Get Ready for Cloud Migration: Assess Your Application Portfolio

In this post, Koushik Biswas, a Cloud Adoption Assessments specialist, will describe the framework and methodology for performing Application Portfolio Rationalization on a legacy application suite.

Embracing digital transformation and leveraging public cloud platforms can turn out to be a challenge if you are babysitting a suite of legacy applications. If you are a product company, a robust digital platform can help you transform into a lifestyle brand. If you are a service provider, your digital and cloud strategy can help you personalize experiences. Though you may feel ready to take this challenge on, you may not know where to start!

You also probably want to improve productivity, repurposing the freed up cycles for innovation. Maybe you have been handed over a list of security audit findings; and the last thing you want is a box of band-aids. Does being more responsive to your customers or reducing the time to market on your to-do list as well?

Faced with these goals, you may be asking yourself – where do I start? More often than not, the answer is nosce te ipsum – know thyself. That is where today’s topic fits in. Standardizing and consolidating your applications so that you can move them to the cloud, modernize and scale will certainly address some of the existing pain points you face with a legacy suite of applications. You can position yourself to rapidly respond to demand, thus generating loyalty for your brand and outperform the competition. To that end, we will take a closer look at Cloudreach’s Application Portfolio Assessment service offering today – something that several organizations have successfully leveraged.

Why should I undertake an Application Portfolio Assessment exercise?

Your most acute pain-points may be different from other organizations, but we commonly see an aging portfolio of applications that do not meet the current business needs. This typically leads to a number of challenges that can still haunt you in the cloud, if not properly addressed during your transformation.

  • Cost – Simply put, your applications cost you a lot of money! Your hidden (or painfully apparent) cost buckets could be tied to Operations, Hardware, Bandwidth, Outages, Change Management like upgrading or fixing patches or various other things. The first step in preparing a business case for change is understanding your Total Cost of Ownership.

    While an Application Portfolio Assessment will not reveal your entire current TCO, it will arm you with the TCO of future modernized cloud footprint. Once you compare that with your current TCO, you can probably eliminate and prioritize cost buckets in a more controlled way
  • Limited Transparency – Worse than the cost itself is not knowing which of your applications have the lowest ROI and are more severely under-utilized. You spend reactively when things are broken by throwing more resources at the problem. With some planning, you can stop being so tactical most of the time
  • High degree of complexity leads to decrease in time-to-market – Releasing new versions take much more time than it should because of complex dependencies, which must not be broken if we want to avoid downtime and outages
  • Limited ability to innovate, modernize, or move to the cloud – In spite of having a social, mobile, and cloud strategy, you do not have the bandwidth to innovate. Your workforce is tied up running the business, so they cannot invest time in changing it or experiment by provisioning dev-test environments quickly. Innovation requires experimentation, hardly a state of mind enabled by “all hands on deck” weathering storms. Also, embracing new technology for modernization is a challenge as you do not know where to begin the transition.
  • Lack of alignment between technology and business – In most acute legacy syndromes, application suites are so old that they are not even aligned to business functions. Your sales team needs certain reports and insights; your database does not support these. Your inventory needs real-time counting; your e-commerce platform does not comply. Overcoming these deficiencies tactically turns your application portfolio to Frankenstein – full of band aids!
  • Organic/Inorganic growth – Your business units have driven independent application development, resulting in siloed and disconnected processes, duplication and inefficiencies. Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships have left behind poorly integrated IT assets and a proliferation of applications.
  • Security, Risk, and Compliance – You are running out of support, exposing production workloads to security risks. Compliance and Regulatory needs have evolved, but your applications have started falling behind, raising yellow and red flags in audits.

It does not have to be this way!

Start your Digital Transformation and Cloud Journey off on the right foot by starting with an Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise.

A mature Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise will combine the power of automated discovery using a cloud computing analytics platform with a detailed analysis of the estate by seasoned cloud experts. The outcome? Clear visibility into the next steps of cloud adoption, and alignment with business strategy.

