The goal of digital transformation in this era is to connect tangible and intangible digital systems. Unfortunately, that isn’t always efficient as not all systems are compatible, scalable, and agile. Leaders often refer to this as ‘technical debt’.

From a coding specialist’s perspective, and according to the agile professional’s handbook, technical debt is simply the use of poor code in applications. This so called ‘technical debt’ creeps up on businesses when they buy one application, customize it to suit their needs in the short terms, and then neglect to upgrade it and the ecosystem of software around it.

Developers don’t like technical debt, of course, but see it as a necessary evil, since being the first to deploy a new feature to customers makes or breaks a company’s overall offering.

However, without a doubt, short-term gain does equal long-term pain, especially when modernizing applications, moving to the cloud, and upgrading the organization’s IT infrastructure.

Speaking from experience, almost every company is operating in the cloud today. The technology has matured and provides significant benefits such as agility and scalability – which became amply clear during the pandemic.

Yes, the process of moving applications to the cloud has traditionally been tedious, to say the least – especially for companies saddled with technical debt.

Moving to the cloud involves discontinuing the use of some of the organization’s bare metal infrastructure and refactoring applications to live on the cloud using virtualized infrastructure. Despite the move, because of archaic code, such applications continued to be monolithic from an operational standpoint and couldn’t deliver the full benefits of moving to the cloud.

The solution lies in breaking these monolithic applications into microservices, at least for the majority that don’t need to continue to live on bare metal infrastructure for security or regulatory reasons.

If you’re familiar with the term ‘microservices’ but not very clear on how they work, think of them as loosely coupled application services (like payment or inventory) on the cloud, which are built and maintained independently. When they work together, they form an application.

For those in the know, microservices didn’t appear all at once. A gradual shift, fueled by the frustrations with monolithic development, caused organizations to embrace a service-oriented architecture; this was the stepping-stone to today’s microservices architecture.

Microservices offers a cohesive yet granular approach to software development that even leaders in the digital age swear by – including Reed Hasting’s Netflix and Elon Musk’s PayPal.

The use of microservices offers a host of benefits such as improved productivity, increased scalability, and the ability to optimize for business functionality. Since the DevOps and agile philosophies are at the core of this approach, a microservices architecture allows cross-functional teams to work on each service independently, enabling faster deployments and troubleshooting turnaround times. The ability to share the workflow burden and automate manual processes also shortens the overall lifecycle of the development process.

However, the most valuable benefit of the microservices architecture is the ability to provide a company’s applications with more resiliency, which is critical in the new normal.

When an organization uses a microservices-based architecture, identifying and resolving the root cause of performance issues becomes easier. Further, the ability to isolate faults from individual modules makes it easy to avoid downtime as developers can rollback an update or make changes to a module without having to redeploy the entire application.

An intelligent operations platform is key to your microservices-victory

Having enabled clients’ cloud migration journeys for more than a decade, Cisco is seen as a hybrid and multicloud enabler. Our portfolio and ecosystem allows us to help clients establish a simplified and unified cloud operating model that breaks down silos across dev, ops, and security teams.

The discussion we had so far made it amply clear that when moving applications, particularly large ones, to the cloud, a microservices approach is best.

However, it also means that a the typical application will be made up of a sizeable number of microservices; An organization with more than one application, therefore, might end up with a substantial number of microservices to manage and optimize. Mismanage your microservices and you squander your gains from the cloud almost instantaneously.

Cisco’s clients, whether in retail, healthcare, or government, often have a significant number of applications comprising of a great many microservices running concurrently, to support their users. They use Intersight, a cloud operations platform that enables IT teams to simplify and automate IT operations, optimize workloads with visibility across applications, and leverage an intelligent recommendation engine providing data-driven and actionable insights in real-time.

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Taking a leaf out of our playbook, customers really benefit from the fact that our cloud operations platform provides a cluster of modular solutions such as Cloud Orchestrator and Workload Optimizer which simplifies IT operations, automates mundane daily tasks, and transforms cloud applications by assuring application performance, reducing cost, and mitigating risks.

A recent acquisition we completed – Banzai Cloud – also sees critical demand from cloud pioneers. The platform specializes in deploying cloud-native applications securely, at scale, and in production, and reduces friction in the development, deployment, monitoring and management of cloud-native applications.

Banzai integrates with the rest of Cisco’s portfolio to drive developer agility and reduce friction so they can focus on writing code while spending less time managing the environments in which their applications run.

In the new normal, moving applications to the cloud, refactoring them to suit demands quickly, and optimizing cloud resources defines an organization’s ability to delight customers. Adopting a microservices approach and choosing intelligent cloud platforms is the only way to fast-track your journey to success.

Overcoming technical debt with your microservices-powered infrastructure

Slice it and dice it any way you like, but the reality is that the only way to reduce the technical debt and close the ever-increasing agility and resilience gap is to adopt a microservices-powered infrastructure.

As a business leader, it is important to understand – and explain – to all stakeholders, what technical debt actually means for the organization, measure it in a way that everyone agrees with, identify a series of action items prioritized in a way that is reasonable as well as efficient, and ultimately, tackle the problem head-on.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. For most organizations, it is as much a strategy decision as it is a finance and IT decision, and leaders need to get all stakeholders to agree on a plan to pay off the technical debt.

Going the microservices route means making a few tough choices but it means companies can refactor their applications seamlessly and respond to changes in the market no matter the timeframe or duration.

Truthfully, our clients see the transformation as a way to automate some of their IT operations; it’s an investment that helps definitively future-proof their applications. It’s why most businesses are betting big on the microservices-powered infrastructure in the new normal.