased to announce that they have earned the Modernization of Web Apps to Microsoft Azure Advanced Specialization, a validation of a solution partner’s deep knowledge, extensive experience and proven expertise in migrating and modernizing production web application workloads, and managing app services in Azure. 

Optimus Information is proud to be among the small group of Canadian Microsoft partners that have met the stringent criteria around customer success and staff skilling, as well as pass a third-party audit of their web workload deployment and management practices, including their ability to implement Azure App Service, are able to earn the Modernization of Web Apps in Microsoft Azure Advanced Specialization.

“We are thrilled to have earned this advanced specialization. It is reflective of the calibre of our global team, proven Azure experience, and continued partnership with Microsoft Canada.” 

Pankaj Agarwal – Managing Partner & Founder of Optimus Information

As companies look to modernize their applications and take full advantage of the benefits of the cloud, they are looking for a partner with advanced skills to assess, plan, and modernize the web app to the cloud.

To learn more about how Optimus can help you modernize your applications for the cloud, please contact us at info@optimusinfo.com

How to Get Your Cloud Migration Right

In the modern world of emerging technologies, organizations that rely on legacy systems can start to lose competitive advantage and experience a decline in customer experience. A popular driver for cloud migration is the rising need to achieve enhanced performance and operational efficiency alongside achieving robust security and data protection. Other reasons for migrating include the cost savings, scalability, reliability, availability, and flexibility the cloud offers. 

However, migrating to the cloud requires thorough analysis and planning to take advantage of the benefits listed above. A clear-cut strategy for migrating enables organizations to avoid hidden challenges and extra costs that might accrue over time because of a half-hazard migration. 

Additionally, not carefully defining organizational needs and project scope in advance can result in performance issues and low return on investment, defeating the purpose of migration. This article discusses how to get your cloud migration right to avoid these issues.

Choosing the Right Approach to Migration

When planning a cloud migration, one key consideration is deciding the right approach to adopt. Different methods are more suitable for specific workloads, and the nature of the existing content management system plays a fundamental role in determining which one will work best.

Big-Bang

This approach to cloud migration involves a switch from the legacy or on-premises setup to the cloud in a single operation. The process essentially is a part of a large program that often is carried in a single migration window involving a predetermined downtime. Such an approach eliminates the need to run the two systems (on-prem as well as cloud) simultaneously during or after the migration sprint.

For organizations with systems that do not operate 24/7 or have less complex migration workloads, Big-Bang is often considered as the suitable cloud migration approach.

On the other hand, for organizations that have business-critical or complex applications, Big-Bang poses a high risk to cloud migration as any issues that arise during the migration process can extend the system downtime and have a negative impact on business operations. 

Phased

A phased approach tackles the migration of workloads from an onsite environment to the cloud in a clearly defined incremental manner. Bit by bit, modules, subsystems, or volumes of the source system are migrated to the target environment. Each increment or update of the target system undergoes testing to identify and resolve bugs before the next occurs.

The result of a phased approach is eventually an extended migration period. The implication for the longer migration timeframe is the increased cost of migration, effort, and potential loss in business, if not planned well. However, the risks associated with this staggered method are minimal.

Selecting the Right Technical Strategy

While every organization may opt for a specific use-case or migration strategy, the following are some of the general technical strategies to apply during a cloud migration process:

Single or Mulit-Cloud

When migrating to the cloud, organizations must decide whether they want to choose a single cloud provider and optimize their application for that cloud platform or run it across multiple vendor platforms. With a multi-cloud deployment, organizations have three options to choose from based on their specific requirement. These are: 

  1. Different applications in different cloud platforms, 
  2. Split a single application across multiple providers, or 
  3. Build a cloud-agnostic application entirely.

Maintain Robust KPIs & Performace Baselines

Set up additional cloud-related KPIs and baselines to compare the performance of migrated workloads with predetermined expectations. Doing this enables teams to identify problems within the application and verify the migration status in terms of success and completeness.

Identify Key Components to Migrate

Identify connections and dependencies between key components. Doing so enables teams to select critical components to migrate and prioritize their migration. Some common examples include Datawarehouse and ERP applications that are critical to an organization’s day-to-day operations. 

Prepare a Data Migration Plan

Data migration is an intricate yet integral part of the migration process. This is because migrating the data ultimately affects the performance of related applications and can potentially impact the overall business operations directly. As a result, it is essential to choose the right data migration strategy that is best suited for an organization’s workloads and migration before beginning the process. As a best practice, it is also recommended that Data Migration is considered as a separate project that oversees a seamless migration to support the holistic on-prem to cloud migration.

