Application Rationalization – ‘The foundational initiative for successfully re-platforming applications.’ The statement seems straight forward but given past experience, it’s astonishing how many organizations that have undertaken platform upgrades and had, in fact, NOT given much credence or thought to this critical process. Application rationalization is the fundamental precursor to fully understand the current application landscape and the technical migration requirements needed to create a structured deployment plan. Application rationalization also involves establishing application gating and transition workflows. Objectively, rationalization should reduce environmental risks through enhanced visibility, ensuring project success and the best platform outcome possible.
Not doing so has had, and will have, on-going detrimental consequences for end-users, infrastructure, operational and client-facing applications, system admins and finances. Not to mention corporate image and potential long-term indirect impacts to market share.
This article will provide an overview as to why enterprises need to undertake application rationalization, the steps required, as well as the near and long-term benefits of taking practical and constructive actions.
So, what is Application Rationalization and why is it important?
Application rationalization is not ‘yet another’ purposely coined technical term for a niche market service; its name speaks for itself. In its simplest form, application rationalization is a framework of logical, defined steps for the assessment, and clear understanding, of the entire application landscape that will be impacted by an operating system upgrade or platform migration (VDI, hosted app, packaging, etc.). It is the inventorying of applications: who owns and uses them, user and access requirements, versions in use, the number of supported instances, OSs they reside on, their value to the organization (or not), and the (future) compatibility with the target environment (technically or operationally), etc.; basically the works.
The gathered information creates a holistic view that forms the basis for the sound decisions in regard to planning where and how the applications will be hosted in the future, the delivery methods to the end-users, if they are still of value to the organization (or require EOL plans), where cost-saving consolidation can occur, appropriate packaging methodology, as well as the comprehensive implementation plans. The end run of the application rationalization efforts will be a well-executed project that positions the applications, end-users and enterprise with the most robust and stable operational platform possible. This data then feeds into application packaging and testing, migration, platform sizing, and ongoing enterprise software portfolio and management programs.
How did the IT environments get to this point?
It should come as no surprise that IT environments have become a hodgepodge of technology and applications over the years. How many of the following events sound familiar…
- Organizations structured as silos with departments defending their operational turf
- Corporate expansions requiring the quick build-out of infrastructure
- Public sector departments split and/or realigned
- Corporate mergers and acquisitions with the rapid amalgamation of legacy systems
- Applications built in-house years ago
- Mixed platforms from physical to VMs to cloud
…Just to name a few. The application environments can become a minefield especially when past upgrades and migrations have occurred and of course, the departing of key resources and their tribal knowledge with little-to-no useful documentation left behind.
Supporting these IT operations are administrators whose primary focus is to ensure current systems and applications continue to function and meet defined SLOs/SLAs on a daily basis. Routine efforts pivot on environment stability and the related technologies: servers, OS and application installs; patching; monitoring; troubleshooting; and/or vendor version upgrades. Unless an enterprise is invested in their IT administrators to keep them ahead of the technology curve, the level of in-house expertise and knowledge is limited to existing technologies/versions and near-term requirements only, with minimal thought to new technologies or service delivery methods on the horizon.
What are the repercussions of not leveraging Application Rationalization?
Some application migrations will be straight forward, such as those already residing on modern operating systems. Most applications will have numerous and varying question marks that will need to be resolved by consensus with application owners and knowledgeable/experienced technicians. These can may include:
- Does the vendor support the application on current Windows operating systems (Windows 10, Windows Server 2012-2019, etc.)?
- Is the install media still available?
- Is the software still under support with a valid vendor support contract?
- How many users in total access the application?
- How critical is it to business operations?
- How is the software licensed?
- How frequently is the application updated?
- Is the application accessed by users in the WAN and/or externally?
- What is the application’s architecture? E.g. web-based, standalone, client-server, etc.
- Does the application require a vendor upgrade before migration to a current OS?
- Are any of the original software developers (in-house builds) still around for support?
To more complex considerations (just to name a few) such as:
- How resource intensive is the application?
- Is the application currently packaged and how (MSI, App-V, MSIX, App Layering, Thin App, etc.)
- Does the application have key dependencies (unique OS configurations, hardware, other software, relaxed security permissions, specific browser or Java versions, etc.)
- Has there been compatibility issues in the past?
- Is the application subject to any regulatory compliance or above-average security controls?
- Is the application multi-user capable of hosting Citrix or Remote Desktop Services platforms?
- What is the application’s lifespan in the organization? Will it be displaced in the near-term with another solution or moving to a web-based SaaS model? Is it presently deemed “sunset” and only used as a legacy archive? Is its infrastructure being targeted re-platforming to a public cloud?
- Is the application redundant to other applications already in the organization and is consolidation possible?
In order to map out the ideal, eventual landscape (the big picture) these unknowns must be turned into knowns. In addition, identifying the application sets used by the “personas” within the organization will be critical to orchestrating effective migrations of users between platforms, in particular with digital workspace transformation initiatives such as moves to VDI.
Failure to identify and resolve all requirements upfront will lead to planning and execution re-work, resource constraints, added costs, extended timelines, and even project failure. All it takes is one department lagging in the discovery and assessment phase, or the realization, late in the game, that a specific application developer is no longer available to tweak the application. Worse case, an application is no longer vendor-supported beyond an OS that is no longer in support. This latter scenario could result in the legacy, unsupported platform (OS and Citrix if in use) remaining operational for an extended period of time (months/years) rather than decommissioned. This leaves the enterprise on the hook supporting tandem environments while increasing operational risk and potential financial burden for extended vendor support, if available at all.
So, where do we go from here?
