Business-Critical Apps Move into the Future

Applications that are essential for a business to operate increasingly run on private and public cloud computing technologies, making them more flexible, adaptable and resilient than ever before.

By Scott Steinberg

By Scott Steinberg February 8, 2023

In 2016, research firm IHS Markit surveyed 400 companies and found IT downtime was costing them a collective $700 billion per year. Up to that time, according to Atlassian, other research firms reported that downtime was costing small businesses $427 per minute, while medium and large businesses lost more than 20 times that much. 

A service meltdown over the 2022 holidays cost Southwest Airlines nearly $1 billion, causing the company to report a loss rather than a profit in their fourth-quarter earnings, reported CNN.

The cost of downtime can be calculated by adding the loss of revenue, loss of employee productivity and cost to customers. While downtime can be caused by many things, including power outages and natural disasters but also by an IT system failure, especially ones running mission or business-critical applications.

Source: Trilio

A mission-critical or business-critical application – or a suite of software programs that operate in tandem – must always be accessible and functional in order for a business to run seamlessly. Should any of these go down, even for a brief period, it can cause operations to halt, productivity to plummet, or financial or reputational damage to an organization.

“A business-critical app is one that if it’s not running, it’s costing my business money,” Steve McDowell, senior analyst of data and storage for Moor Insights & Strategy, told The Forecast.

Common types of mission-critical applications often include finance apps, inventory or shipping systems, communications networks, customer databases, medical applications, and more.

“If I’m a credit card company, it’s an app that handles my online transaction processing,” McDowell said. “If I’m a railroad, it’s managing the coordination of all my signaling. It’s something that can be dramatically impactful to the organization should it fail.”


Running Business-Critical Apps Across Private and Public Clouds

He also said that the most important applications are evolving to run more efficiently or have more functionality, especially the kind powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Enterprises are seeking to measure every input and data source across their operations now, he said, and looking for trends they can leverage to make smarter decisions at every turn.

Nearly 75% of companies have moved their mission-critical apps to the cloud or planning to do so in the next two years, according to CyberArk, which surveyed over 1,400 IT and business stakeholders. Even if more than half experienced issues during this process, innovation is quickening around these critical applications and the hybrid multicloud IT platforms they run on as businesses seek to ingest and analyze more data to remain competitive. This has many wondering what mission-critical apps look like in the future and what IT leaders need to know about running them efficiently.

Building and Designing Mission-Critical Business Applications

According to McDowell, digital transformation is changing the way companies used to think about the technology powering their business-critical applications. Historically, he said, business leaders viewed deploying these software programs through the lens of supporting hardware (e.g. mainframes and localized networks) and physical redundancies. The move from hardware to software-centric IT systems powered by hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) allows workloads to be abstracted from individual computer systems. This opens new ways of managing how and where critical applications run.


How HCI Integrated Solutions Help Business Application Deployment

Market research firm IDC reported that new software-defined infrastructure (SDI) capabilities make it far easier for organizations to juggle scalable mission-critical application workloads, just as HCI makes it simpler to manage operations across public and hybrid clouds. These advancements offer today’s organizations huge technical gains and innovations, allowing for 82% faster deployment and storage of business-critical apps, 62% lower costs of operations, and 477% ROI within a five-year period, respectively. 

Put simply, SDI and HCI advancements now make it possible for enterprises and their IT to develop, deploy, scale and manage mission-critical apps of increasing size and sophistication at lower cost, and with greater flexibility. Likewise, they also allow organizations in every field to design flexible and fast-evolving business-critical apps that are crafted to be robust enough to rapidly and easily integrate new hardware or software technologies as they debut, even in remote offices or facilities.

“We’ve changed the way we manage business-critical apps: It’s less now about hardware resiliency and much more about time to recover,” McDowell explained. 

“Now, when I think about business-critical apps, I think of them in terms of if there’s a failure, how fast I can bring them back up. The more challenging aspect [isn’t getting them up and running], it’s managing the data associated with these workloads… and cyber resiliency.”

McDowell reminds people that tomorrow’s mission-critical apps will leverage larger and larger amounts of information and come under increasing fire from cybersecurity and ransomware incidents. 

How Business-Critical Apps Will Power the Future of Commerce

Industry experts expect that in the years ahead, mission and business-critical enterprise apps will expand to take on different forms and functions. 

“Once upon a time, business-critical applications were largely about moving or facilitating the flow of finances, goods, staff, capabilities, or resources around in a business,” said David Thomas, executive director of online programming at the University of Denver. 

“Going forward, they’ll also expand to include a range of programs that offers access to a growing array of data-driven decision-making capabilities. In a world of increasing uncertainty, mission-critical apps of the future will primarily revolve around helping businesses predict, adapt, and respond to shifts in customer demand, operating reality, or changes in their environment.”


Five Workloads That Are Ideal Candidates for Hyperconvergence

For example, in coming years, mission-critical apps may quickly expand beyond software programs designed to address traditional areas of concern to include applications that can help:

  • Source parts or ingredients in real-time as supply chains evolve
  • Adapt to shifting customer or industry tastes and trends on-demand
  • Communicate with remote and field service workers using an array of futuristic devices
  • Spot and react to emerging patterns before the market takes different turns
  • Keep tabs on fleets of connected and/or self-driving vehicles
  • Manage adaptive inventory, distribution, and shipping systems in real-time
  • Monitor and mine an ever-growing array of digital touchpoints for data
  • Predict and prevent cyberattacks and online threats using automated solutions
  • Leverage biometrics and multi-factor authentication to verify users and fight fraud
  • Unify increasingly virtualized and remote workforces and worksites
  • Parse thousands of records in a matter of minutes to spot patterns, trends, and critical insights
  • Juggle rapidly-changing regulatory and compliance needs

It’s challenging to manage the technology needs behind a business than operates in a traditional manner and historical fashion. It’s even tougher to do so in a world where users can connect to real-time data on mobile devices; customer and employee interactions become more virtualized; and day-to-day operations are increasingly automated and intelligent.

“We now live in a time when more devices and systems are connected and talking to one another than ever,” Thomas said.

“The organization of the future is quickly becoming smarter, more connected and more anticipatory and forward-looking than ever.”

A New Age of High-Tech Innovation and Disruption is Coming

As a result, it’s no surprise that Gartner predicts that more than half of enterprise IT spending in key areas such as app development will shift to the cloud by 2025. Amid a rising tide of innovation and digital transformation, businesses seeking to take mission-critical apps online are only expected to invest more heavily in application software, infrastructure software, system infrastructures, and business process services going forward.


Cloud Application Developers Look Across Platforms

Noting this, it only makes sense that 65.9% of spending on application software will go towards cloud technologies by this time, as firms work to future-proof themselves and shift towards a growingly connected and always-on operating reality. 

“Tomorrow’s mission-critical apps will continue to grow and evolve with each passing year and introduce all sorts of forward-thinking and futuristic capabilities… not to mention help open new business opportunities,” said Thomas. 

“When it comes to cloud and online innovation, we’ve only begun to see the tip of the iceberg here.”