What’s next? Modernising applications following cloud migration

In 2020, many organisations have already embarked on some form of cloud migration, as part of their wider digital transformation strategy involving the adoption of DevOps, cloud-native solutions, and modern software technologies. With the growing expectations of customers and increasing concerns over reliability, scalability, and functionality of applications – companies must keep pace in order to satisfy business demands.

In a recent global survey of 750 global IT decision-makers, conducted by New Relic, the majority of respondents agreed that migration to public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and GCP is at the core of their digital transformation journey. This belief has resonated most in the U.S. (82%), followed by the U.K. and Australia (75%), and then France (66%).

Looking ahead into the next 12 months, it is evident that companies need to be able to harness the power of cloud to fuel their digital journeys. A large majority of the research’s respondents (46%) revealed that while migration to the cloud has been great, they don’t feel that they have a clear way of predicting what their cloud bill will be each month. Understandably over half of those surveyed (54%) shared that while cloud computing promises more efficient use of resources, the promise of greater control isn’t always a given.

Building a modern infrastructure

Taking all of this into consideration, it is essential that IT teams understand how to successfully build a modern infrastructure from the ground up. This can be achieved in two ways, either by organisational team management or putting in place processes used to deploy software – people, process, and organisation. It is not unusual for teams to think about how they write their code in the right way, but they don’t need to do this. What they really need to be able to do is build a service-based architecture as the core and build their teams around the software, not the other way around. Organisations need to be building vertical teams that have focus and own smaller and well-defined portions of an application, rather than teams that have a broad range of responsibilities.

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This means creating smaller teams that are solely responsible for singular parts of the application. These individual teams should be accountable for a certain feature, from login to profile page, and each group is responsible for all aspects of the feature, including building, testing, deploying, monitoring, and debugging. In this way, companies benefit from a higher degree of ownership and accountability, which outputs better quality software. It gives companies a single point of contact for resolving issues because leaders know exactly who to call when a problem arises. I like to call this approach ‘STOSA’ (Single Team Service Oriented Architecture), which refers to how teams are managed and created.

As apps have increasing responsibilities as they’re modernised, complications can occur much more easily. By using the above model of having a single team responsible for each specific area, it means scaling the size of applications and fixing problems becomes a lot easier.

Key challenges around cloud migration

Cloud migration will be a long and rocky road, so IT teams will definitely face a handful of problems whilst optimising business performance. One of the biggest challenges will be availability: keeping applications functioning whilst avoiding outages, and avoiding downtime whether scheduled or otherwise.

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As apps are increasingly engrained in their user’s way of life, availability optimisation after IT teams have migrated to the cloud becomes more important than ever. For example, if Facebook were to be down for 30 seconds, people will notice this very quickly. This also applies to business applications, so ultimately the key to success for teams is keeping large scale applications operating and not having any downtime. Since scheduled maintenance is no longer possible, companies now need to implement real-time updates and leverage real-time deploys.

What next?

IT teams should invest in a number of tactics to optimise performance. However, the number one challenge they face is their ability, or inability, to keep the application running and resolve problems due to extremely thin teams.

Visibility solves this critical problem. An overview into and across the entire application and IT infrastructure is paramount in keeping applications running to reduce MTTD (Mean Time To Detection) and MTTR (Mean Time To Resolution). Teams will have a better understanding of their current resources and scale appropriately. For example, they may discover that they have excessive server resources assigned to their application, over and above those necessary to safely run the application. Plus, they will have visibility into how cloud resources are performing (how utilised they are, are they running at the proper amount of disc space, memory, etc.) and can easily see what is and is not being used.

Teams will be able to benefit from higher morale, key insights, and increased overall ownership. They will be able to see and notice the changes that are taking place across the business, as a result of their hard work – one cannot underestimate how very motivating this can be for staff. In other words, they see noticeable changes in KPIs directly impacted by their endeavours such as a/b testing. These efforts will, in turn, be advantageous for the user experience and lead to further customer appreciation.

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Without doubt, DevOps teams and technology leaders are highly determined to optimise their performance and meet ever-growing customer needs. However, these organisations should not be ashamed or too disappointed if their digital transformation journey doesn’t always live up to expectations and isn’t all too smooth sailing. At the end of the day, despite the undeniable benefits, cloud migration and the transition to modern software practices can be exciting, surprisingly complex, and tricky (all at the same time) in a world of constant change and limited resources.

Written by Lee Atchison, senior director, cloud architecture at New Relic.

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