App Migration: Don’t fly blind

We’ve done hundreds of major migrations and one principle always holds true: successful migrations are front-loaded projects, with a lot of thinking before the doing part kicks in. The discovery phase is where you collect everything you know about your application estate and bring it together into one place. We call this approach Total Application Awareness™ because it completely clarifies your current app estate and its relationship to your business. The idea is to bring together six kinds of knowledge:
  • Users & Usage – Who’s using what apps, how often and why.
  • Applications – Exactly what applications you have, by department and location.
  • Business Processes – How your apps map to your processes.
  • Change Processes – Detailed knowledge of migration workflows as they apply in our enterprise.
  • Target Platform – In-depth understanding of the platform you’re migrating to (Windows 7 in this case) and how it interacts with applications.
  • Data & Dependencies – The relationships between apps and between apps and databases.
With this kind of rigorous discovery, you’ll migrate faster and at lower cost; drive down outsourcing and packaging costs; and minimise disruption to users and the business. Without it… you’re flying blind. Download our Windows 7 Migration eBook to learn more about how to streamline your application migration.

Don’t skimp on application compatibility testing

A few migrations ago, you might have got away with a ‘fix on fail’ program. Today, very few enterprises will even consider a major migration without some application compatibility testing to see which apps will reach the Promised Land. Unfortunately, many people’s idea of ‘app compat’ testing is pretty unscientific (picture a room full of techies installing apps and playing around with them). Any enterprise with more than about 300 applications needs serious, automated application compatibility testing as a precursor to migration. The low-end tools on the market tend to approach app compatibility using an ever-growing list of rules – essentially hard-coded if/then statements that try to capture every known compatibility issue. More sophisticated tools use heuristics to identify the components in each application that will create conflicts on the target platform. We prefer this route as it’s proven dramatically more accurate. A powerful application compatibility exercise will show you at a glance which apps are ready for Windows 7 (and whatever virtualisation platform you choose); which need a bit of remediation; and which will need to be treated as exceptions. Knowing this up front lets you focus your testing and packaging efforts where they’re most needed, saving months and millions. We’ve seen major migration programs completed in half the expected time thanks to automated application compatibility testing up front. Download our Windows 7 Migration eBook to find out more about how to streamline your application migration.

How green are your applications?

Frank Foxall, explains how enterprises can reduce energy spend and enhance their green IT strategies through improved application management. Enterprises looking to implement a “green” IT strategy can often focus exclusively on hardware, but that’s only part of the story. Software also contributes to their carbon footprint. When unnecessary applications are running, unnecessary amounts of energy are being consumed, making it important to include software as well as hardware in the calculation of any effective green IT strategy. Knowledge is power Knowing what you’ve got is key here, so the first thing companies need to do is profile their application estate. For example, by harvesting application usage data together with CPU profiles, it’s possible to see which applications are actually being used and how much they consume in terms of desktop and datacentre computing resources. There’s a direct correlation between every computer’s CPU usage and the amount of power they use, so this data can be used to calculate the carbon footprint of an application on a per user basis. Those figures can then be used to gauge the impact across the entire enterprise and to compare carbon footprints for different business units, for example. Tools to obtain the raw data required are readily available, but are far from consistent and are mostly geared towards monitoring hardware. Camwood, however, has a portfolio of tools expressly designed to provide power usage breakdown related directly to business applications to deliver significant dividends in terms of lower capital and operational costs and compliance with green legislation. Simply knowing you have unused or power hungry applications is, however, only the start – companies also need to act on what they discover. Acting on the knowledge If an application isn’t being used, then it should be simply rationalised out of the business. In other words, get rid of what you’re not using and you’ll not just save money on your energy bills, but all the on-going costs of licensing, updating and supporting applications that you really don’t need. Of course you may need to keep the data associated with otherwise unwanted apps, both for your own records and for compliance purposes. However, that can simply be archived to optical disk, tape or other more cost effective long term storage options, rather than kept live on spinning disks, further reducing power consumption and electricity bills. As for the apps you need to keep, a strategy for application management that takes energy overheads into consideration is essential, especially in large organisations where application turnover can be huge. It’s not unusual, for example, to come across enterprises that have around 500 application changes a year, if not more, making it difficult to keep track of just how efficient they all are. Keeping an on-going track of application power usage really is important. When considering a new application, it should be benchmarked and its power profile taken. This profile should be used then to decide whether it fits in with overall sustainability objectives, and how it compares to other applications with similar functionality and attributes. The legal question Then there’s the little matter of compliance, with a number of green initiatives and legal requirements already in place, such as carbon trading and the Climate Change Act 2008, which all companies must conform to. Plus there’s a slew of legislation in the pipeline which will call for a much greater awareness of how energy is used within an organisation and documented evidence of what is being done to meet the targets being set. Simply filing a report saying you’ve saved x-thousand tons of CO2 won’t be good enough. You’ll need to qualify it with detailed information about how you’ve gone about reducing power consumption across your hardware and software estate. One such requirement is section 416(4) of the Companies Act 2006, which requires directors’ reports from the 6th April 2012 to contain certain specific information about Greenhouse Gas emissions. If no such provisions have been made companies will be expected to present a report to parliament explaining why. This is why it’s pertinent that enterprises implement a strategy for reporting on hardware power usage. Adding reports on application overheads, as a by-product of Camwood’s application management services and software, will prevent a breach of the law and put them ahead of the curve with respect to future compliance requirements. Making a difference Legal obligations, of course, are only one small part of the story. The main reason for looking at application usage and how it impacts on the carbon footprint of an organisation, is as part of a wider green IT strategy. A strategy that could lead to significant cost savings. Such strategies are in their infancy and we’ve still got a long way to go, especially when it comes to establishing the energy costs of a particular application. In the future we may well see energy ratings on the software we buy and efficiency flags in the compilers used by in-house developers. In the meantime, however, the wise move for enterprises today is to adopt a pro-active stance in relation to monitoring and managing application power usage.

