Why IT Departments Need to Reduce Technical Debt in 2019

As we approach 2019, now is a great time for IT departments to evaluate next year’s goals and beyond. For many organizations, IT modernization is a necessary step in order to best utilize their existing data, grow services for both employees and customers, and to retain talented staff members who want to work at the forefront of their industry with the proper resources. But there’s a major hurdle to IT modernization: Technical debt.

Technical debt is something every IT organization struggles to prevent, but understands is inevitable. As applications and infrastructure age, they become difficult and costly to maintain. Industries vary in how quickly technical debt accumulates and why.

From applications created in an Access* database that live on some employee’s desktop, to file and email servers not part of a holistic cloud platform, these older systems can be vulnerable to a single point of failure and offer no agility within a business. Intel is no exception. With over 100,000 employees and decades of support, Intel has to update its ecosystem just like any other large enterprise.

Brent Conran, Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Security Officer for Intel, and his team built a strategy divided into three areas in order to tackle the problem of technical debt.

Identify and Assess

The first step is to identify the volume of technical debt within your organization and prioritize your modernization work according to cost and urgency. One way to do this is through application rationalization.

Essentially this is a three-step process to decide what applications are no longer needed and can be retired, what applications have been commoditized and can be migrated to software-as-a-service (SaaS), and what applications are strategic and/or are ROI-constrained or and need to be reinvested. There are, of course, likely applications that simply aren’t cloud compatible and must be tolerated.

Reduce and Pay Debt

For applications that can be retired, an end-of-life roadmap needs to be completed. At Intel, we have established an IT 2020 roadmap to make these decisions. If a capability isn’t aligned to the IT 2020 roadmap, or isn’t relevant or required for Intel’s future state direction, then it will be marked for end-of-life.

For applications that can move to a SaaS model, workload placement, application consolidation, and architecture alignment needs to be considered. It’s important during this phase to project future costs and potential lock-in with each vendor. For strategic and ROI-constrained applications, cloud infrastructure needs to be modernized and tuned for optimized performance.

Prevent

Mitigating future technical debt requires the close collaboration of architects and software developers working within a well-defined governance model. Eventually adopting a DevOps process for continual deployment could be an end goal, but virtualized computing, networking, and software-defined storage to establish hyper-converged infrastructure must come first. Typically a data center refresh, through internal purchases or vendor upgrades, should happen every three to four years in order for the latest software to run properly on optimized hardware.

Act Now

For many enterprises, external forcing functions are increasing the urgency to act now. For example, Microsoft end of extended support for two mainstream business applications—Windows Server* and SQL Server 2008*—present an opportunity to modernize both hardware and software together to maximize ROI. Extended support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will end on July 9, 2019, while extended support for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will end on January 14, 2020.

Besides upfront costs, there’s also a rather unspoken reason organizations carry so much technical debt: Complacency. It can creep into any team. How many times have we, as technical professionals, seen or heard about a company unable to upgrade because so-and-so wrote the code years ago and then that person left? Or how many times have IT teams continued over spending on support because modernization takes more initial effort? And worse, how many times have known security vulnerabilities gone unfixed and eventually caused huge losses?

A new year offers the perfect time to set goals for the coming months and recognize new opportunities, such as adopting a DevOps model and utilizing containers in order for applications to be more flexible, publish faster, and remain sustainable. Don’t miss this chance to make a plan that will set your company on the right track. For more information, read the white paper Business Transformation for the Digital Age.

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Todd Christ

About Todd Christ

Todd Christ is an Enterprise Solutions Architect at Intel Corporation. He is a dynamic, highly accomplished computer science professional with a deep history of leveraging novel technologies to develop solutions to chronic business challenges. Todd worked in several roles in Information Technology prior to his career shift to the Intel Datacenter Group where he currently promotes Software Defined Infrastructure models, solutions and technologies. Todd is a strong proponent of Hybrid Cloud strategies for Enterprise and Government markets. He has broad knowledge and success in engineering and development environments; he excels at qualifying, integrating, and testing diverse systems. Todd is a skilled trainer and project leader; able to direct multiple tasks effectively and readily master innovative software and tools.