Refractor

While there are a number of cloud migration strategies to choose from, one of the most followed strategies is to modify an organization’s existing application architecture to modernize it to retrofit cloud capacities and features efficiently and effectively.

Plan Resource Allocation

Cloud allows for dynamic resource allocation to benefit fully from the cost savings it provides. However, as teams migrate to the cloud, they outline a strategy to determine how they will leverage this cloud capability in distributing resources for their applications. As an efficient strategy, organizations must include resource allocation as part of the larger goal that goes beyond the migration project for an improved bottom-line.

Choosing the Right Azure Sizing

In addition to selecting a migration approach and deciding the technical strategies, organizations must decide the optimum cloud computing model to adopt. Some of these include  – Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service. Of the three, IaaS is known to provide the highest level of flexibility by allowing businesses to deploy applications in fully customizable virtual machines.

Additionally, evaluating existing and planned workloads allows organizations to identify resources such as CPU, memory, storage, and network to provision and optimize for their services. Azure provides different categories of virtual machines that are suitable for certain types of workloads. These include:

General Purpose

The general-purpose Azure virtual machine is designed for workloads with a balanced CPU to memory ratio. That means, they are not CPU-intensive, do not perform a considerable amount of disk reads and writes, and have minimal network traffic demands. They are best suited for development, testing, or small low-traffic server applications.

Compute Optimized

A compute-optimized Azure VM is designed for use cases that require a high CPU to memory ratio. Workloads that demand a lot of processing power can take advantage of the optimized compute power for these virtual machines. Examples of services like these include gaming and data analysis applications. It is also ideal for medium-traffic web servers and application servers.

Memory-Optimized

Azure’s memory-optimized VMs have a high memory to CPU ratio. They are designed for memory-intensive workloads. They are best suited for database servers and in-memory application cache setups. 

Storage Optimized

Storage-optimized VMs are suitable for workloads with a high frequency and amount of disk read and write operations. These types of workloads include large databases and high-velocity data storage applications like data warehouses.

GPU

Azure’s GPU VMs powered by Nvidia GPUs are designed for handling workloads that involve extensive graphics processing and CPU-intensive machine learning processes. 

High-Performance Compute

High-performance VMs are designed for specialized use cases that cannot be handled by GPU VMs. These workloads are highly compute-intensive and the VMs are optimized and configured to operate as nodes in a High-Performance Computing (HPC) cluster. Examples of such workloads include applications handling DNA modelling and developing neural networks in artificial intelligence.

Choosing-the-Right-Azure-Sizing How to Get Your Cloud Migration Right

Additional details of Azure Sizing can be found here:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-machines/sizes

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cloud-services/cloud-services-sizes-specs

 

5 Essential Tips for a Successful Migration 

1. Maintaining Parallel Computing

Organizations should run both legacy and target systems during the migration period to avoid an interruption in service or operations that could have cost implications.

2. Shift Left for Security

Integrating security early on in the software development lifecycle is necessary for a successful migration. Doing this safeguards the deployment pipelines from external actors with malicious intent during the migration process.

3. Embrace Container and Microservices

Containers provide a way to package applications together with their dependencies so that they are environment agnostic. Refactoring applications as microservices deployed containers allows organizations to release bits of an application in isolation, especially in a staggered or phased migration approach. Additionally, businesses can improve traceability and reliability when issues arise.

4. Enhance Operational Efficiency with DevOps

Embracing DevOps practices such as setting up a CI/CD pipeline enable businesses to monitor applications, log system activities, proactively raise alerts for current and potential issues, and provide faster incident resolution. A well-implemented CI/CD pipeline extensively uses automation to handle these processes seamlessly and aids an efficient cloud migration.

5. Consistent Learning & Feedback

Migrating to the cloud is not a one-off activity. It is an iterative learning process that involves identifying where improvements need to be made and applying the required changes. It is also necessary to provide an efficient feedback loop during the migration process that ensures that an organization’s employees and users are aware of the migration.

Essential-Tips-for-a-Successful-Migration How to Get Your Cloud Migration Right

Conclusion

Modernizing applications by leveraging the powers of the cloud can provide benefits such as availability, cost savings, reliability, and scalability for businesses. However, choosing a suitable approach and the right technical strategy to migrate their workloads to the cloud are two of the most crucial factors to get your cloud migration right. Organizations can leverage the tips, suggestions, and options identified in this article for a suitable and efficient migration to the cloud. While doing so, it must be noted that there is no one size fits all, and thereby every organization must follow the right approach that suits their purpose. 

