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Unlocking the Resurgence of Modernization: Why it's Cooler Than Ever and Deserves Recognition
Modernization has been an issue for decades, but has gotten more lip service than anything else. A plethora of new options and approaches may be changing things and making modernization cool again.
👋 Hi and welcome to The DX Report — all about Digital Transformation, the Digital Experience, and the Digital Enterprise. I’m industry analyst, author, and speaker Charles Araujo, and I’m all about providing insights and analysis for enterprise IT leaders as you make the big bets about your organization’s future!
The Bet: Modernizing, for Real This Time
Thinking about IT modernization reminds of being in a gang when I was growing up.
Well, the gang was just me, my brother, and our two cousins. And, we didn't do anything nefarious. But almost every summer, the four of us were inseparable. Our grandmother would try to have the four of us together as often as possible, and she took us everywhere. And everywhere we went, we strutted around and turned it into an adventure filled with a bunch of our private little games.
There were our epic Star Wars battles across the campus of Cal State LA. There were hours-long made up games played with Hot Wheels. And then there were the silly little mind games.
My eldest cousin was a master at this weird thing we would do where he would make up some wild story about something we were going to do. We'd all be mesmerized and, in most cases, a little scared. And then he'd say, "Nah. Here's what we're going to do. For real this time."
We'd all laugh and get on with the next adventure.
The modernization of the IT tech stack feels a bit like those mind games of my youth. We've been talking about "modernizing" forever. And yet, almost no one has really done much of it. There are still so much legacy infrastructure and apps in production, and it seems as though modernizing them has been a can that just keeps getting kicked down the road.
Except today, just maybe, we're starting to say, "Nah. For real this time."
The question is, is this a bet that you should (finally) be making now?
There's a really good reason that modernization has been this thing that we talk about, but do in only small doses: it's been hard and expensive.
Many (probably most) of the the parts of the tech stack that need modernizing are running mission-critical functions. Moreover, most of them have been chugging along just fine for years and decades. Modernizing these environments seemed to be all risk and little reward.
Still, the risks of not modernizing continue to rise. The combination of aging equipment, non-existent documentation, and the continual retirement of the few people who know how to keep the legacy stack operating is becoming a perfect storm that threatens the very existence of many organizations.
Moreover, the rise of Generative AI and the importance of leveraging data for competitive advantage are driving IT leaders to prioritize workload flexibility and adaptability. Inevitably, that shift demands freeing those workloads from locked-in legacy architectures.
As the risks of inaction increase, the risks of modernizing are decreasing.
Newer technologies and approaches are eliminating the duality that used to exist in which your choice was to either leave workloads in place or completely rewrite/replatform them.
Today, there are numerous ways and various approaches available to you as you seek to find a way forward. Whether it is leveraging AI-powered tools to convert codebases, abstraction tools to free data while leaving core environments in place, or cloud-based services purpose built to support legacy environments (such as IBM i and AIX environments), enterprise IT leaders now have numerous options and pathways on the road to modernization.
The Brass Tacks: Invest, Pass, or Hold?
In our analysis, the calculation has shifted. The combination of increased risk of inaction and decreasing risks of modernizing make this less a question of if you should modernize and more a question of how.
With technology being the critical enabler of competitive differentiation, the need for speed, adaptability, and flexibility trumps all else. Of course, the core, mission-critical nature of these legacy workloads means that you still have no room for error. But the ability to leverage new tools and approaches means you no longer need to make all-or-nothing bets.
There are now numerous ways to mitigate risk while modernizing. For instance, legacy cloud services enable the migration of workloads into more scalable, purpose-built cloud environments without altering code or operability. Abstraction tools can separate data and workloads, freeing legacy systems from the monolithic trap. Additionally, AI-powered code modernization tools facilitate selective rewriting, replatforming, and migration of workloads to modern environments.
And that's just one potential pathway. The key is that you now have lots of options — and none of them involve a multi-year, multi-million-dollar, this-better-work-or-I've-killed-the-company sort of modernization project.
So, invest in modernization. Just do it smartly.
So, that’s the brass tacks for my point of view, but what do you think? Agree? Think I’m completely off? Let me know!
And don’t keep this conversation to yourself. Invite your friends and associates to weigh in!