In the SourceFuse “Talking Out Cloud” leadership chat series, we were joined by special guest, Jason Rook, Global Modernization Program Lead at Amazon Web Services*, to discuss modernization in the modern era and how enterprises can benefit from working with AWS Consulting Partners.

#1 Modernization might mean different things to different people – how would you best describe “modernization”?

I like to tell people that everyone they work with in the technology space has a modernization pitch today, whether it’s software or hardware providers – there’s a lot of noise around modernization. At AWS we have a philosophy on how we talk about modernization; the definition we use is that modernization is basically a process of progressively transforming applications and infrastructure to help customers extend into higher value cloud native services they can unlock. The new business capabilities of modernization also accelerate innovation and reduce technical debt.

Perhaps the most interesting with our modernization philosophy is the phrase ‘progressively transforming’. We understand that progress or modernization is not really a milestone on a project plan or an endgame – it’s continuous. If you look at the services we develop and launch to market, we’re constantly pushing the envelope and progressively helping our customers transform.

My particular focus is really on modernizing Microsoft workloads. We know there’s this incredible footprint of Windows and SQL-based applications in the ecosystem, some living on premises and some already living in the cloud. But what we hear from customers is that they’re at a point where they want to move away from some of those legacy, commercial-based licensing operating systems and databases. They’re looking to capture some of the benefits from utilizing new cloud-native architecture, whether open-source or purpose-built. I’m focused on helping partners like SourceFuse to work with those customers interested in moving from Microsoft workloads to cloud native architectures.

#2 When it comes to Windows workloads, what would you say have been the biggest drivers for modernization in recent years?

In no particular order I would say innovation, increasing skill sets, improving security and performance, and cost reduction. Customers, software providers, or large enterprise IT organizations, are eager to innovate, either bringing new products to market or advancing current products. They need to get new features or functionality to their end users and end customers. I like to call it the ‘rise of the developer’, which SourceFuse is no stranger to having a very strong DevOps practice, where developers are leading the pace of innovation at a customer that drives modernization.

Coupled with that is skill set – an incredibly important piece of the dialogue. As customers continue to innovate and embrace DevOps concepts, skill set is super important because there’s not a lot of talent in the market so customers are continuously trying to align their monetization strategy to a place where they think the talent’s going to be or where they can develop or transition the talent.

Then there’s also this motion around the security footprint. There’s no doubt that every customer is concerned about their security footprint today, and we see customers modernizing as a way to increase security. We see this a lot with legacy-to-modern strategies, to become more secure in lockstep with improving performance. Today, customers have a very low appetite for applications, systems and tools that don’t perform well. So, we see customers are embracing this modernization strategy to address performance as well as global scalability. 

Then finally, when they talk about modernization everybody talks a lot about the drive for cost reduction, whether that’s TCO or removing cost components such as licensing components.

If you take all those concepts and apply it to Microsoft workloads, there is an interesting push around what I call three pathways:

  1. Application modernization. We see customers that have rightfully invested in .NET framework, have built great .NET framework applications, and have developed many skills around building applications. But they’re at a point where they want to embrace more modern cloud native architecture, including containers, serverless, microservices or leveraging open-source tools, all of which may involve going beyond in-house skill sets. We see customers in this Microsoft world making that shift from .NET frameworks to .NET Core or .NET6 to really take an app modernization pathway.
  2. Database modernization. For a number of different reasons, some customers are locked into huge commercial licensing contracts around their database, but only using a sliver of the functionality. Exploring various AWS purpose-built database solutions, some customers experience one-tenth of the cost with cloud performance of a commercial-grade database. We also see a relational shift with customers going to other open-source databases, a great place to live and run in the AWS ecosystem.
  3. Decoupling monolithic applications. We have customers that have built massive monolithic applications that include .NET applications and SQL-based applications connecting to a mainframe somewhere, possibly running since 2008. With the help of AWS Consulting Partners, these customers are starting to decouple what that application does and break down the components, moving that massive monolithic application to an entirely cloud native architecture.

