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Why IT modernisation requires setting data in motion

By Lyndon Hedderly, director, customer solutions, Confluent.

This article appeared here

The digital world has become the new competitive battlefield in the post-pandemic global economy with the benchmark for customer expectations set, and continually reset, by technology first disruptors such as Uber and Netflix. This has created an environment where failure to evolve and adapt to the digital needs of customers would leave some businesses in danger of becoming obsolete. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that 65% of UK companies plan to increase their technology investments.

To fend off these competitors, businesses need to provide their customers with a frictionless experience. This is non-negotiable - customers want to feel they have a connection to the companies they choose to take along their journey. However, to deliver that successfully, they need access to real-time data and insights. Right now, many businesses simply aren’t set up to allow that to happen.

What this means is that long-established companies are jumping on a digital transformation train and racing to rebuild their businesses. They need to utilise their technology investment to ensure data can flow between a complex fabric of IT systems and applications in real-time. Data needs to flow efficiently and effectively between modern and heritage applications.

Setting your business’s data in motion is key. The challenge for most is the complexity to achieving that especially for organisations who use and depend on legacy IT infrastructure. While this legacy infrastructure has struggled to keep up with modern customer demands, it is still incredibly valuable in managing critical business processes and data. Not only that, untangling and ripping out this infrastructure entirely to replace it with a modern, cloud-native architecture is simply too risky in most cases, especially for heavily-regulated organisations that can’t afford a moment of downtime or data loss.

So what should businesses do to ensure their IT provides real-time data and insights required to survive in today’s environment? The smart move lies in IT modernisation in parallel to existing critical legacy infrastructure, which can be slowly deprecated over time.

RIP to rip and replace

Customer expectations have shifted rapidly and traditional data centres with mainframe or aging architectures struggle to support the scale and speed to meet new customer and regulatory demands, including real-time interactions, scalability to cover multiple geographies and service flexibility. At the same time, legacy infrastructure holds an immense amount of value, both in terms of its data and specialised functionality, often developed over many years.

Organisations who have built themselves into commercial powerhouses during those earlier waves of technological innovation are now faced with a dilemma when thinking about modernising their IT systems. A complete rip and replace of all IT systems might appear attractive - but is simply too ambitious, costly and risky in most cases. Research from Micro Focus found 45% of enterprises ripping and replacing their application software were unsatisfied with the result. IT modernisation project deliverables, timelines and costs become more unpredictable as some complexities are hidden deep in the underlying infrastructure.

The alternative is to retain elements of core IT infrastructure and add a data layer around these core systems which will allow the unrestricted flow of data across the business.

Rather than gambling everything on a rip and replace project, many organisations choose the route of IT modernisation from a starting point of integration, not a full replacement of key systems, to continuously transform the IT infrastructure over a period of time.

How to set data in motion

The challenge with IT modernisation projects is linking all of the data together, such that modern services can benefit from the valuable insights of legacy data while treading lightly enough that they don’t affect the operation of on-premises infrastructure. Businesses need to operate in real-time but their data is mostly stuck in static databases. These data systems were designed to handle data at rest and not data in motion.

Implementing a platform which will allow data to move fluidly is fundamental for modernisation success, as it helps link all data points together in real-time, no matter where they reside in an organisation’s IT infrastructure – from the cloud to on-premises environments. This will enable businesses to cut across infrastructure silos, allowing systems to continually react, respond and adapt to an ever-evolving business in real-time.

This requires a data infrastructure that supports collecting a continuous flow of data from across the company as well as from external sources like social media platforms. In other words, as industries increasingly become software-defined where software will be executing commands in running a typical IT infrastructure, it needs a data platform built for data in motion, which is where Confluent comes in.

The Confluent platform operates as both a messaging, integration and a storage system in one solution, storing as much data as you need to and replaying the full message at the click of a button. That means legacy systems only need to transmit data as and when something changes, while new systems can read and work with the full dataset in real-time.

Unlocking data silos to drive business-wide innovation

As expectations grow and customers demand that digital technology does more, innovation has become a case of life or death for organisations. Having legacy infrastructure shouldn’t hold that innovation back. Instead, legacy infrastructure can be the foundation for IT modernisation projects as it integrates with a platform that is designed for data in motion.

Like how the central nervous system interacts with organs in the body, digital processes now rely on a data in motion platform to handle the multitude of different operations happening in different places and geographies. There should be no need to remove legacy technology simply because it works in a different way to cloud-based offerings. The invaluable data held in legacy systems may be lost or become unused if the system gets completely replaced.

Data in motion can be seen as that central nervous system, tying all enterprise data together, and enabling any organisation to innovate and win in a digital-first world. With Gartner predicting the majority (80%) of new tech services and products will be built by those outside of the IT team, providing the wider businesses with complete and consistent access to data will accelerate the creation of new ideas and the delivery of new revenue streams.



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