 

To know more on how Optimus can help your organization with a seamless Cloud migration, contact us today

 

Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and Recommendations

SL-101820-36860-11-1030x687 Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and Recommendations

Introduction

It is estimated that today more than 90% of companies are already using some form of cloud services, while by 2023, the public cloud market is projected to reach $623.3 billion worldwide. These statistics highlight the consistent emerging pattern of businesses migrating their infrastructure from on-premises to the cloud. Industry pundits also claim that it’s no longer a question for companies to ask if they should move to the cloud but rather when.

There are several reasons to it. Adopting the cloud offers improved data access, scalability, and application security while achieving enhanced operational efficiency. A projection by Oracle also predicted that companies can save up to 50% on infrastructure expenses by deploying workloads to a cloud platform. 

However, transitioning to the cloud comes with its own set of challenges, with a disclaimer that not every cloud migration project goes as smoothly as intended. While there are a number of factors to failure, a lack of planning and insight before cloud migrations are one of the most prominent reasons for an outright failure. This not only means that the organization’s long-term goals to improve operational efficiency goes for a toss but also result in wasted effort, time, and money.

This article addresses the most common challenges to expect when moving from an on-premises setup to a cloud platform, and how to overcome them.

Common Challenges of an On-Prem to Cloud Migration

As an essential best practice, organizations are required to diligently research and assess the most suitable processes, methodologies and plan every step of the migration to ensure the right decisions are made, and costs are controlled. Here are some key considerations that should be followed as the rule of thumb. 

Choosing the Right Model and Service Provider

Choosing the right cloud model for a business and the right service provider can not only make or break the migration project, but also affect its future maintenance and sustainability. 

There are 3 cloud models that require an assessment to ascertain the best fit for the company:

  • Public Clouds are the most popular choice where a service provider owns and manages the entire platform stack of cloud resources – which are then shared to host a number of different clients. Some common examples of such managed service providers are MS Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud.
  • Private Clouds, on the contrary, don’t share computing resources as they are set up specifically for exclusive use by a single organization. Compared to public clouds, such a framework offers more control over customized needs and is generally used by organizations who have distinct or specific requirements, including security, platform flexibility, enhanced service levels, etc.
  • Hybrid Clouds are a blend of a public/private cloud used with an on-premises infrastructure. This allows an organization to interchange data and applications between both environments that suit its business process or technical requirements. For businesses that are already invested in on-site hardware, a Hybrid cloud model can ease a gradual transition to the cloud over a long-term period. Additionally, for businesses that are too reliant on Legacy applications, a Hybrid cloud model is often perceived as the model that provides the leeway to adopt new tools while continuing with traditional ones. 

Challenges-of-Cloud-Migration-e1617044236232 Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and RecommendationsImage source: Intel.com

Apart from the cloud model, when it comes to selecting a service provider, there are key factors to consider such as 

  • how the data is secured, 
  • Agreed service levels and the provision to customize them, 
  • a guarantee of protection against network disruptions, and 
  • the costs involved. 

It is important for an organization to be mindful of vendor lock-in terms, as once the transition starts with migrating data, it can be difficult and costly to switch providers.

What is recommended?

Plan exhaustively on analyzing the current and future architecture, security, and integration requirements. Be clear about the goals of migrating to the cloud and identify the vendors that will most likely help in achieving them. A best practice of choosing the preferred service provider often starts with evaluating the proposed Service Level Agreement (SLA) for maintenance commitments, access to support, and exit clauses that offer flexibility.

Engagement and Adoption from Stakeholders

When introducing changes within an organization, it is often met with resistance by multiple stakeholders, which can thwart efforts for a smooth switch. This can be explained by scenarios where – the finance department may oppose the transition because of cost, the IT team may feel their job security is threatened, or the end-users won’t understand the reason for the change and fear their services might get impacted. Though such resistances are usually short-term, such factors may often compromise an organization’s immediate goals unless stakeholders are onboard.  

What is recommended?

Dealing with stakeholder resistance requires a holistic change in mindset across all levels of the organization. While hands-on training and guidance may provide support for users in adopting and using cloud-based services, preemptively addressing any resistance is a start on the right foot. Additionally, as an advisory for various organizational units, it is suggested to build a compelling business case that highlights current challenges in the organization with clear explanations on how migrating to the cloud will resolve these issues. 

