Working with Legacy IT – Modernization Options for Digital Infrastructure

I recently spoke at the AFCOM Data Center World Conference in Chicago. One of the topics I touched on was saving thousands of dollars by adjusting the ASHRAE set temperature points within the data center. Even a couple of degrees upward in temperature can save organizations thousands. After the presentation, an attendee came up to me and let me know that they tried doing this very initiative; but began to experience some serious hardware issues.

Why? They were running 7-year-old data center gear.

“We are at an inflection point as digital transformation efforts shift from ‘project’ or ‘initiative’ status to strategic business imperative,” said Frank Gens, Senior Vice President, and Chief Analyst at IDC. “Every (growing) enterprise, regardless of age or industry, must become ‘digital native’ in the way its executives and employees think, what they produce, and how they operate. At the same time, digital transformation is happening much faster than most expected, and early competitive advantages will go to those enterprises that can keep pace with the emerging digital transformation economy.”

This level of digitization is happening on all fronts, with cloud solutions helping lead a trillion-dollar effort. Gartner recently indicated that more than $1 trillion in IT spending would be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud alongside other modernization efforts during the next five years.

Still, even with all of this modernization, I find that organizations from all walks of life are challenged to understand how they can bridge the gap between legacy and next-generation, digital, IT solutions.

These trends also signal a watershed where the remaining business-critical and platform-dependent applications (that cannot be replaced) must be shifted to allow user-centric computing. This translates to the ability to modernize, respond faster to market trends, and work at a faster business pace.

With all of this in mind – how do you bridge legacy IT with new business and technology goals? The good news is that there are powerful platforms that can help create that bridge and allow us to get along.

  • What to do with challenging applications. There’s a decent chance that you have an app or workload that can’t move or be migrated. Maybe it can’t even be virtualized? Working with applications and legacy data points can be a real challenge. In these situations, you’ll need to understand your business’s direction and the value of the challenging application.
    In some cases, this means running analysis to see if the application can be moved into the cloud, modified for virtualization, or if it needs to be upgraded in general. Hanging on to a legacy application just because it works is not a great reason to let the app live. It could be slowing your business process, creating a poor user experience, or even causing security issues. In some cases, you might have to rip the bandage off and move to a new platform.
  • Try cloud and automation for those legacy services. In working with older applications and data center services, you quickly find that they’re really limited to the functions assigned. The scope of their capabilities is pretty paltry. Next-generation automation and orchestration services dive deep into applications, desktops, virtual workloads, and even the data center to help organizations respond faster to market shifts. If you have siloed processes or operations working around legacy IT services – look for new tools that can integrate older components with your newer infrastructure. For example, solutions around ITSM and ITOM are allowing organizations to shift many of their legacy data center services into the cloud. By removing these aging pieces of infrastructure services – you can integrate newer services and have a better field of vision into your entire ecosystem.
  • Better management can help with legacy IT. Legacy IT can be extremely fragmented and complex. Because of this, significant challenges revolve around visibility, management, and monitoring. In many cases, customers don’t even know the full extent of their legacy IT infrastructure. Good management tools can give granular visibility into your entire business and IT platform. From there, you can identify legacy IT components, how they impact your data center, and where you can make real-world changes. Deep analytics can help you find everything from poorly configured servers to an unpatched switch in an almost forgotten network closet. By utilizing better infrastructure management, legacy IT admins have a clearer picture of the components they might need to migrate or upgrade. This means less guessing and better capabilities around making good decisions.
  • You don’t have to throw it all out – integration is a good option. The idea isn’t just to rip out an older piece of your infrastructure. Some older systems need to be integrated into your digital framework. Just look at what IBM has done with their AS400 platform and integration capabilities with things like cloud and big data. Yes, you’ll need to plan around this type of migration and identify your legacy IT systems’ pain points. Still, new IT components can easily be deployed in parallel to legacy IT to ensure the transition or integration is least disruptive and most beneficial to IT, users, and the business. This integration or transition can be done via management tools, cloud integration, and even virtualization. Most of all – this does not have to be a complicated process. The entire process can be very empowering for all associates, IT leaders, and business stakeholders. By integrating and evolving from legacy IT, you learn more about your organizations and the capabilities you require to support an emerging market.
  • Explore new compute and converged options. Just because you might have an app or service that’s considered legacy does not mean your hardware has to be. As part of a modernization effort, IT leaders must closely examine the kinds of workloads they’re running and the associated physical pieces of the data center. Working with converged or hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) allows you to create greater density levels, work with dynamic hardware and software provisioning profiles, and deploy modern applications alongside legacy instances. Too often, there is a misconception that a legacy workload must remain on the old server that’s it’s been running on forever. Leaving legacy apps on legacy gear can actually compound your challenges in the near-term. These challenges can range from resiliency issues to security flaws in older equipment. If you have to retain a legacy app or service, see if you can at least move it to more efficient and agile hardware. HCI options are great to run modern workloads alongside legacy instances.

If you still have legacy components in your data center, please don’t think that you’re alone. Many companies from all walks of IT life are always finding ways to become a more significant part of the digital revolution. An ongoing process, in my opinion. However, you can’t ignore the process of digital transformation. It’ll catch up to you if you miss it, or it can empower you if you embrace it. Evolving legacy IT is something organizations will continuously have to work with. However, this isn’t a journey you have to go on alone. Cloud providers, partners, and new technologies are all ready to help your unique use-cases and help you evolve. The big point here is that you get on this digital journey sooner rather than later.

