Adam Roberts
Stax on Stax
05 Apr 2022

Your Infrastructure Smells: Solving the Problem of Technical Debt in the Cloud

If you’re a typical organization considering a cloud migration, you come with a lot of technical debt, risking your organization's ability to operate. Moving to the cloud isn't an automatic fix, but choosing Stax allows you to solve this issue.

What is Tech Debt?

Technical debt describes the critical, unfunded technical liabilities that accumulate over time, from both deliberate and inadvertent decisions about new technology investment priorities, implementation, architecture, governance, and funding.

Technical debt is not necessarily a bad thing for an organization to take on. Just like financial debt, technical debt is a compromise: something you take on to achieve an outcome, knowing that you must repay that debt eventually.

Done deliberately, taking on technical debt may allow a business to meet a project deadline, manage scale, or deal with a temporary shortage in resources. Technical debt only becomes a problem when it is not paid back. This causes inertia, slows delivery, and often leads to more technical debt.

While there are obvious signs of technical debt, such as increased costs, poor performance, and lower organizational agility, a lot of tech debt is invisible or only partly visible. This is when technical debt becomes truly dangerous, as it means the scope of the problem isn’t understood until it has accumulated to a point where an organization must effectively start again. One example is "code smell", which refers to an underlying coding quality problem that affects the quality of implementation.

Too much tech debt can immobilize an organization, threatening its ability to maintain operations, let alone innovate and transform. While technical debt is most often thought of as an application code problem, it is also applicable at a larger architectural scale.

For more on technical debt and other barriers organizations face in accomplishing their cloud transformation goals, read the latest IDC InfoBrief: It's Time to Get the Most Out of Your Cloud. As well as summarizing the state of cloud adoption in APAC, the InfoBrief offers guidance for technology leaders who wish to accelerate innovation in the cloud.

Download the InfoBrief

Technical Debt in the Cloud

A common example of technical debt in the cloud is when organizations Rehost their apps without subsequently Replatforming or Refactoring them.

Also known a Lift-and-Shift, Rehosting involves an organization with on-premises applications moving them to the cloud as-is, without fundamentally altering how they function. This approach offers the fastest time-to-production for a company, but in the vast majority of cases should only be used as the first stage of the cloud transformation journey. By definition, Rehosting your apps does not resolve any existing technical debt in the apps, and will fail to leverage some of the inherent advantages of cloud. Rehosted apps also bring performance issues, risk and security issues, and elevated costs due to the need for data egress.

Rehosting is a short-term fix to enable a rapid migration: an organization following this strategy should be prioritizing speed over long-term suitability, and remain aware of these disadvantages.

In the vast majority of cases, the next step should be modernizing the Rehosted apps, either by Replatforming—replacing some components of an application to take advantage of cloud—or embarking on a full Refactor/Re-architecture project to fundamentally change the app to become cloud-native. But some organizations don’t make it to the modernization stage, and end up operating their on-premises apps in the cloud for the long-term, foregoing many of the benefits cloud brings and opening themselves up to an elevated risk of security breaches and cost issues.

Maybe they think of cloud as a project, not a platform, and consider the project “complete” once the apps have been Rehosted. More likely they struggle to implement a modernization due to two closely related challenges: a lack of time and expertise.

Time constraints

Technical debt often occurs because a team is in a rush to meet project deadlines. Many organizations have a need for speed: they need to get into the cloud fast to accomplish urgent business goals—from lowering cost to deploying innovative technologies such as machine learning—so they adopt strategies that prioritize speed of implementation over long-term operational efficiency. This may be a reasonable strategy given the business goals, but there is a risk that any short-term cost and efficiency gains can be cancelled by the long-term impact of technical debt.

A lack of expertise

Why are teams short on time? One reason is because they are too small. Organizations are struggling to hire and retain cloud experts, and the ones they have are stretched thin. According to IDC, 62% of APAC organizations say a lack of IT skills have delayed their digital transformation journey, with an average delay of 11 months.

Again, there is nothing wrong with technical debt if it is acknowledged as such and paid back as soon as possible. Technical debt is a useful tool that allows teams to deliver faster. But when there is high staff turnover, or a lack of skillsets, that may mean some technical debt is being taken on without being paid back, or with the organization even realizing it.

Stax can help

Stax offers a variety of benefits that can help you to reduce technical debt in the cloud. By fully automating and optimizing AWS and increasing visibility over resources, Stax means teams spot the signs of any technical debt early, and have the time and space to work on repaying it.

Stax allows organizations migrating to the cloud to hit the ground running with a preconfigured landing zone and guardrails, established in days, not weeks. Stax takes care of the heavy lifting, ensuring your cloud environment is maintained and up to date with the AWS cloud ecosystem. All critical components are managed– security, compliance, identity, access, cost transparency.

Stax offers real-time total cost visibility over cost so you're never stung with bill shock, and real-time alerts over risk and compliance. This allows you to have confidence that any signs of technical debt, like increased costs or poor risk posture, are caught early, allowing you to resolve them before they impact the business.

Stax also means your team doesn’t need to become cloud experts. You can instead focus your developers on what they do best: developing your applications.

Want to learn more? Reach out to our team arrange a demo.

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