The Modernization conundrum
How many millions of lines of code written for business applications more than 20 years ago are still being sustained for a variety of political and financial reasons? Many of those legacy applications should have been allowed to die a natural death years ago. Why then do so many persist? Modernizing your business applications must come into play.
A legacy application is any business application that is based on older technologies yet continues to support core business functions of an organization. These systems tend to be monolithic (little or no modularity or reusable code “snippets”), as well as difficult to understand and modify.
As per Gartner, businesses spent close to $3.5 trillion on IT last year, out of which $1.3 trillion went towards enterprise software and IT services. Unfortunately, much of that software and services spend is dedicated to just keeping the lights on—maintaining existing enterprise applications that run the business. That’s a lot of money just to maintain the status quo. That is why moving legacy applications onto a modern infrastructure holds great promise for businesses that want to reduce IT spending and convert the savings into a competitive advantage.
Not only does modernizing your applications mean spending less on expensive, outdated systems, it also leads to a more streamlined and agile portfolio. Modernization cuts the clutter and eliminates unneeded outdated applications, enabling changes and updates to be made much more rapidly and effectively throughout the enterprise enabling organizations to seize digital business opportunities, get innovative to deliver higher-quality applications with greater agility.
Modernizing makes sense, if you do it right and know how to avoid the pitfalls. So here are some best practices and approaches to modernizing business applications.
1. Monolithic to Microservices architecture:
Historically, legacy applications have been monolithic in nature —meaning they run on a single platform and are written in a single language that addresses all application functionality. One of the newest, efficient ways to modernize business application architectures is microservices. More businesses are taking a leap of faith with APIs and Microservices to help them embrace continuing change, remain agile and experiencing positive results.
Monolithic applications pose challenges that slow down an organization and prevent it from taking advantage of technological innovation. Their duplicated functionality across several applications (built by different units or acquired), different technology stacks make code sharing nearly impossible. One approach to legacy application modernization is to refactor everything with the goal of splitting legacy apps into microservices and connecting these microservices into one platform.
The Microservices Architecture in essence is service-oriented computing, which decomposes the legacy application down to the functional primitive and builds it as sets of services that can be leveraged by other applications or the application itself. Microservices Architecture can be built using microservice patterns and selecting a service mesh to introduce a proxy service into each application, followed by the centralized management of these proxies.
The next important infrastructure consideration when migrating applications to microservices is the use of a unified approach to managing the life cycle API. Each service must declare the API. If the application is large or there are several applications, it is worth implementing the fully-fledged API Management platform. This unifies the approach and makes communication between services and services, and services and people more transparent. Together, service mesh and the Management API will solve the challenging issues of authentication, authorization, etc. Also, as you rebuild the legacy application for the cloud, you can modify it to expose services that are accessible by other applications. More importantly, you can consume services from the rebuilt legacy application so you don’t have to build the functionality from scratch.
2. Choose the right platform to deliver compelling customer experience.
Innovative app-driven customer experiences are disrupting any market that software touches. As a result, continuously innovating what an app enables customers to do is the imperative for development teams that are now expected to drive business.
As development teams are also tasked with delivering great apps to mobile devices, portability of code across different mobile platforms is a top priority to help ease development cost and maintenance. It is important to choose mobile application platforms and solutions that can run on a range of devices, and connect to an exploding set of backend data, delivering faster native cross-platform apps, mobilizing any data source and measure KPIs with analytics to track them.
Because development teams must deliver richer experiences with greater velocity and agility than ever before, modern software architecture patterns are also gaining momentum. Modern architectural patterns are a foundational requirement to achieve goals like increasing velocity and agility, overcoming challenges with endpoint diversity and delivering compelling experiences.
To gain these benefits, it is important to understand and embrace key trends occurring on the client side of modern applications, on the back end and in the cloud. The demand for increased agility and the rise of the cloud are fueling a shift on the server side. Universal adoption of service oriented architecture (SOA) — including Web APIs and microservices — as well as software-defined infrastructure and cloud platforms are becoming the new foundational paradigm for software architecture on the back end.
3. Embrace Cloud and a DevOps mind-set.
Today’s applications must support multiple client interfaces and be incrementally deployable. They should use resources efficiently to suit the cloud era because resource conservation is a key consideration in cloud-based, pay-as-you-go, virtualized infrastructure environments.
A common concern most organizations have while contemplating the adoption of the cloud is how to approach their legacy apps. When thinking about moving a legacy application to the cloud, a decision has to be made whether the application should be moved as is, a strategy called “lift-and-shift” or it has to be redesigned and transformed to become a native cloud application. Furthermore, organizations that choose to transform their applications should undertake the effort to modernize the application architectures, as well as embrace a DevOps mind-set to enhance agility, reliability and productivity.
Despite what approach you adopt, app modernization is a complex, risky and labor-intensive process, but the results are well worth having. Relying on the same outdated applications might risk your business in the future. The quicker the adoption of technology, the better the results will be.