Know your Unknowns

Developing a successful application migration strategy means thinking about lots of stuff – stuff which is paramount and could ultimately mean the difference between success and failure. Camwood is regularly called on to help organisations migrate their application estates to new platforms (Windows 7, Windows 8, Internet Explorer 8 & 9, Office 2010, 64-bit, App-V, VDI etc.).  We’re often asked to give upfront views on what we think is the right migration strategy.  That’s difficult – and we’ll readily admit that in the early stages of migration dialogue – we won’t have all the answers. But critically we’ll know where to go and find them.  And in partnership with our customers, we’ll get them. It’s the answers that bring application intelligence and underpin a successful migration project. We’ll look to get intelligence on what applications exist across the estate, what they do, their compatibility with target platforms and how often they’re used.  Opportunities to rationalise or reduce the number of apps pre-migration can then be exploited. Getting absolute clarity on these points and understanding a customer’s preferred target platform and app provisioning needs then helps to shape the creation of a defined and effective application migration strategy. It’s said that experience is a great teacher – at Camwood it couldn’t be truer.  It’s taught us a lot of things.  To know the unknowns is just one.

Don’t be afraid of the application graveyard

Businesses routinely focus on maintaining well-understood assets such as staff, buildings, finances and hardware. However the application estate is a less immediately tangible asset, and does not always receive such careful consideration. Large companies often exist in a state of ‘app chaos’ where they don’t have an accurate picture of exactly what applications reside in their portfolios or what purpose they serve, and actually might only use a fraction of them. Take for example a mid-sized bank that we worked with: They licensed a £320 project management software package for each of their 20,000 employees. In this case, application analysis revealed that only 1,000 employees used the full package, 10,000 could use a simplified £13 version; and 9,000 didn’t need the software at all. Rationalising this company’s app estate led to savings of £5.6 million per year. And the costs of bloated estates are not just financial. Excess apps can also slow systems and processes down, damaging productivity and competiveness. Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to retire apps and remove those that are no longer needed – in effect, sending them to an app graveyard. Rationalising: Now or later? Assessing when to undertake application rationalisation programmes is a critical consideration. Rationalisation is something far too many businesses don’t think about until there is a migration requirement. At this point, when deadlines loom, getting the rationalisation done becomes an unnecessarily inaccurate and rushed exercise. Huge cost, time and productivity benefits can be had by cleaning out an app estate sooner, rather than when the wolf is at the door. Eight top tips to ensuring an effective application rationalisation process:

1. Usage: Businesses need to understand how often apps are used across the corporate estate. This should be assessed by looking at the number of application instances, (the most basic measure), and an assessment of real-time use, (which is much more useful). At least three months’ worth of analysis is recommended to allow for month and quarter end usage patterns.

Accurate usage assessment requires some quite specialist monitoring tools. We’re big advocates of capturing real human interaction; as signified by mouse and key-board-use and in-app user-activity, as opposed to an app simply being open or running in the background.

2. Categorisation: What do the apps within the business do? Do any have overlapping functionality? Can duplicated applications be removed from the estate?

It is vital that a business understands the business criticality of its various apps, before they can make any decisions about removing them.

3. Supportability: Businesses have to make a value judgement of every app depending on whether it is supported by a software vendor, and whether support is actually required.

An unsupported app is often a bad investment and a security risk, and may eventually become more of a liability than an asset. This should be considered when deciding whether to remove or replace that application.

4. Licensing: It is important that the licensing cost information is considered. Are expensive applications being used and contributing to enterprise and user productivity? Can this be quantified? All else being equal, a rationalisation process will weight against an expensive yet largely useless app.

5. Environmental impact: Some applications simply use more power than others. How does the businesses’ use of particular applications contribute to or compromise sustainability commitments? Weighed-up against other factors such as cost of the app and usage, is this enough to influence application choice?

6. If migrating, the suitability of the app on the new platform: It is vital to check that your existing apps will be compatible on the platform to which you are migrating. And we wholly endorse an automated process to achieve this.

7. Remember it’s about users, not just IT: The application estate is where IT meets its users. When migrating applications a business is actually migrating users as well.

As such, a primary consideration should be whether users have the right tools to be productive. Having to re-visit rationalisation decisions because users are not happy would suggest a process that lacked user consultation and implications for productivity.

8. Focus on ongoing rationalisation: As the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. Businesses should make on-going rationalisation of their application estate a part of their mind-set in order to keep the business running at peak efficiency, rather than waiting until they encounter costly problems at crucial flashpoints, such as the migration to a new platform.

Ultimately, maintaining a lean app estate ensures that migrations are accelerated, cost less, and cause fewer disruptions, so productivity is not compromised. Walking through the points discussed above, the fact that businesses’ app estates are sometimes rationalised by up to 60% gives a clear indication of just how many bloated app estates there are out there, and the gains that can be achieved. Any intelligent, on-going rationalisation of a businesses app estate, logically following the points listed above, will therefore pay for itself several times over. Download our Application Migration Intelligence eBook, to find out more about application rationalisation.