Posted in IT

The 2021 Information Technology Budget: What Leaders are Doing to Creating an Effective Strategy

If 2020 has thrown us any curveballs, it’s that we should be actively expecting the unexpected. It feels that this has been the summary of this entire year. We’ve seen organizations of all sizes become impacted by today’s trends, and many have become far more creative in how they leverage technology to stay ahead.

So, when 2021 budgets were being done, many thought that IT budgets would take a hit despite the criticality of technology. As it turns out, this isn’t the case.

The latest Spiceworks Ziff Davis report shows us some exciting details into what organizations are doing with their technology spending.

Here are some interesting findings:

  • Among all businesses, 64% enabled a remote workforce in 2020. More than half of all companies plan to retain flexible work policies even after the pandemic ends — which will necessitate additional technology investment.
  • 80% of businesses surveyed expect IT budgets to grow or stay steady over the next 12 months.

One of the most interesting findings in the report was the small and medium enterprise segment metrics. Even though economic fluctuations greatly impacted these smaller companies, they’re still investing more dollars into technology.

As the report points out:

Mid-size businesses (100-999 employees) and enterprises are significantly more likely to increase budgets in 2021 due to supporting a remote workforce during COVID-19. Enterprises are significantly more likely to increase IT funds due to changes in business operations during COVID-19 and changes in regulations.

In diving a bit deeper, we saw that this spending on IT, even though it’s increasing, is much different in how dollars are actually allocated to technology. These changes became evident when some small and mid-sized businesses faired better during today’s climate than others. It’s also those organizations that got creative in how they achieved innovation, alongside increasing their IT budget spending.

Here’s what some of those leaders are doing.

Taking the Technology Dollar Further Than Ever Before
Feedback from industry leaders has primarily been that technology continues to serve important purposes for the business. This includes everything from basic back-office operations to ensuring a company can stay alive during uncertain times. However, specific points were made in how the technology dollar is going further and what it’s doing to support a much more digital economy.

  • Remove clutter, and simplify. Complexity can grind a business to a halt. This is especially true in today’s business climate. It’s critical to remove management, infrastructure, software, and even access complexity from your environments. This includes portals, pieces of hardware, end-points, security solutions, and more. Just because something ‘works’ does not mean it’s bringing value to you or your users. Stagnant technology that requires investments needs to have a focus on your budget. Spending money to simplify is a crucial way to become more agile in the digital market.
  • Find your balance between cloud and data center. Neither is here to cannibalize or take away workloads from the other. The good news is that we’re mature enough in the technology that leaders know when to be on-premise versus using the cloud. To that point, if you’re heavily invested in managing a data center, and it’s just burning cash, look to the cloud to offload some of those resources. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing cloud-sprawl and are spending too much on resource costs, look at a colocation or data center partner to offload.
  • There is no more comfort zone when it comes to new technology adoption. This was a key consideration. Leading vendors around converged, hyperconverged, storage, virtualization, and security solutions have all indicated that demos and request for proof-of-concept projects have skyrocketed. And, the time between demo and deployment is much less. The feedback? If there is a technology that can fundamentally revolutionize your business approach and competitive stance in the market, try it out, validate results, and quickly jump on it. You’ll have a lot of success when involving business IT and non-IT personnel in the decision-making process.
  • Convergence, cloud, and virtualization are your friend. Agile organizations remain relevant even in the hardest of times. Companies that have adopted containerization, cloud-based microservices, new virtualization solutions, and converged infrastructure are all seeing their IT investment dollars pay off. For example, convergence allows for a deep reduction in space and infrastructure required to support your business. Virtualization can help you deliver desktops and applications to users leveraging any device, and the cloud can give you the agility to support distributed users and customers. The feedback here is to know where you lack in your business in these areas and what you can do to improve. It’s not just physical infrastructure savings either; there are significant performance gains as well. Converting from legacy spinning disk to all-flash, for example, can help reduce space, create less heat in the data center, and vastly improve user experience.

Finally, there was a significant consensus regarding working with critical gear, which’s sometimes bought second-hand. That is if you’re planning on working with the ‘gray’ market, be very careful. Yes, buying products through the gray market can save you a tremendous amount; but you have to consider the cost. This can be everything from concerns around warranties to unknown tampering before the device went in your rack.

Some things to consider:

  • Only work with trusted and certified OEM partners.
  • Challenge suppliers and validate sources.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The last thing you want is unsupported or untrusted infrastructure.

More than ever before, organizations are findings ways to get creative with technology. That includes how they spend their IT budgets. We know that technology isn’t going anywhere, and we also know that IT is critical to surviving in a data-driven, digital world. A final point of feedback revolved around simplifying your technology ecosystem. Like our first point earlier, leaders stated that working with good partners helped them make better decisions and improve their technology investments. We’re asking our technology budgets to be stretched and work ever harder for us. A good partner can ensure you allocate those dollars to solutions that bring you as much value to your business and users as possible.

Arguably, that’s the most significant difference. We see fewer ‘nice-to-have’ purchases and far more investment in ‘must-have’ solutions. Like business leaders are doing today, it’ll be essential for you to know where your spending is going and how you can ultimately stretch that technology dollar.

Posted in IT