Application rationalization is the critical step for platform upgrades and migrations; it cannot be minimized or overlooked. It is a fundamental precursor to digital transformation, in particular, digital workspace design and deploy activities. Application rationalization provides the logical steps to investigate and gather the detailed stats to understand the entire impacted enterprise application landscape in order to craft the appropriate build strategy and deployment path.
The processes also enable the organization to develop steady-state operational application intake workflows and gating processes in order to deal with future application requirements. For example, if an application is appropriate for VDI or hosted application deployment, which application packaging and delivery methodology best suit its needs, and if it warrants a separate silo if it’s being hosted in a platform such as Citrix. This allows organizations to maintain the integrity of their platform objectives and avoid sprawl and administrative overhead from catering to less-than-ideal use cases better serviced by other deployment methodologies.
Grasping the importance and benefits of the application rationalization process starts at the management level; doing so will ensure project and process buy-in by all stakeholders, facilitating inter-operations cooperation and timely execution of project actions.
High-Level Application Rationalization Process for Digital Workspace Transformation
- Engage/interview appropriate resources to identify user groups and business requirements, including how and when specific users utilize the system(s) – physical vs. VDIs, access requirements, etc.
- Identify the “personas” be they on a role, “geo”, or departmental basis and their application sets. This is most successful through a mix of discovery tools and interviews with departmental stakeholders.
- User and business cases.
- Mapping of applications to user groups.
- Understanding of the types of delivery models required.
Application Data Gathering:
- Leverage enterprise tools (SCCM, SysTrack, scripts, Citrix subcomponents such as EdgeSight or Director) to identify applications, their resource load, frequency of use.
- Utilize other information sources to identify additional applications.
- Identify and engage application owners and resources.
- Leverage AppDNA and an application decision matrix to determine delivery method compatibility.
- List of applications required, their types and criticality, compatibility with delivery models and technical dependencies.
- Identification of application owners and support resources for application testing.
- Defined delivery methods by application/user group.
Develop Application Onboarding Strategy:
- Gather all user, application and technical information.
- Assess and plan application actions: Consolidations, version upgrades, retirement, delivery methods.
- Identify application dependencies for migration (application changes, communications, etc.)
- Define application packaging intake framework and testing orchestration.
- Application packaging strategy for all required applications.
- Group and security/access policies refined.
- Application test plans.
- High-level deployment strategy.
The Benefits of Application Rationalization – Near and Long-Term:
The benefits of digital workspace transformation, under expert guidance, are well-known. Whether implementing industry-leading technologies, customizing user experiences, reducing future refresh costs, minimizing downtime, scalability, ability to keep software and OSs up-to-date, or superior secure access to virtual apps and desktops. None, including key benefits outlined below, can be realized without the pre-migration preparation efforts of the Application Rationalization process. Direct benefits include, but not limited to:
- A holistic application-centric analysis rather than purely infrastructure driven.
- An understanding of who is using what business applications.
- Identification of applications unsupported by the organization, and visibility into “shadow IT”.
- Identification of current state application risks and risk reduction strategies.
- Cost savings through application and image consolidation and retirement.
- Increased collaboration between departments/application owners and stakeholders.
- Enhanced project planning, delivery, and success.
- Refined and strengthened steady-state IT governance.
- Insight into IT resourcing, including in-house personnel.
- The value of knowledgeable and experienced third-party application rationalization and digital workspace migration specialists.
- Ongoing application rationalization and gating processes for new application requirements.
- Enhanced lifecycle roadmap for infrastructure, applications, IT resource and budgets.
Food for Thought – Making Informed Decisions:
Simply planning to upgrade a platform is not enough; organizations must take the steps to thoroughly understand the current application environment in order to make viable, informed and sound decisions for the long-term.
With the speed with which technology, client needs, and markets are changing, enterprises must position themselves to be lean, agile and adaptable to those shifts in order to maintain their market share, client base, and operational integrity.
To achieve a robust, well-oiled enterprise IT engine, serious consideration should be given to engaging digital workspace and application rationalization specialists to provide guidance and/or lead the migration efforts. In doing so, enterprises will see an immediate ROI through every phase of the engagement.
Skilled technical advisors go beyond simply having a stack of certifications or a Citrix ‘bible’ tucked under their arm; they bring to the table extensive experience, risk identification and mitigation strategies, and responsive troubleshooting practices, honed from lessons learned on a broad range of implementations.
Through established working relationships with Citrix, VMware, Microsoft, and others, Ferroque Systems has the advanced skills using vendor tools and processes and a comprehensive understanding of the technical world beyond the corporate walls. Having been directly involved with application migrations affecting over one million users, we have a level of expertise rarely matched by others in the industry.
Ferroque Systems possesses the insight needed to identify operational pitfalls, convey industry best practices, and demonstrate how enterprises can get the best value out of their infrastructure investment while marrying that knowledge with the corporate vision, setting enterprises on the optimal path forward.
Whether your organization is considering future system upgrades/migrations, contemplating a move towards cutting edge operational technologies, or simply need to grasp the true state of your existing IT environment to create a viable technical roadmap moving forward, Ferroque Systems, through their client-focused methodology and experience, can provide the industry-recognized Application Rationalization, VDI, and migration expertise and support required to ensure enterprise IT goals are met and surpassed.
Get in touch today, and see how we can put our expertise to work for you, and assist you in avoiding the most common pitfalls enterprise organizations face on their application migration and digital workspace transformation journeys.
Ferroque Systems is a technology consulting, IT advisory, and managed services firm specialized in virtualization and digital workspaces. Recognized internationally for our Citrix expertise, we focus on delivering innovative solutions to meet the needs and strategic goals of growing enterprise and mid-market businesses across the globe.