Cloud adoption is rarely painless, especially for legacy businesses with heaps of data, years of accumulated technical debt and inveterate processes hard-wired into on-prem IT.
“It can be disruptive to move an application,” Sherriff Balogun, head of product and platform technology at MassMutual, told CIO Dive. “We’re always balancing business needs against where are our biggest opportunities to move to the cloud.”
There’s no panacea or one-size-fits-all solution to every IT woe. Identifying applications ripe for retooling, leaving functional systems in place and keeping the back-end up and running while enhancing user-facing interfaces is often the path of least resistance.
Those considerations are all inputs into a prioritization algorithm guiding modernization at the 172-year-old life insurance and financial services company, according to Balogun, who estimates roughly 60% of MassMutual’s technology has migrated to cloud.
Modernization on all fronts
An application’s cost, its interdependencies within the tech stack and data security risks are additional criteria informing MassMutual’s strategy, which is to eventually shift everything to cloud and shutter on-prem data centers.
Data security and regulatory compliance are also important factors in migration decisions, Balogun said. But enhancing the points at which enterprise IT impacts clients has become a paramount concern.
“User experience is table stakes in competing for clients,” said Balogun. “You have to clear a certain bar of digital enablement in order to even play in the market. Turns out cloud is a really great way to do that quickly and at scale and at a reasonably low cost, as long as you have the right people and the right talent to make it happen.”
While migration is the end goal, modernization is the means, regardless of where an application lives.
The company has two tech priorities: “One is achieving the ultimate objective of moving everything to cloud,” Balogun said. “The other, in the spirit of efficiency, is to lower our data center expenses through colocation strategy and working with vendors on product support while we do this big cloud migration.”
The company is leaning on three pillars of enterprise modernization:
- Replatforming by migrating data from legacy systems to cloud.
- Lifting and shifting select applications that work well on a mainframe directly to cloud with minor enhancements.
- Sunsetting applications deemed to be end-of-life.
The modernization journey began in 2015, when MassMutual migrated data from private cloud to AWS and leveraged the hyperscaler’s analytics platform solution.
The company adopted a cloud-first strategy four years later and now has deployments in AWS and Microsoft Azure, as well as in DXC private cloud.
The multicloud approach is intentional, not accidental, according to Balogun.
“We think that diversification is a good risk mitigant and also just gives us more optionality in terms of managing our environment,” Balogun said.
Multicloud has spurred innovation, too.
MassMutual built its own data migration and integration tools to ease replatforming and leverages homegrown, cloud-native data science models for fraud detection, product marketing and other industry-specific functions, Balogun said.
“Companies, like us, are saying we do have special sauce and we don't want to double or triple down on one cloud,” Balogun said.
Interoperability issues, a common hybrid multicloud ecosystem peril, have become easier to manage, according to Balogun.“In the past this would have been treated like a mess of spaghetti,” he said. “Now, it's just kind of the norm.”