IT modernisation series – Rancher Labs: Kubernetes is a catalyst

Unlike digital-first organisations, traditional businesses have a wealth of enterprise applications built up over decades, many of which continue to run core business processes. 

In this series of articles we investigate how organisations are approaching the modernisation, replatforming and migration of legacy applications and related data services. 

We look at the tools and technologies available encompassing aspects of change management and the use of APIs and containerisation (and more) to make legacy functionality and data available to cloud-native applications.

This post is written by Olivier Maes, VP EMEA for Rancher Labs – the company is known for its work in operating-system-level virtualization tools.

Maes writes as follows…

IT modernisation can be intimidating, but it’s a necessity. Businesses that continue to rely on legacy technologies risk being left behind, while those that embrace digitalisation gain a competitive advantage.

It’s no easy feat.

IT modernisation isn’t just about getting rid of legacy hardware. It encompasses a number of technologies, people and processes that make your business run. Whether your company has been around for centuries or just a few years, there are universal challenges that face everyone – be it managing co-existing new and legacy systems or the investment of money and time needed to modernise.

One of the most vital drivers for any contemporary IT stack reimagining is of course cloud migration. Over time, businesses have been implementing ‘cloud-first’ strategies, ensuring they can handle the enormous volumes of data generated by apps, systems and customer interaction, as well as driving operational efficiency and reducing day-to-day management. Ultimately, this shift to the cloud enables innovation.

Wrangler fandangos

But cloud migration is an impossible task when teams are forced to wrangle with old-fashioned environments that not only hinder technological advancement but also negatively impact commercial success. Pragmatic companies that fully embrace digitalisation are more agile, innovative and responsive to market changes and are, as a result, more competitive.

For many, Kubernetes – or K8s as it is commonly called – is becoming a de facto standard for modernisation. K8s is, essentially, an orchestration layer that allows users to more effectively run workloads using containers. It enables companies, no matter what size or sector, to automate deployment, scaling and management of applications – often hundreds or thousands or more – running in the cloud, in the datacentre, at the edge, or in a mix of all three.

It also allows companies to make legacy functionality available for new, cloud-native applications and, crucially, it’s saving companies money and valuable time.

Given that 70 per cent of on-premise workloads run on Windows Server operating systems, those in the process of modernisation have been calling out for support for Windows containers.

Editorial note: This technology was declared stable last year in K8s v1.14, and with the release of Rancher 2.3, Rancher became the first orchestrator to support Windows containers.

ABAX, Europe’s largest telematics company, is a great example of a young firm working with K8s to transform its business. Despite processing masses of data from its sophisticated fleet tracking and vehicle control systems, the company had long relied on outdated technology. Running previously on VMs, this essential code needs a Windows environment, and it must run side-by-side Linux platforms.

Now, this company’s system engineers are finding that mission-critical workloads running in both Windows and Linux containers can be centrally orchestrated, regardless of whether they are deployed on-premise or in the cloud. This is important. Like others, it had spent many years developing core services in Windows environments and wanted to continue doing so, but having to re-engineer large swathes of infrastructure would have been costly and time-consuming.

This approach is saving money. The team estimates this has saved two months’ worth of set-up time – allowing the reallocation of resources to more strategic projects. Cluster operations are now far simpler, too – deployed, updated, secured and managed from one central place. While the company would have previously spent between two and seven days recovering a cluster, today they can reprovision a new, identical cluster within hours.

Kubernetes is the catalyst

Companies of all kinds, and in all sectors are under increasing pressure to innovate more quickly and to remain competitive. By being able to rapidly integrate legacy systems, DevOps time hastens, management time is reduced and companies can refocus on international expansion.

No matter what stage you’re at in your IT transformation process, it’s important to make the journey as smooth as possible. By allowing companies to hasten the path to modernisation, containers – and Kubernetes – will prove the catalyst for widespread change in all industries.



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