Blog > Customer Engagement > From Server Racks to Serverless: Modern DevOps for Regulated Environments

From Server Racks to Serverless: Modern DevOps for Regulated Environments

Allan Christian | November 8, 2023

Every business evolves, some are dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world, others demonstrate the ability to take smaller steps to incrementally change. Some consider businesses which support critical processes in regulated industries as impossible to change; this simply isn’t true.

It’s a complex world, but does it need to be?

Complexity of legacy systems often causes organisations to continue with business as usual or continue to outsource to others who can manage the legacy complexity. But does it really need to be that complex in 2023? In the industry of communications, complexity of the back office does not jibe with the desire for better personalized communications and rapid change to meet consumer demand. Is the modern workforce going to be able or want to work in such a complex configuration where there is little business value? Complexity from historic decisions, technology limitations or a lack of knowledge is a real battle ground.

In addition to complexity, the digital or cloud transformations which are going on in industry have caused expectations to change. Businesses are demanding the benefit of modern architectures even for systems which have been treated as “back office” or “it works, don’t touch it” for decades. Cyber incidents, transformation of working practices, closure of data centres or terminations of outsourcing agreements are causing more inspection than ever before. Businesses are writing their own ambitious cloud strategies and manifestos, procurement are setting goals, security requirements are increasing, and businesses are driving their teams to achieve more with less so they can realise a reduction in spend.

When reviewing incumbent enterprise applications and their current state, the future ‘to-be’ state is desired but often existing technology is unable to unleash the benefits.

Introducing EngageOneTM technology

At Precisely, EngageOneTM solutions are built to meet the expectations of today, with the rigour and accuracy needed to support millions of communications being sent each day to consumers. By using Amazon Web Services, we build the right solutions for our global customer base and run those workloads in the required geographical area to comply with data sovereignty requirements.

Regardless of the channel, every communication starts with data and ends with data. That data is supplied from a series of different systems in the business before being processed by the configured rules, formatted in a relevant way for the channel before being delivered, tracked for future analysis, and stored in the archive. Plug: If you don’t have existing technology to manage your data integrity, we can help!

Read the Report

An Integrated Platform for the Future of Customer Communications

In this report we will examine how the last year has reshaped the market and then explore why customized communication tools have become so important. We then take a closer look at one such tool, the EngageOne™ Communicate platform from Precisely.

Benefits you should look for

Businesses have often lived with fixed-sized infrastructure. This infrastructure has either been managed very carefully to have the capacity needed to support the workload or massively over-sized to cope with the potential future workload or spike. A new business unit bringing along a new workload was enough to make IT’s head spin and finance leaders to run for the door. This fixed-size infrastructure was always-on 24/7 regardless of the usage. Through cloud native technology, autoscaling is an attribute which allows the infrastructure to deploy more compute as needed to meet the workload but importantly, scale back down if the workload demand decreases, avoiding wasted resources and spend.

Thinking globally

Where is your business operating today? Is there a need to scale to different geographies either to support other workloads or for resiliency? With AWS, EngageOneTM utilises their global infrastructure to ensure that we support the US, UK, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions and provide the ability to scale to others through automation.

We are humans!

Automation is a critical attribute of modern applications. Automation of the full cycle from development to production. Manual steps lead to human error and the older the technology, the more opportunity exists for system failure as something was missed during a change… often resulting in regulatory exposure. Utilising infrastructure as code is a technique EngageOneTM uses to ensure that everything is managed as code and fully automated so regardless of the number of deployments (usually many times a day), the result is consistent, auditable and repeatable.

Can’t I just deploy what I have already to the cloud? Does that make it cloud-native?

Legacy applications are often monolithic in nature and if trying to deploy on to cloud technology, the same technology limitations often exist when you get there. The single deployment, the third-party dependencies, supported operating systems and configurations are the same as when you were deploying in your data centre. Will it work in the cloud? Usually, yes but will it be cost efficient or demonstrate the benefits of cloud computing? No, sorry!

With EngageOneTM software we build event driven microservices which are organised in domains (e.g. all delivery services) and orchestrated using AWS Step Functions, allowing the sequencing of multiple AWS services into the workload processing. When one service needs to process across domains, AWS Event Bridge provides a serverless event bus (e.g. an email delivery service needs to pass a process on to a document-based communication format such as PDF). These technologies allow for more rapid change and provide methods for tighter instrumentation. They are also fully serverless so we don’t have to manage any of the underlying infrastructure.

Multitenant by design

Multitenancy is a must for any cloud-based technology. Managing data and processing for multiple customers (or business units within that same customer) in a secure configuration whilst operating horizontally across the deployed infrastructure means that there is reduced waste from compute, processing, and storage.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Businesses often have many dark cupboards containing many technologies, often these are duplicative or place specific demands with their configuration to make them operate – these are often non-cloud friendly and difficult to manage. Many technologies in the wild would not be written if the author was starting today. With the toolset on offer with AWS, software providers can concentrate on building their core IP rather than building new versions of commodity tools. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. By using the scale and power of Amazon, services such as their simple Email Service (SES) or Pinpoint are ready for your global workload.

“This weekend, your service will be down”

Every business sees this type of unwelcome message from their IT department. It’s also the type of message that a consumer could receive… usually at the exact point of wanting to dialogue with you. This is a great indicator of running technology not designed for the cloud in production. By using modern services, deployment is continuous, maintenance is carried out all the time without downtime, not performed in locked out windows which cause more disruption to your users and regulated workloads.

Availability of APIs

Organisations have struggled with legacy technology to adopt the latest versions and releases, usually this is due to complex regression testing cycles that they need to perform on their enterprise. One system may change but when interfaced with other systems, problems could appear… somewhere. With modern application development, versioned APIs made available through the AWS API Gateway can maintain backwards compatibility so the changes can be managed and controlled.

From a technology provider perspective, we can simultaneously develop new APIs that provide a better user/developer experience without impacting existing users. Also, it is possible to maintain backwards compatibility with on-premise solutions providing a migration path for existing customers wanting to phase the adoption of new cloud-based technology.

Cyber threats

The risk of cyber-attack is always increasing, and legacy technology is often the “unlocked door” that malicious actors exploit. Accessing server infrastructure or exposing a vulnerability are a nightmare to businesses. EngageOneTM software is build and deployed using a secure pipeline mechanism where all code (application, third party, configuration, infrastructure, tests) are continuously scanned by the latest tools to ensure that vulnerabilities are resolved in real time. By using gates throughout the pipelines, our developers must resolve issues as soon as they are published and pushed through in the shortest time possible.

Legacy technology (whilst often using some of the same tools) is constrained by the cycle time of on-premise deployments which can mean that even if a vendor provides a patch to resolve an issue, it may be many months… or years before that vulnerability has been effectively blocked.

In summary, I hope from this post that you have learned some key principles and tools to take away and challenge your incumbent providers. Utilising modern cloud native technology has many benefits which you should be considering to ensure you can focus where your business needs you, not on technology and the complexity inherited from a different era. When it comes to cost analysis, do spend the time investigating your current total cost of ownership – I am sure you will be very surprised.

Read our report An Integrated Platform for the Future of Customer Communications.  In this report we will examine how the last year has reshaped the market and explore why customized communication tools have become so important. We then take a closer look at one such tool, the EngageOne™ Communicate platform from Precisely.