Adam Szabo runs the application development practice at New Signature UK, where he specialises in delivering scalable software for businesses on the Microsoft Azure platform.
Among his successes has been helping to re-architect the Met Office’s Weather Observations Website back-end.
He joined Computer Business Review for a chat about the current state of the application market.
To what extent are legacy applications holding innovation back?
Legacy applications put a significant burden on the growth of businesses. Their support costs a lot, particularly as some legacy operating systems and platforms reach the end of their supportable life.
Hosting on-premises or in private data centres keeps costs high, which ultimately reduces competitiveness. The scalability of your solution in this context is also limited by available hardware upgrades, with no horizontal scaling (see later points).
What are the potential benefits of developing cloud native apps for your business?
Cloud native apps have scalability built in. As a business grows, the infrastructure can scale with it, making sure the app continues to work smoothly and doesn’t crumble under load.
Cloud native architecture means the applications are ready to scale, just as the underlying infrastructure is scaled out. Legacy applications are not ready for this; in legacy the only way to scale is up (vertically) by adding more powerful hardware. That has finite limits. In the cloud world, you can scale horizontally as well (scale out), which has virtually no limits. A cloud native architecture supports horizontal scaling.
How much do you think businesses today are constrained by legacy apps and inelastic infrastructure?
Legacy systems and non-scalable infrastructure put a constraint on growth. Infrastructure need to scale and applications need to be able to serve increasing demand, as a business acquires more customers.
A scalable architecture means that more resources (storage, computing power, etc.) can be easily allocated just with a flick of a switch (and paying more, of course), without any major architectural changes or redesign.
Met Office WOW. The WOW platform was originally built as a monolithic Java application on Google cloud. It became much more successful than initially expected, so it received a lot more data contribution. Eventually it became very slow, and the architecture wasn’t scalable.
New Signature ended up redesigning the architecture to be a modular, scalable, component-based architecture built on Azure PaaS using .NET technologies. The new architecture is capable of handling the increased load, as well as scaling further, should the platform get more traction.
Another good example is a facilities management platform we worked on. One of the UK’s largest facilities management companies have an on-premise FM system that handles requests from clients, reports on SLA’s and KPI.
This is a monolithic, off the shelf system that has reached its limits in terms of scalability and extendibility. We started to modernise this by initially migrating a few selected workflows to the cloud. During this, we designed and built a new system based on a cloud-first architecture using Azure PaaS components.
This is an extendible and scalable system. Currently it integrates with the on-premise legacy systems. The plans are that as more and more workloads are moved over to the cloud, eventually dependence on the on-premise system stops and it can be decommissioned.