Once on the cloud, you can leverage numerous cutting edge technologies without significant capital expenses – like Predictive Analytics for business insights or Managed Container Platforms for agility. However, the tactical challenge lies in navigating the current landscape made of legacy applications and pave your way to the cloud. An Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise gets you over that initial entry barrier.

Steps Involved in an Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise

In the larger context of cloud adoption methodology, an Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise is part of the initial Assessment/ Discovery, as shown below.

Broadly, there are two stages in Application Portfolio Assessment – Discovery and Planning.

  1. Discovery

    In this stage, you baseline your current state using the right set of tools.
    • You gather data on your applications – (I) business attributes like criticality, use-case, user stories, etc. and (II) technical characteristics like NFR-s, version dependencies, peak & average use, etc.

      Using the right tool and interviewing key teams and individuals is the best way to accomplish this task. Cloudreach recommends Cloudamize agents running on your servers. While these agents must run for some time to gather a meaningful volume and range of data, the team gets busy interviewing application teams and owners to collect data that tools cannot – like business attributes

    • You review and standardize your functional taxonomy – you calibrate the applications across LOB-s, functional areas, departments, accounts, etc.

    • You map, classify, and validate interdependencies between upstream/ downstream applications and libraries. This includes third-party, COTS, open-source, in-house developed applications and everything in between that you deem to be in scope

    • Do you have a well-populated CMDB? A CMDB, or Configuration Management Database, is very helpful in the Discovery phase if it has high-quality data. Usually, our customers find it difficult to provide rich data going back far enough, as collecting, storing and managing data at enterprise scale is a formidable task.

      If you are the proactive sort who knows that you will do an Application Portfolio Analysis 6 months from now – consider investing in a good CMDB tool and update your internal processes to maintain accurate data on application dependencies and configurations, as well as infrastructure & network configurations

    • Consideration of the 80-20 rule: Sometimes, the sheer number of applications are overwhelming and a detailed discovery on all possible applications may be too time-consuming and may not provide the best ROI. Usually, 20% of all applications consume 80% of resources – so you should scope the exercise at this stage. How much baseline data needs to be gathered can be limited by this approach, followed by a more iterative approach instead of boiling the ocean in one go

  2. Planning

    In this stage, you classify and dispose your applications into profiles.

    • During Planning, your target is to come up with buckets of applications that should be retired, retained, re-hosted or re-deployed, replatformed, refactored, or even repurchased

    • The criteria you use to classify your applications should be consistent in terms of applying business and technology attributes. In this phase compliance might play a major role, and should be appropriately accounted for. Estimated TCO considerations, future state vision, short-term & long-term objectives, etc. play an important role in determining an application’s target bucket

  3. Expected Outcome

    You should have the following distinct outcomes from a successful Application Portfolio Assessment Exercise:

    • Detailed Inventory of Applications and Servers, showing functional and nonfunctional metrics, resource usage, and dependency mapping

    • Assessment Report with migration strategy definitions & criteria, classified profile of applications, components (ex: servers, databases, etc.), run & build cost estimates for the transformed applications on the public cloud platform, and a high level migration plan

    • Executive Summary articulating
      1. Business Case
      2. Strategic Alignment to Business Objectives
      3. Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategy

Conclusion

An Application Portfolio Assessment exercise is one of the early steps in your Cloud Adoption Journey. While it will arm you with the knowledge of your application stack, you still have to check a few other boxes like Cloud Operating Model, Governance Framework and ways to deal with culture changes and skill upgrading.

Cloudreach has helped numerous organizations across the globe in each of these areas. We continue to apply our learnings to our proven set of methodologies and frameworks, IP, and accelerators. Though every cloud migration differs, they pose a common set of challenges that can be overcome with due diligence and planning.

  • cloud-migration
  • cloud-native
  • Application Modernization