By rearchitecting apps into a collection of microservices, agencies can reconfigure and redeploy components to unlock productivity, ensure ROI and enhance resilience.
Unlocking extra productivity, enhancing flexibility and creating long-term value for taxpayers—all great reasons why state and local governments should be investing in cloud app modernization. At the same time, tight budgets, complex IT infrastructures and an overly cautious attitude toward change often prevent agencies from extracting maximum value from the cloud.
Let’s examine why state and local governments should prioritize cloud app modernization and look at how they can achieve it in the right way.
What exactly is cloud app modernization?
The phrase cloud app modernization gets bandied around a lot—sometimes incorrectly. The truth is that it’s not enough to simply migrate existing infrastructure to the cloud in a lift-and-shift approach. Instead, unlocking the true advantages of cloud is an ongoing, iterative process that involves re-examining the entire application portfolio.
With legacy applications running in the cloud, changing or scaling any component means updating the entire app, which is not much different from running the same app on-premises. Instead, by deconstructing and rearchitecting apps into a collection of microservices, agencies can quickly and independently reconfigure and redeploy the modular components. These can be enhanced by cloud-native technologies like containerization, serverless architectures and DevOps.
Why should I care?
I could talk about the exciting features of cloud application modernization till the cows come home, but that approach doesn’t convince state and local government decision-makers. Instead, the decision usually boils down to the following macro benefits.
Autonomy: With modern, cloud-native applications, teams can build, test and release new functionality without depending on other teams—building a culture of ownership and autonomy.
Agility and speed: By removing complex interdependencies and sign-off processes, teams can move faster and solve problems more easily.
Reliability: Occasional system failures are inevitable in any organization. But for state and local governments, any outage can impact essential services like the judiciary, local schools and even emergency medical services. The advantage of modern, cloud-native apps is that any failure is localized to specific microservices, minimizing the impact on the rest of the system, maximizing uptime.
Scalability: State and local governments often deal with unexpected spikes in demand for their services. Perhaps the most memorable example of this in recent times was the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which saw many states struggling to keep appointment-booking apps online. But demand spikes can also happen following natural disasters and around elections and tax season, for example. Modern, cloud-native apps are perfect for these scenarios. Rather than scaling an entire app, it’s simple to just scale the relevant micro-services.
Cost saving: State and local governments are laser-focused on getting maximum value for citizens’ tax dollars, a fact that has only been exacerbated by recent inflationary pressures. Though it involves some initial expenditure, a recent study found that migrating to cloud-based microservices can improve cost efficiency by as much as 29%. These savings come from eliminating cloud resources wasted on inefficient, legacy, unoptimized processes. Reducing IT maintenance, enhancing reliability and digitizing core processes also contribute to cost savings.
How can we do it?
Though the case for cloud app modernization in state and local governments is clear, it can be a tricky path to tread. A report from the Cloud Security Alliance found that 90% of CIOs had experienced at least one disrupted or failed modernization project.
To maximize chances of success, agencies must take time to plan, navigate, engineer and incrementally execute their cloud app modernization project. The following steps are a good place to start:
Know the application portfolio: Most state and local governments have a vast library of software resources. Some may have been created to run on mainframes in the early days of computing, written in languages like COBOL and assembler that are outdated and hard to maintain now that programmers with the requisite skills are now reaching retirement age. Many of these apps are mission-critical, while others have been forgotten.
It’s crucial to document which hardware apps run on, any interdependencies, the language they’re written in, their age and any known security risks. Since doing this manually is extremely time-consuming, many organizations invest in software to automate the process. With whichever approach, try to avoid cutting corners in the discovery process, as this can undermine any future efficiency gains.
Cull unused software: Once a complete picture of the agency application portfolio is available, it’s important to remove unused and outdated software—state and local governments are notorious for hoarding these. Doing this makes it much easier to track and manage the remaining assets.
Consider future needs and goals: The benefits of cloud-native apps include near-infinite computing power, AI-driven tools and ample storage. To take advantage of these benefits, agencies will need to think about how to turn these rich capabilities into tangible operational benefits.
Find quick wins: Don’t try to modernize all applications at once: It’ll cause chaos. Instead, start by picking the quickest wins. This might mean modernizing applications that’ll help solve pressing problems, work more quickly or even mitigate serious security vulnerabilities. Remember, data and expertise should back these decisions.
Develop a roadmap for the overall infrastructure, as well as each app: Having a clear plan (on both a macro and micro level) will help prevent any unpleasant surprises.
Make ongoing improvements: Creating a cloud-native app portfolio isn’t a case of “set it and forget it.” Make sure app data is captured across the entire tech ecosystem to monitor performance.
The bottom line?
For state and local governments, cloud app modernization isn’t easy and won’t happen overnight. But IT decision-makers have the responsibility to make it happen to unlock productivity, ensure ROI and enhance resilience. Selecting a partner with the necessary experience, technology and skilled staff will make the process easier—minimizing set-up times and up-front overhead.