Security Compromise

Whether the underlying architecture relies upon on-premises or the cloud, protecting a company’s data remains a top priority for any organization. When migrating to the cloud, a large part of the organization’s data security is managed by the cloud service provider. As a result, it is vital to have a thorough assessment of the vendor’s security protocols and practices.

This also means that organizations remain in control of where the data is stored, how incoming/outgoing data is encrypted, what measures are in place to ensure software is updated with the latest fixes, as well as the regulatory compliance status of the provider. Certain enterprise cloud providers like MS Azure take a holistic approach to security and offer the highest industry security standards that are aligned with regulations like PCI and HIPAA. 

What is recommended?

Define in-house security policies and explore the available cloud platform’s security tools. As a result, it is critical to proactively consider: 

  • authorization & authentication, 
  • audit lifecycle, 
  • application and network firewalls, 
  • protection against DDoS attacks and other malicious cyberattacks. 

Besides, a secure cloud migration strategy should administer how security is applied to data in-transit and at-rest, how user identities are protected, and how policies get enforced post-migration across multiple environments. 

It is important to note that administering security across all layers and phases of implementation requires much more than using tools. This usually begins with:

  • an organization to foster a security mindset
  • adopting security as part of the workflow by embracing a DevSecOps model, 
  • as well as incorporate a robust policy and audit governance through Security-as-Code or Policy-as-Code methodologies. 

Avoid Service Disruptions

Legacy models that rely extensively on third-party tools which are through with sunset clauses, or in-house developed applications, require special provision for a smooth transition. More so, frameworks involving virtual machines that include hardware-level abstraction are practically more complex that syncs and maintains abstraction layers through pre and post-transition phases. Unplanned migrations for such setups may often lead to performance issues including increased latency, interoperability, unplanned outages, and intermittent service disruptions. 

What is recommended?

Replicating virtual machines to the cloud should be planned based on an organization’s workload tolerance, as well as its on-prem networking setup. It is advised to make use of agent-based or agentless tools available by service providers, such as Azure Migrate that provide a specialized platform for seamless migrations. 

As for legacy or sunset apps, organizations are advised to plan for Continuous Modernization that provisions regular auditing of such apps, while planning for a phased retirement in the longer term. For setups where an immediate Lift and Shift isn’t an option, the organization should recalibrate its migration strategy by considering Refactoring or Rearchitecting strategies, that reimplements the application architecture from scratch. 

Cost Implications

Accounting for near and long-term costs during cloud migration is often overlooked. There are several factors that require consideration to avoid expensive and disruptive surprises. As migration from a legacy to the cloud is gradual, in the immediate term, organizational units often need to continue using both on-premises as well as the cloud infrastructure. This implies additional costs towards duplication of resource consumption such as – data sync & integrity, high-availability, backup & recovery, and maintenance of current systems

What is recommended?

Over the longer term, using a cloud platform is more cost-effective. Though there is very little that can be done by an organization to avoid most of such expenses during migration, what is required is to include these within its financial projections. While doing so, expect there to be upfront costs related to the amount of data being transferred, the services being used, and added expenses that may arise from refactoring to ensure compatibility between existing solutions and the cloud architecture. 

Benchmarking Workforce Skills

A migration plan that doesn’t benchmark workforce skills is often considered flawed. Cloud migrations can get complicated with customized requirements, using new technologies, and assessing what systems and data will be moved. During this, a good chunk of the effort goes towards the analysis of existing infrastructure to establish what will work on the cloud and identify the future gaps with respect to in-house workforce skills. 

What is recommended?

Migrating to the cloud is a complex process that requires a unique set of soft and hard skills. Before transitioning, it is essential to understand what practical knowledge the team has with cloud platforms, and then take the necessary steps to upskill in relevant cloud technologies and security. An important consideration around this should also factor in the allocation of contingent funds towards setting up a consistent framework of skills upgrade for seamless adoption of emerging tools and practices.

Key Takeaways

Adopting a cloud framework today is more a necessity than a projected goal. While migrating to the cloud, an organization’s goal remains equally important to develop a migration strategy, that sets realistic expectations by undertaking thorough due diligence. Being aware of the challenges and how to address them, not only minimizes immediate risks, but also prevents the project from becoming a disaster in the longer run.

By the end of it all, the successful strategy determines how efficient the migration is, without a noticeable impact on productivity or operational efficiency.

