Being part of an established company is a lot like living in an old building. Usually, they are built with a solid construction, have “good bones” and have classic features (think hard-wood floors). But there are problems as well. The plumbing and electricity are out-of-date and in need of constant repair. Similarly, just because companies change and grow, it doesn’t mean how their data is stored and accessed can keep up.
This is where re-architecture comes in.
Re-architecture happens when a company’s internal systems or applications (and the languages used to build them) are out-of-date, leading to an inability to make updates quickly or even access data in real-time. For example, if a system that stores your data is 50 years old, it may not work with newer languages or be capable of supporting features like machine learning. So, let’s dive into why it may be important to consider re-architecting, and the specific ways doing so can increase efficiency organization-wide.
Companies re-architect to improve how they access their data or to ensure data can be used in a way that flows and makes sense with newer technologies.
What does “data access” mean in terms of re-architecture? Improving how your team gets the data it needs, or how different databases work together. Some companies may want to shift old databases and internal systems to the cloud to take advantage of different tools that often come with cloud storage. Amazon Web Services, for example, has a host of capabilities companies can take advantage of if they re-architect, from machine learning to storage optimization.
Weaveworks explains the benefits of cloud re-architecture, specifically: “The main goals of re-architecting are to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. This means breaking an application down and rebuilding it in a service-oriented, scalable design.”
That said, taking advantage of cloud capabilities isn’t the ONLY way to re-architect. Some companies may opt to update their old systems internally rather than migrate everything to the cloud. Why? It can be astronomically expensive and time-consuming, and in some cases, unnecessary to implement if a simple rehosting (aka “lift & shift,” where systems are migrated mostly as-is to the cloud) will do.
But if it’s so expensive, why are legacy companies investing in re-architecture? It can save even more in the long run. Here’s how.
Established companies with old databases most likely notice the cost, in both price and man-hours, of their data infrastructure. Old databases often crash, don’t play nice with other languages, or may have some parts that simply can no longer be edited. This leads to developers spending a ton of time working on a system that can never truly work the way a company needs it to (aka a huge waste of money). In fact, a Logicalis Global CIO survey found that 43% of CIOs interviewed consider complex legacy technology a considerable impediment to digital transformation.
While many companies may opt for cloud-based re-architecture, re-architecting on the cloud has its own costs such as paying for the services of companies like AWS. It does have a fair number of benefits from a cost perspective as well, however, as Architech states, “Serverless computing is proving extremely successful at running workloads on a pay-per-use basis where IT has no infrastructure to maintain and developers can focus on running their code on a ready-made cloud platform.” Serverless computing is just one of many cloud models, which means that companies can choose the best model to fit their needs and their budget.
There are many advantages to large, established companies, but for all the positive aspects, they can be slower to act than smaller, more nimble start-ups. Re-architecting can change that, as Liberty Mutual Insurance found out. According to Srinivas Kantipudi, a Liberty Mutual architect, Liberty re-architected with the goal of regulating processes that had previously taken hours and even days, to be done in real-time. “Real-time closing means our business people don’t need to wait for any time to close the books at the end of the month. In our previous [setup], they would wait for 10 days to close the books.” Migrating and optimizing their data also helped with complex international currency translations, speeding up the process time tenfold. Maybe most importantly, their “financial analysts are able to create ad-hoc reports in minutes.” Working with real-time data makes companies more agile, better informed, and quicker to act.
Sometimes, technologies simply age out. Old technologies may no longer be able to handle the tasks that are being asked of them, due to either a priority shift or a simple lack of technological improvements to keep up with the times. Furthermore, newer engineers may no longer be taught how to use the older technology, which leads to difficulty in hiring, an underperformance in tasks, and, worst of all, a total stand-still if and when something goes wrong. If this occurs, the decision to re-architect is a necessary one.
Scalability: Creating a system more amenable to scalability may be the biggest reason to consider re-architecting your data systems. Re-architecting allows for your company to achieve the greatest business impact whether you choose the cloud or to build a more up-to-date internal system or application. For legacy brands with older systems in place, those systems may have been great for processing data when it was first implemented, but over time, their usefulness may have diminished as newer technologies and needs emerged.
The best example of this is Netflix. As Yury Izrailevsky, Netflix’s VP of Cloud and Platform Engineering explains it, back in 2008, Netflix was competing with Blockbuster in shipping DVDs to subscribers. After a data breach, they realized that they, “had to move away from single points of failure, like relational databases in our datacenter, towards highly reliable, horizontally scalable, distributed systems in the cloud.” What does this mean? Re-architecting also makes data safer and allows you to anticipate and prepare for possible problems.
It took Netflix years, but they were able to shift away from their DVD shipment business into video streaming, becoming one of the most successful companies of the 21st century. As Mr. Izrailevsky states, “re-architecting takes longer, but it can be a very effective way for an enterprise to re-boot its culture and, if your application is a good product-market fit, can lead to a healthy ROI. Most importantly, however, re-architecting can set the stage for years and years of continual reinvention that boosts business performance in even the most competitive markets.”
Is Re-Architecting Right For You?
To reiterate, re-architecting is a major endeavor that requires the right partner with the right experience. New skills need to be learned. Decisions must be made about whether a complete migration to the cloud, updating an old system, or some combination is the best fit. Old data must be protected and reorganized intelligently. New data must have a proper place. So, how do you know if your company should re-architect? A good first step is to consult with industry experts, such as the team at Lineate. We’ve helped legacy brands re-architect to ensure that their data can keep up with 21st-century demands and we’ve got what it takes to help you, too.
To arrange a free consultation about re-architecting your databases, contact one of our experts today.