Cloud first is not necessarily best - You don’t have to go all-in

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I ended my last blog post in 2019 in fairly reflective mood about the need, sometimes, to look past the shiny new technologies and focus on some of the less exciting, but equally taxing questions about implementation and support that IT departments face. So perhaps, there is no better place to start in 2020 than by looking at the challenges of balancing support for existing applications with the clamour for new, more agile applications.

Unless you are a “born-in-the-cloud” start-up, chances are 80% of your IT resources and budget are focused on maintaining your legacy systems of record. If those are packages, there is also a fairly strong possibility that there will be siren voices in your ear from the vendor encouraging you to migrate to the cloud version of the application. But whether they are bought-in packages or in-house developed applications, there will be pressure from all around to do more for less, faster.

I hope we are becoming a little more realistic about the claims that Cloud computing will automatically save you money. It might, but then again, poorly implemented and controlled it could also cost you. The point is, you need to understand what the business needs and then, do well what is right, rather than blindly follow a technology trend.

I was recently speaking with Mark Armstrong, Rimini Street’s EMEA General Manager. Rimini Street is a global organisation that provides 3rd party support services for a range of legacy applications. While they provide that support at around 50% of the cost of on-going support services from the vendor, Mark said that moving away from a vendor’s own support was as much about gaining control of the roadmap for your enterprise apps as the cost savings. Considering that, on top of the straight support fee savings, freeing up resources to do other things means that the cost of support can be reduced by as much as 90% in some cases, I was curious to understand this roadmap element.

The point he is making, is that decisions about what, if and when you move to the cloud, should be based on supporting your business imperatives, not on the desires of the vendor. He is quite adamant that, if the legacy systems of record do not provide your business with competitive differentiation, you are probably better off leaving those systems running where they are. Moving them to the cloud is rarely a lift and shift exercise. Often, it requires changes in underlying business processes, and usually has architectural and performance implications that need to be considered. This can be both expensive and time consuming. Adding new functionality in the form of micro-services, running in a virtualised or cloud environment that can interface to the legacy application is an inherently less risky approach and gets your IT staff engaged with newer technologies.

Rimini Street provide a very hands-on support service with dedicated support managers that sit alongside the business and take responsibility for ensuring any issues and problems are resolved. They ensure that, at a minimum, the applications are kept updated for all regulatory and compliance requirements. They will even support custom code and ensure that new versions of the application.

I know from experience that the lifespan of major legacy systems of record is much longer than most people expect. It is also the case that today’s shiny new app will become tomorrow’s legacy system. So, while some of the traditional systems of record maybe on the way to retirement, I don’t expect to see Rimini Street retiring anytime soon. As for the CIO, with the additional costs saved, scarce people resources freed up and regulatory and legal compliance assured, he or she can focus on delivering agile and cost effective solutions that enable the business to remain Mutable and thrive in an ever changing world.