Microsoft Ignite Announcements 2021

Microsoft-Ignite-Announcements-2021 Microsoft Ignite Announcements 2021

 

Microsoft Ignite hosted their second virtual conference in 2021, and had so many exciting speakers and announcements, that we thought we should dedicate an article to some Microsoft Ignite announcements. Microsoft Ignite was started in 1993 and is an annual conference of developers and IT professionals. They gather to discuss new developments in cybersecurity, AI, and Azure innovation, as well as listen to brilliant keynote speakers. Microsoft Ignite 2021 took place from March 2-4 and we want to tell you some of the most exciting projects that were shared during the event. 

Microsoft Teams Update

Microsoft Teams has undergone a plethora of updates, many of which are new video call features to increase ease of meetings and functionality. “Dynamic mode” is one of those new features. It automatically adjusts to the meeting experience based on the users and content, allowing for easy transitions based on the meeting itself. “Powerpoint Live” is another one to try out! The presenter can see what the others are viewing without switching screens. This allows for virtually seamless presentations without worrying whether the right presentations are being shared or the slide is correct. Along with Powerpoint Live, Microsoft Teams now has “Presenter Mode”, which has created more options for presenters to have polished and interactive presentations. Finally, Microsoft Teams addressed a cybersecurity concern by creating “invite only meeting controls”, making sure that only the relevant people are allowed into a call. 

Microsoft Power Platforms Update

Some of the other exciting Microsoft Ignite announcements have to do with Microsoft Power Platforms. The popular low-code, development platform for experienced coders and business users alike has taken companies by storm. Some of the features that experienced upgrades in 2021 are Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agent. Power Apps, Microsoft’s low-code program that allows everyone to build and share apps, now has offline mobile capabilities, geospatial capabilities like maps, and more. Power Automate, Microsoft’s automation platform that allows for greater productivity and secure automation, has made shared desktop flows available across organizations. And finally, Power Virtual Agent, that allows users to create their own chatbots with ease, now includes data loss prevention options as well as new topic trigger management for the chatbots. For more information on Power Platforms Updates, click here.

Azure Arc Updates

For those who haven’t heard of Azure Arc, it’s a set of technologies that innovates Azure management and services to any platform. They have also undergone extensive updates this year. Firstly, they have made it possible to run machine learning everywhere. Microsoft shares, “By using Azure Arc to extend machine learning (ML) capabilities to hybrid and multicloud environments, customers can train ML models directly where the data lives using their existing infrastructure investments. This reduces data movement while meeting security and compliance requirements.” Next, they expanded on their program by allowing users to build cloud native applications at scale, anywhere. Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes is now generally available. To learn more, read the full article from Microsoft. And finally, in collaboration with Azure Stack HCI and Azure Arc, users are able to modernize their data centres with ease. It’s a cost-efficient hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution, all managed through Azure. To learn more about Azure Stack HCI, click here.

Data and AI Announcements

Another exciting Microsoft Ignite announcement has to do with Azure Percept, Microsoft’s platform that simplifies the usage of Azure AI technologies on the edge. This includes Azure Cloud offerings such as AI model development, analytics, and more. The platform even includes a development kit, which comes with an intelligent camera: Azure Percept Vision. Want to learn more about this exciting product and how Microsoft is increasing accessibility? Read the full article from them here.

Additional Resources

We’ve touched on some of the updates and announcements that happened at the Microsoft Ignite Conference 2021, but we’ll share just a few more highlights in case you would like to check out additional resources. 

Microsoft Virtual Training Days

If you’re interested in gaining more hard skills, taught by an experienced instructor in your language, check out Microsoft Virtual Training Days here

Keynote Presentation by Satya Nadella

At the conference this year, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, gave a keynote speech on Microsoft’s vision for the future of Mixed Reality. You can watch the full presentation here to learn more. 

Learn about Cybersecurity

And finally, learn more about cybersecurity, compliance, identity and management in this video from the conference. 

 

We hope that you learned something from these Microsoft Ignite announcements, and feel free to reach out to us at info@optimusifo.com with any further questions.

 

4 Tips to Prevent “Run-Away” Azure Costs

Imagine you return to the office on Monday morning and discover a mysterious spike in your Azure consumption. You are now significantly over your monthly budget. As you feel a headache forming, you ask yourself: “Wasn’t moving to the cloud supposed to reduce spending?”

Here are 4 easy and basic actions you can take to prevent a run-away Azure cost incident.

