How Northern Trust Approaches App Modernization

Application modernization is at the forefront of most enterprise transformation initiatives. Modern apps help organizations adapt quickly in changing times, whether that means:

  • Rapidly introducing new ways of serving customers wherever they are; or
  • Enabling digital collaboration when in-person communication is disrupted.

And app modernization is on the rise, gaining traction in some unlikely places.

Founded more than 130 years ago, Northern Trust Corporation has transformed itself into an agile, digital institution. Cloud and related technologies create exceptional experiences for its customers and employees.

“We’ve been on a cloud journey since early 2013 and made some bold early bets on hyperconverged infrastructure, software-defined data centers, containers, platform as a service and CI/CD (continuous integration, continuous delivery),” said Vijay Luthra, Northern Trust Chief Technology Officer, during VMworld 2020. Luthra joined VMware experts for the VMworld 2020 Solutions Keynote “Modern Apps — Get Better Software into Production Faster.”

Vijay Luthra, CTO, Northern Trust

“We also made big bets on an event-based fabric, as well as a service mesh,” Luthra continued. “As we move toward (becoming) a real-time, agile enterprise, our investments have allowed us to easily transition to a hybrid cloud architecture with microservices leveraging cloud-based services for compute, while data continues to securely reside in our private cloud.”

Throughout its transformation, Luthra said, Northern Trust’s application modernization efforts yielded measurable results. The company’s developers:

  • Reduced time to market by 70%.
  • Cut the resources required for build activities by 80%.
  • Boosted production deployments six-fold, automating 100% of those deployments.
  • Significantly improved reliability and stability.

Northern Trust achieved these results through an architecture that’s responsive to internal stakeholders’ needs, while giving developers the platform they require to deliver capabilities at a high velocity.

“Our cloud journey has evolved quite a bit over the years,” Luthra said. “However, our commitment to delivering products and services to our clients rapidly by providing a frictionless experience to our developers remains as important as ever.”

Modern Apps Deliver Business Outcomes

The architectures on which modern apps are built and the platforms through which they’re delivered continue to evolve. This new model gives organizations the ability to run apps over multiple clouds and embrace autonomous, self-service development models.

“Cloud and cloud-native architectures have lowered the barrier to entry for building new applications,” said Ajay Patel, general manager, modern apps at VMware. “Seventy-five percent of applications supporting digital business today are expected to be custom built. That’s because modern apps deliver real business impact.”

Business leaders want to modernize their apps for three primary reasons:

  1. Build new revenue-generating customer experiences.
  2. Manage growing volume of software and vulnerabilities.
  3. Take advantage of innovations offered by the cloud.

Why Are Enterprises Modernizing Apps?

And how enterprises modernize their apps will depend on various factors, including where those apps will live—on-premises, in a public cloud or at the edge. Organizations may decide to “lift and shift” some applications, essential migrating legacy applications to the cloud as they are. Teams may also:

  • Containerize legacy applications.
  • Rewrite legacy code.
  • Disaggregate legacy code into microservices.
  • Build new cloud-native apps.

The more teams steer development efforts toward cloud-native apps, the more they can enjoy the benefits of automation and more quickly launch new features and capabilities.

Defining Application Modernization

“VMware is uniquely set up to deliver application speed and agility with the infrastructure modernization to move across any cloud,” Patel said. In fact, VMware offers the counterintuitively fastest path to app modernization.

The lightweight container model for cloud software is popular because it supports greater speed and agility, results in apps that can run anywhere, simplifies DevOps and more.

The Keys to Rapid App Development

Today, enterprises across industries can take advantage of VMware vSphere 7 with Tanzu, available in a variety of editions. It embeds Kubernetes in the vSphere control pane, allowing organizations to easily run containers and virtual machines (VMs) side by side. And it’s an ideal foundation for addressing app modernization from the infrastructure up.

How to Address App Modernization Infrastructure-Up

For developers, Tanzu Application Service—the application runtime environment—is now available on any cloud, according to James Watters, vice president in VMware’s Modern Platforms Business Unit. Watters told VMworld 2020 attendees that Tanzu Application Service is especially suited to developing Java apps using VMware Spring microservices, an increasingly popular approach to app modernization where code is developed in small, independent pieces.

“As you enable developers to move faster, they want to move more independently and they want to be able to scale parts of their codebase independently. And that’s really where this trend around microservices comes from,” Watters said. “Microservices—especially Spring microservices—have really started to digest and transform the world of legacy middleware.”

How to Address App Modernization Application-Down

When Northern Trust brought in Tanzu Application Service, it established an operations and engineering team that was focused on developer productivity and speed to market. “Some of our most critical applications are moving toward microservices and leveraging the Tanzu platform for higher resiliency and time-to-market benefits,” said Luthra.

For Northern Trust, agile development drives transformation and app modernization.

“We’ve taken a unique approach to ensure we stay laser-focused on what developers need, as well as to ensure cross-functional teams come together to enable a high-velocity delivery model,” Luthra said. The company completely reengineered its client-facing business processes, leveraged cloud-based machine-learning and artificial intelligence to mine data and improve communication with clients. The team also reimagined customer-facing experiences by using its hybrid cloud to deliver secure, scalable mobile apps.

“Northern Trust is committed to investing in our technology by continuously rationalizing and transforming our application portfolio,” Luthra said. “Post-COVID, the transformation will only accelerate, and a hybrid cloud architecture will be the foundation of our digitalization strategy.”

Modern Apps: Get Better Software into Production Faster

To drive real impact, you need to get applications into production, faster.