The Essentials of Application Modernization

Are you wondering what application modernization is all about? Perhaps you’re looking to modernize your enterprise applications as part of your digital transformation strategy. Or maybe you just wish to know more about it. Whatever your reason, you are in the right place.  

This article will teach you the basics of application modernization, its benefits and challenges, and how you can get on with it.   

What is Application Modernization?  

Application modernization is the process whereby an existing legacy application is modernized. The modernization process targets the legacy application’s internal architecture, platform infrastructure, and features.  

The aim of legacy application modernization also called legacy modernization, is to ramp up the functionality of the legacy application. It allows for new features, languages, frameworks, and better infrastructure platforms.   

Think of it as the software equivalent of refurbishing an old house to utilize the advantages of new technology, better designs, and architectural integrity.   

Instead of retiring an existing legacy application, modernization enhances the application’s life using new innovations and technologies.   

But that’s not it. Sometimes, companies build an entirely new application instead of modernizing an existing one. This falls under the application modernization category if the new application offers new features, uses another language, or is cloud-based as opposed to being on-premises.   

Why not Build a new Application Instead of Modernizing the Existing one?  

In the software development industry, the term “legacy” is often used in a negative sense. But in reality, such legacy systems form the core of most enterprises.   

Companies spend a lot of time, effort, and money developing their enterprise applications. The costs of building a new application from scratch are too high, both financial and operational.   

Therefore, it makes more sense for companies to modernize their legacy applications to avail themselves of the advantages of new tools, platforms, architectures, frameworks, and libraries.  

Benefits of Application Modernization  

  • Competitive Edge – Your company can get a head start over its competitors by modernizing its legacy applications. Such modernization will enable your firm to outperform its competitors by leveraging the integration of modern platforms and technologies.  
  • Improved Compatibility – A key advantage of modernizing your legacy application is enhanced compatibility. It leads to interoperability with new platforms, codes, and technologies. Seamless integration of applications enables your company to meet current and future business needs adequately.  
  • Cloud-native – Application modernization helps your company in restructuring your legacy application to a cloud-native application. This, in turn, allows you to reap cloud benefits like scalability, lower costs, agility, and faster speed to market.   
  • Greater Efficiency – Modernization also aids in improving business performance and making processes more efficient. It helps remove the burden on your IT department by enabling you to make quick updates and fix bugs or security issues.   
  • Improved Security – Legacy applications are often vulnerable to security threats. That is simply because legacy applications are not aligned with modern security paradigms and authentication methods. Modernizing your legacy application will thus improve your security.   
  • Greater User Satisfaction – Application modernization allows you to add an engaging and refined user interface. It also provides the opportunity to add new features and cutting-edge functionalities that improve customer satisfaction.  
  • Keeps your company relevant – Legacy applications are fast becoming a thing of the past. Enterprise application modernization helps you make the best use of new technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and cloud computing. Leveraging such technologies for business growth is essential in today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape.   

Challenges of Application Modernization  

The major challenge of application modernization relates to the complexity and cost of the process. One cannot simply move an on-premises application to a cloud-native application without considering its impact on the ROI (return on investment).   

Moreover, rearchitecting a legacy application can seem beneficial but may be otherwise if the application is too heavily coupled with existing infrastructure and systems. In such a case, the costs of modernizing may outweigh the benefits.  

Application Assessment & Legacy Modernization Strategies  

An ideal way to start an application modernization program is to undertake a robust application assessment first. This is a crucial factor in devising a powerful legacy modernization strategy.   

It almost goes without saying that taking stock of what you have and what you lack is the best place to start your application assessment process.  

It would be best if you modernize your application based on the ease/difficulty of the process and the value generated after modernization. High value with low effort should be your aim.  

You also need to consider the ROI of app modernization, the modernized app’s technical characteristics, and its ability to make a cloud migration.   

Lastly, drawing up a long-term app modernization plan is helpful too. It allows you to approach the application modernization process piecemeal instead of doing it one go. It lets your team work on the modernization as well as keep a tab on the performance of the existing application(s).  

Patterns of Application Modernization  

There are three common application modernization patterns and approaches:  

1. Lift and Shift   

This pattern is also known as rehosting. It refers to the legacy modernization process whereby an existing application is moved from a legacy infrastructure (on-premises server) to a new infrastructure (a public cloud).   

This change or movement takes place without making any changes to the application’s underlying architecture or code. That is why it is called ‘lift and shift’; you just lift the legacy application as it is and shift it to a new platform like the cloud.   

2. Refactoring   

This approach is about restructuring the legacy application by retooling major chunks of its code to make it suitable for running in a new environment. This new environment is usually a cloud environment.   

The refactoring approach may also require rewriting the code in addition to restructuring the existing codebase. This approach can be employed by a team looking to turn a monolithic application into a collection of small, loosely joined microservices.  A monolithic application is a self-contained and independent application.  

Microservices allow the team to make use of cloud-native tools and infrastructure, including containers and their orchestration.   

3. Replatforming  

This approach can be viewed as falling between the Lift and Shift approach and the Refactoring approach. It does not require making significant changes in the architecture or underlying code of the legacy app.  

Instead, it involves making complementary changes that allow the legacy application to utilize the advantages of a modern cloud platform. An example of such a change is the modification or replacement of the app’s backend database.  

Critical Technologies for Application Modernization  

Several interwoven technologies play a vital role in application modernization.   

  • Cloud Computing – Talk of application modernization usually refers to the practice of migrating legacy applications to run in cloud environments. These environments can be public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud.   
  • Containers & Kubernetes – In cloud computing, containers, and Kubernetes refer to packages of software that have all the vital elements to run in any environment. In other words, it is a ready-to-run software package. It can also be described as an approach to operating system virtualization.   

Kubernetes is an open-source container management platform that brings together a group of machines into one pool of computing resources.  

The primary benefits of containerization include portability, scalability, and operational efficiency that goes well with cloud infrastructure, particularly hybrid, and multi-cloud environments. 

  • Microservices – This is more of an architectural choice rather than a technology. Instead of building a monolithic application with a single codebase, microservices allow you to separate different components of an application into smaller pieces. These components can then be deployed, managed, scaled, and operated independently of one another.  
  • Orchestration and Automation – Orchestration refers to the process of automating many of the operational tasks linked to containers. These tasks include networking, deployment, and scaling.  

Automation itself has become an essential pillar of the technology industry. It ensures that the operations, development, and security teams can manage applications at scale sustainably.   

The Way Forward  

Application modernization has become a critical inflection point for most companies undergoing digital transformation. Legacy applications no longer serve the interests of the enterprise in today’s digital era.  

Reluctance to modernization can entail high costs for a company. These costs can manifest in the form of poor application user experience, a dwindling customer base, rising costs, etc.   

With the rise of cloud computing and AI, companies are increasingly modernizing their legacy applications. If your company aims to accelerate the process of innovation, application modernization is a must.  

How can your company scale its operations if it continues to rely on platforms that no longer help it achieve its goals? How can a decade-old application – no matter its ingenuity – let you achieve what others are achieving by modernizing their applications?   

It may seem like a costly endeavor, but rest assured, failure to enterprise apps will surely cost you more.  

The time to make a move is now. 

If you wish to know more about application modernization, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]. 

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