1. Delete or deactivate unused resources

According to Microsoft, “The challenge with cloud computing is that once you flip the switch on, the meter keeps running until you switch it off” (Aleenah Ansari). You don’t leave the heat on when you take a weekend trip. So, why would you pay for unused resources in the cloud? Part of optimizing for cloud is deleting all unused resources so you are not unknowingly incurring cost on an unused resource that is still active. If the resource needs to be kept, place the resource in a free or low-cost configuration (for example, a dev or test configuration which automatically starts at a lower price tier). 

Read this article to learn more about how to optimize your cloud investment with Azure Cost Management.

2. Create subscription budgets and alerts

Just like managing your own personal finances, you can set limits for your Azure budget. Microsoft  Azure allows you to set alerts and thresholds to monitor your budget based on cost or usage. You can even set up an automatic trigger when a given budget threshold is reached. For example, you can notify operations staff, trigger VMs to shut down, or you can move your infrastructure to a different pricing tier when you hit a certain budget.

As a best practice, it is important to review your budget regularly to see how much you have spent and to make proactive changes if needed. Use this tutorial to create and manage Azure budgets.

monthly-budget01-1030x624 4 Tips to Prevent “Run-Away” Azure Costs

Based on the fields chosen in the budget a graph is shown to help you select a threshold to use for your budget.

3. Use management groups to roll-up observation across all subscriptions

Modern TV streaming services give you parental controls to easily see who’s watching what and manage who should be allowed to watch what. Azure offers a similar feature to easily and efficiently manage multiple subscriptions within your organization. Azure management groups allow you to manage access, policies, and compliance of those subscriptions by providing a level of scope above subscriptions.  

Once you have organized your subscriptions into containers called ‘management groups’, you can apply your governance conditions to all your subscriptions in that management group. Note: All subscriptions within a single management group must trust the same Azure Active Directory tenant. However, once they do, the costs from individual subscriptions can also be rolled up to the containing management group, allowing for convenient budget monitoring and alerting across multiple subscriptions.

Root_Management_Group-1030x635 4 Tips to Prevent “Run-Away” Azure Costs

Azure management group hierarchy.

4. Improve system monitoring, alerts, and notifications

Your smartwatch counts your steps, monitors your sleep habits, and notifies you when you’ve been sitting too long. Wouldn’t it be nice if you received similar alerts about your Azure account? Using tools like Azure Monitor and Application Insights can help you understand how your applications are performing and can even proactively identify issues affecting them and the resources they depend on.

Azure Monitor can be used to monitor the availability, performance, and usage of your web applications. Alerts in Azure Monitor also notify you of critical conditions by sending a text or email to an administrator responsible for investigating an issue. Alerts can also attempt to take corrective action, such as launching an automated process that attempts to correct an error condition.

Azure_Monitor-1030x567 4 Tips to Prevent “Run-Away” Azure Costs

A high-level view of Azure Monitor.

Managing a cloud tenant can have unexpected challenges. However, using these features from Azure will help you maximize your cloud infrastructure without extending your budget. Reach out to us if you want to learn more about optimizing your Azure infrastructure.

 

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Evolution or Revolution? The Power of Microservices in Azure PaaS

Constant business pressures are demanding more and more from software developers, and they are responding with some remarkable new technologies.

As always, necessity is the mother of invention. Developers are pioneering new architecture that can break down apps into small, independent components, allowing those individual parts to be updated when necessary with speed and reliability, all without impacting the integrity of the overall application while it’s running.

This new app architecture is known as “microservices”.

Traditional app architecture typically has three layers:

  • The front end, which is linked to a website
  • The middle layer, where the business functions occur
  • The back end, typically where the database resides

Restrictive App Design Can Impact Business

This was the style of design used for applications that were static in size and made to suit specific hardware. However, the style did not lend itself well to updating, let alone scaling up; if one component of an app needed improving or modifying in some way, the monolithic design necessitated that the entire app would have to be modified and then tested before going back online.

As recently as a few years ago, many people would see “site under maintenance” messages when they tried to access their banking website or their insurance company’s website, for example. That is no longer acceptable for any business.

So, the time was ripe (and the pressure was ratcheting higher) for a better way forward.

iStock-871030872 Evolution or Revolution? The Power of Microservices in Azure PaaS

Seamless Updates Are the Norm

Microservices provide developers with the means to refresh a single area of an app without taking down the entire site to do so. Likewise, a problem arising with one area doesn’t result in the entire app going down.