#3 For businesses thinking about Windows modernization, but not sure where to start, what advice would you give them?

We see the most success when a customer engages with an AWS Consulting Partner for a number of reasons but the one that always pops into my mind first is skill set. We have thousands of customers that have done a lot of great work using in-house skills, for example, made the move to public cloud infrastructure or to AWS EC2, maybe they built a well architected framework or even optimized an EC2. However, most of those customers don’t have more advanced in-house knowledge on additional AWS cloud-native services, like FarGate or Glue. To get that level of knowledge they should go to a consulting partner, because folks like SourceFuse have the expertise plus use cases of other successful projects – this is so critical to helping customers get started on the right foot.

The next thing getting started is to appreciate the power of the assessment. It’s critical to take time working with a third-party expert to analyze the current state and understand how it might map to their vision or solve a current pain. As part of an assessment, an AWS Consulting Partner will help the financial model, comparing current state with future state. This is possibly the most difficult piece, yet probably one of the most important on the modernization journey – without that financial analysis often a customer will struggle or stall.

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#4 What are the benefits of working with an AWS Consulting Partner, like SourceFuse?

Customers that know their architecture inside and out, and work with it every day, find it difficult to envision how their future state might look, whereas an AWS Consulting Partner has helped others to make that transition time and time again. They know how it starts and how it ends, and can overcome any road bumps along the way. In addition, when you work with a partner like SourceFuse, you get access to all of the AWS Partner Programs, some of which are subsidized.

When you think about the need to find somebody who’s an expert, who’ll help you understand your current state, what tools/services you’ll need, how you’re going to get there, etc. it all comes at a price! This is where SourceFuse can access programs, such as Windows Modernization Program (WMP) or Migration Assessment Program (MAP), helping subsidize the overall modernization journey and unravel any complexities with ease. So, I think that’s what I would recommend to any customer – to step back and think about all the anticipated challenges having not gone through it before, and consider the value that an experienced consulting partner can bring to help that journey.

#5 What does the future hold for Windows workloads and modernization?

Let’s look at it from the perspective of what’s still going on in the ecosystem. If you talk to Gartner, IDC or other analysts, they will tell you that there’s still a significant amount of customer workloads that are on premises today. And eventually, those customers are going to want to move those workloads to the cloud. In the past there were a lot of on-premises workloads for a number of different reasons. I know SourceFuse is an expert in the healthcare space, and I think that’s an industry that was a little late to rapidly adopt, but now it seems to be on this very rapid curve to get on the cloud. That’s an example of an industry which still has some on premise applications.

What we see with all of those customers, that have still investments on-prem, is that they are modernizing to cloud. What I mean by that is historically, as you think of the early days of AWS and public cloud infrastructure, customers were exploring what we’d call ‘lift and shift’. What we see now is a different end-game, a goal of cloud native architecture, using microservices and containers, etc. So, there’s a growing trend of customers that are not following the lift and shift motion but are wanting their on-premise application which is currently running Windows and SQL, to be running Linux or PostgreSQL, say.

I also think as the tools to do that work and the expertise from folks like SourceFuse becomes more available, the pace cloud modernization will accelerate. Building on that, we also see customers that have done a lift and shift are now perfectly poised to go down a modernization path because they have overcome many of the initial hurdles. For example, resources are set up, cost modeling done, with a better understanding of cloud security, shared responsibility model, and cloud managed services.

Five or six years ago, those were big stumbling blocks for some customers, but now that they’re on cloud they’re looking at new cloud native services that they can take advantage of. They’re incredibly excited about achieving more, and the pace is really fast because they’ve already done a lot of that early-stage work. Customers are saying “I need to get on the cloud – my industry’s ready, I’m ready. All I need is the right skill set or the right third-party expertise to plug in quickly and help me do it.” 

I think it’s going to be an exciting time for any customer who’s exploring the idea of modernization and connecting with an AWS Consulting Partner with the expertise they can bring to those customers.

Ready to start your cloud journey and modernize with AWS experts? Let’s talk.

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