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Undoubtedly, 2020 was a turbulent year. Though software architects are always under pressure to deliver projects on time, just how much additional pressure did the pandemic bring? What part did legacy technology play in hindering (or helping) them to support new technologies? Has architecture deployment changed? What will inform the future success of architects?
After surveying CIOs, then developers, the Couchbase "digital transformation" survey turned its attention to software architects, posing these and other burning questions to these key players in the transformation process.
The Heat is On
The survey revealed that 48% of respondents said software architects are currently under high or extremely high pressure to deliver projects, compared to just 19% before the-pandemic. The pandemic notwithstanding, architects in France have been constantly under the highest pressure. This as many software architects experienced delays and disruptions to their planning or delivery on existing projects, driven by the need to react to changes triggered by the pandemic. Many more found just getting the right technology in place to support transformation to be a difficult or even insurmountable task.
One way for architects to reduce that pressure is to advance the projects they're on the hook for, while choosing technology and deployment methods that make their lives easier. The survey delved deeper to see if and how this is being done.
Technology - Locked in by Legacy?
Cloud, big data, automation, and AI were key among the various technologies identified by architects as having the potential to make a revolutionary impact on organizations' efforts.
Interestingly, there was unanimous agreement that traditional relational databases are the technology with the least potential. This was backed by signs that we're in a transition period in which organizations are moving away from their legacy databases: 60% have reduced their use in the last 12 months, and 64% plan to continue or start doing so in the next 12. Reliance upon relational databases as systems of record and the rigidity of relational databases continue to limit many organizations' ability to implement new projects. Indeed, making this move will be a challenge for many architects in the next few years.
Deployment - Cloud Becomes King
Deployment is another factor impacting the ease with which architects are able to meet project goals. Support for different deployment models bears this out. The survey highlights that support for on-premises deployment is shrinking, while support for public cloud or a fully flexible hybrid cloud is growing significantly. Cloud has also helped a majority of architects meet their goals — and 41% said it had been "significant" or "indispensable."
Still, reservations persist around cloud infrastructure, especially when it comes to security, which remains a top three concern for most architects. However, with cloud trending upward, and Databases-as-a-Service (DBaaS) also increasing in popularity, offerings that can address concerns such as security, scalability, clarity around pricing, and vendor lock-in will be an important asset to architects.
Repositioning for Future Success
Of the architects surveyed, 61% said that past technology decisions had made projects more difficult in 2019-2020, and a further 24% had only managed to avoid these pitfalls thanks to thorough preparation. Here's what we can learn from some of the insights that have been shared:
■ First, focus on the technology decisions that cause or cure the most issues: cloud infrastructure, databases, software as a service, and networking. Older technology might have been the right decision at the time, but it's important to understand the needs of new projects, and whether or not legacy technology can support those projects, now and in the future.
■ Second, can you adopt any of the most helpful approaches? For instance, moving on-premises databases to the cloud, or choosing technology that requires less investment in new skills and training. A good solution is one that reduces pressure on architects while ensuring they have all they need to support new projects.
If anything good is to come from the trials of 2020, let it be the lessons needed to ensure that our future efforts are set up to succeed.