“Microservices is very fluid,” says Gurinder Singh-Mann, an Azure architect at Optimus Information. “You have multiple teams working on different areas of an app, with each team ‘owning’ their component and knowing it inside-out. If I’m a business owner with a promotions page on my website that goes down, I don’t want the entire site going down; that would really impact my business. And when I refresh, I want to be able to refresh just that component.”

An app designed with this approach has each of its elements – or microservices – independent from the others to allow for updates, repairs and security improvements specific to that microservice.

The net result is an app that is ready to be scaled, altered or updated in any manner necessary without incurring downtime.

Faster Database Access

Another important characteristic of microservice apps lies with the database. Recall the earlier description of a three-tiered architecture, with the database being the third tier at the back end of the app. Using the microservice approach, each individual microservice can have its own database, pertinent to just its function. Once again, an update or change can be made without impacting the app’s overall function, something not possible using a traditional approach with a single database at the back end.

There is also a dramatic improvement in the time it takes an app to perform a function– from several minutes down to as little as a second, in many cases.

Azure: A Tailor-made Platform

Like so much in technology today, microservices have come into being largely because the cloud is offering developers endless opportunities to innovate. In the case of Azure Cloud, it’s also reducing workloads and saving time.

Every website hosting an app needs to be monitored in real time. It’s important to know how the site is running in different geographic regions, explains Gurinder Singh-Mann, as well as how many instances of the site are running and whether there is an emergency and a need for disaster recovery.

These tasks would ordinarily fall to developers to deal with. They would have to write appropriate code, test it and then deploy it – added steps that extend the time to get an app to market.

Azure takes that major headache away from the developers so that they can focus simply on building out their code for the app. “Azure is pretty remarkable. It can take care of tuning your database and even takes care of disaster recovery automatically,” says Gurinder.

Power Your Business with Microservices on Azure PaaS

Azure and microservices create a powerful combination that allows businesses to maintain a problem-free web presence at all times, along with the ability to alter or update an app seamlessly in real time.

Optimus Information is actively using microservices architecture for our clients. We are experts in Azure cloud migration, optimization, management and support.

Today, over 60% of new apps are using cloud-enabled continuous delivery for faster innovation and business agility. It’s worth contacting the people who know how to make this happen.

Contact us today and we’ll be happy to share our expertise with you and show you how the combination of Azure and microservices can power your business.


More Resources:

Azure Architect Wouter van Eck’s Do’s & Don’ts for Azure Cloud Application Development

The Azure Cloud is transforming application development as we know it. Applications that would have been too costly and time-consuming to develop on legacy infrastructure take a fraction of the resources on Azure. Azure also provides the ability to process big data, further expanding an organizations’ options for innovation in application development. However, developing applications in the cloud is not without a learning curve.

Enter Wouter van Eck, Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft Canada. “Assess, plan and execute,” advises Wouter. “Assign roles. Ensure those roles are staffed by the right people with the right training. And bring in the experts when needed rather than blindly attempting to do something you are not properly prepared for.”

What follows are Wouter van Eck’s Do’s and Don’ts for developing applications in Microsoft Azure.

Do: KISS – Keep it Stupidly Simple

The more complex a solution, the more problems will inevitably crop up. Keeping your application migration to Azure as simple as possible will:

  • Reduce the time to deploy new functionality.
  • Reduce staffing requirements for developing a solution.
  • Reduce costs associated with maintenance and support.

Do: Choose SaaS, PaaS or IaaS

When architecting your solution, the more infrastructure you can delegate, the better. Examples include:

  • Software as a Service (Office 365)
  • Software as a Service with Customization Options (DocuSign)
  • Platform as a Service (greenfield, app migration, extension)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (last resort, non-cloud ready, legacy or other off-the-shelf apps or systems)

Do: Establish a Cloud-First Enterprise Architecture Vision

After moving to Azure, ensure that you establish further goals for the future. These might include:

  • Who’s responsible for monitoring cloud usage, billing and subscriptions?
  • Who owns the subscription?
  • How will you procure Azure?
  • How will you monitor consumption?

Do: Establish Best-Practices and Architectural Guidelines for your Cloud Application Environment

Designing for services is different than designing services, and you need a plan to reflect this:

  • Be sure to remain agile.
  • Remember to employ the KISS principle.
  • Choose SaaS first whenever possible, followed by PaaS and IaaS when you need more control.
  • Establish a workflow and chain of responsibility for continuous application deployment and integration.

