If your legacy apps are still in-house – why not move to the cloud?

Updating or modernising key legacy applications and moving them to the cloud has become a high priority for organisations as they pursue digital transformation. But for various reasons, some legacy applications will have been deemed best left alone, left to run on in-house systems.

But as ever smarter cloud-accessible technologies become available, offering massive data processing capabilities, machine learning and artificial intelligence for example, the reasons for continuing to leave these remaining applications ‘on-prem’ is wearing thin. By moving more legacy apps to the cloud, organisations can leverage further ‘smart app’ competitive advantage.

Organisations tend to initiate legacy migrations for one of two reasons. A ‘lift and shift’ because the underlying infrastructure or technology needs to be updated or replaced, often for cost or technology obsolescence reasons. Or secondly, driven by business transformation, where there’s the desire to create additional value through providing new capabilities to the business such as smart cloud services. In addition, migrating legacy applications to the cloud can help with closing process gaps if a current system doesn’t support a full end-to-end process.

Of these two drivers for legacy application migration, business transformation initiatives are the more common, certainly in our experience.  Such applications are intended to replace legacy systems that don’t fully support modern business processes. While these legacy migration projects require new functionality, they often must support current processes as well.

These business transformation-led initiatives are often core legacy migrations; large systems built by central IT, such as portals and custom ERP systems which require scale, performance, and complex data migration. But there are non-core application migrations such as departmental apps originally built by the business using tools like Microsoft Access, SharePoint, Lotus Notes and so on, where defining characteristics for a successful migration are business enablement, centralised governance and easy data migration.

Why it’s time to migrate to the cloud

Flexibility: An objective of any legacy migration is to create a system that is flexible to change. After all, nobody wants a new system that will fast become outdated. Cloud-based application architectures promote such agility by leveraging microservices.

Enabling developers to rapidly take advantage of best of breed modern technology stacks without having to be an expert in all of them will create a high level of flexibility that is fully documented and visually constructed.

Scalability: Many core legacy systems fail to deliver the required performance at scale. A cloud-based application ensures that the new solution can be deployed with the required resiliency and high availability for mission-critical use.  A cloud-native architecture enables automatic failover for continuous operation of business-critical apps, ensuring that they don’t run into the same performance issues as legacy systems.

For example, a large European mail and parcel delivery organisation is taking a cloud-first approach to its new core system. With a set of hundreds of services that scale independently, cloud hosting offers this organisation the flexibility to scale horizontally or vertically at will, increasing the resiliency of this mission-critical project as the demands on these services crest and fall. Additionally, by using a cloud Foundry based hosting environment, this organisation is exploiting a cloud that is fully-managed, robust, and highly available out of the box.

Smart capabilities: Cloud technology makes it possible to incorporate smart capabilities into an application. Smart apps are innovative systems that gather tremendous amounts of data from sensors and other sources, using machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics available on the cloud to make this information actionable for users and to improve experiences.

The characteristics of smart apps include their being intelligent, in that they use analytics, machine learning and AI services to make recommendations and predictions that guide users and things to take the next best action. Smart apps are also contextual, embedding personal, sensor and location data into users’ processes, made available on any channel/device. A third characteristic is that smart apps are proactive; pushing notifications and making use of chat bots and messaging services to interact with users and give them smart recommendations of what to do and when.

Usability: Deeper understanding of the users and business context can help close process gaps that existed in the legacy system, delivering an end-to-end solution that drives substantial productivity gains. This level of understanding may also result in the incorporation of new capabilities that weren’t available in the legacy system (e.g. mobile, conversational UI), or the removal of unused features. Both help deliver a more focused and engaging user experience. Look for a platform that enables the business to participate in the design process to ensure app usability and success.

In summary, legacy migration of applications to the cloud will enable a more user-centric application experience which will ensure greater adoption for both internal and external stakeholders. In a software-driven world, organisations that employ a cloud-first approach to application architecture will reap tremendous benefits in flexibility, scalability, smart capabilities and the usability of an application.