Don’t: Apply on-premises architecture behaviour to cloud solutions

The old approaches won’t work:

  • Applications don’t become more scalable or stable just because you add new servers to the cluster.
  • Traditional security measures such as firewalls represent unnecessary clutter, as all your data is covered by Network Security Groups (NSG).
  • Unlike your static data center, the cloud is ever-evolving. It’s important to keep up with new trends and technology as they emerge so you can refine your best-practices.

“The best piece of advice I can leave you with is this: don’t do it alone,” explains Wouter. “Assemble the right team to help you get it right. And rely on experts. Microsoft partners, like Optimus, do this every day. Reach out to an expert when you need one to get you to your best possible outcome. You’ll be better for it.”

To hear more from Wouter and learn everything there is to know about developing applications in the cloud with Azure, check out our e-Book, The Do’s and Don’ts of Application Development on Azure.

 

4 Ways Azure is Rising to Meet Data Warehouse Demands

In today’s data-first world, IT infrastructure is the foundation for strategic decision-making, with companies requiring larger quantities in shorter periods of time. This is putting the traditional data model – where data from systems like CRM, ERP and LOB applications are extracted, transformed and loaded (ETL) into the data warehouse – under pressure. The problem is compounded by increased data volumes from social apps, connected devices (IoT) and emerging sources of data.

The need to gather data from traditional, transactional systems, like ERP, CRM and LOB, and then integrate this data with social, mobile and connected devices has driven the adoption of big data storage technologies such as Hadoop. At Optimus, we’re finding more and more users demand predictive, real-time analytics to make use of their data, something that can’t be done with traditional data warehouse tools. Consequently, organizations are considering cloud-based solutions such as Azure to transform their data warehouse infrastructure.

Microsoft knows this, and are growing their solution portfolio accordingly. Below are four ways in which Microsoft Azure is adapting to meet the demands of today’s modern data warehouse.

1. Consistently High-Performance for all Volumes of Data

Microsoft is working to solve the problem of achieving high levels of performance for large datasets through MPP technologies, in-memory columnstore and optimizations on core query engine. In particular, Optimus is seeing SQL Server emerge as a leader in performance and scalability. SQL Server supports a large number of cores with complex vector instructions while holding terabytes of memory and contains local flash storage that provides high I/O bandwidth. When optimized for inherent parallelism and concurrency, it is not uncommon for users to outperform large distributed databases.

In one example, Microsoft and Intel teamed up to create a 100 terabyte data warehouse using a single server, four Xeon E7 processors and SQL Server 2016. According to the report, “The system was able to load a complex schema derived from TPC-H at 1.6TB/hour, and it took just 5.3 seconds to run a complex query (the minimum cost supplier query) on the entire 100TB database.”

2. Storing Integrated Data

Companies are looking for ways to store integrated – both relational and non-relational – data of any size, type and speed without forcing changes to applications as data scales.

Enter the Azure Data Lake Store. Data Lake makes it simple for everyone, from analysts to developers and data scientists, to access, add and modify data, regardless of its state.

Facilitating all of this is Azure HDInsight, a cloud-based Hadoop and Spark cluster. HDInsight lets your team create analytic clusters, manipulating data into actionable insights. In addition to a fully managed Hadoop service, Microsoft has included PolyBase in HDInsight, which provides the ability to query relational and non-relational data in Hadoop with a single, T-SQL-based query model.

3. Built with Hybrid Data Storage at the Core

While the cloud continues to gain popularity, companies are realizing that they still need to keep at least some information on-premises. Microsoft is acutely aware of this and has built Azure accordingly. Their data warehousing and big data tools are designed to span on-premises and cloud warehouses. Microsoft’s hybrid deployment is designed to provide the control and performance of on-premises with the scalability and redundancy of the cloud. Optimus is seeing users access and integrate data seamlessly, while leveraging advanced analytics capabilities, all through Azure.

4. Machine Learning and Big Data in Real-Time

Traditional advanced analytics applications use outdated methods of transferring data from the warehouse into the application tier to procure intelligence, resulting in unacceptably high latency and little scalability.

In contrast, Microsoft has transformed integrated analytics with machine learning in the cloud. The Cortana Intelligence Suite, coupled with R Server, can be deployed both on-premises with SQL Server and in the cloud with HDInsight. The resultant solution is one that solves for hybrid, scales seamlessly and enables real-time analytics.

There are many factors driving companies to consider an Azure Cloud data warehouse migration. To learn more, check out our e-Book, Building a Modern Data Warehouse on Azure.

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