App Modernization: 7 Unique Approaches and Considerations

February 8, 2023

Idhaya M V

App Modernization: 7 Unique Approaches and Considerations

We previously discussed the benefits of app modernization and how important it is for businesses. 

We always think from the perspective of business leaders and have explored the different approaches to app modernization through that lens. 

In this blog, we follow up that topic with questions that leaders have, but few will discuss.

Why is it important to choose the right approach in app modernization? 

Business leaders look forward to app modernization with the hope that it can provide the following benefits to their application:  

  • Faster Go-To-Market 
  • Cost Reduction 
  • Enhanced Customer Experience 
  • Enhanced Security 
  • Growth in Revenue 
  • Higher Efficiency and Scalability 
  • Increase in Productivity 
  • Competitiveness & Agility   

To achieve the above-said benefits there is no one-size-fits-all in technology. Each business has different needs, and customized solutions must be developed to attain its goal. There are in total 7 approaches taken while modernizing apps. They are: 

  1.  Encapsulate
  2.  Rehost
  3.  Replatform
  4.  Refactor
  5.  Rearchitect
  6.  Rebuild
  7.  Replace 

Choosing the right approach is the first step when one decides to opt for app modernization.  To choose an effective approach, it is important to analyze the present application architecture and find the areas where challenges keep arising. However, achieving all the above results requires selecting the proper technical approach. Factors such as rapidly growing application volume, diversity of app styles and architectures, and siloed infrastructure can be a challenge while making the decision. To add to this complexity, there are multiple ways to go about modernizing each individual application.  Depending on the business and technical goals, you may opt to rehost apps, while encapsulating or even refactoring others. These approaches assist organizations to modernize applications with minimal downtime and risk. 

Let’s take a detailed look at the approaches and when it is valid to choose them.  

1.  Encapsulate 

One of the most straightforward legacy application modernization approaches is encapsulation. With encapsulation, the legacy code is divided into pieces. This approach preserves much of the code and all of the data. However, each segment operates independently and talks to other components through an API. As a result, the system runs more efficiently by breaking the old, monolithic architecture into pieces.  

At the same time, an encapsulated application is much easier to fix when there are problems. Your employees can often work in unaffected areas of the program. For instance, employees might still perform other customer service functions if the database section works fine, but the payment processing won’t operate. They wouldn’t be able to take payments over the phone, but at least they could solve some customer inquiries. 

This method is used when it is necessary to leave the application code in its current environment and then connect it to the new presentation and access layers. There might be a need to re-engineer the interface, but changes to the code are minimal. Encapsulation is the cost-effective modernization approach with very little change. 

Another critical point to note is that this approach is used when your system is heavily loaded with data. For instance, retail and healthcare databases are loaded heavily with data. During this approach, information remains constant, and the likelihood of errors is significantly reduced. Furthermore, because of the decoupled nature of this approach, even if there are a few modules that may present a problem, the other modules can operate optimally. 

2.  Rehost 

Rehosting, also known as the lift-and-shift approach, entails migrating an extensive legacy application to the cloud to attain high scalability, less downtime, and improved performance. Lift and shift is an entry-level approach to application modernization where the place where the application runs are changed (shared servers/private cloud/public cloud). This approach helps in migration with minimal application disruption. 

Large enterprises that want to migrate quickly without disrupting their existing application workflow commonly use the rehost approach. You may choose to rehost an application in the following situations: 

  • Datacenter evacuation or service provider termination. 
  • Migration of a large number of applications/workloads in a short period. 
  • Migrating Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) applications. 
  • Changes to the codebase are not necessary. 
  • Organizations that are looking to reduce on-premises infrastructure costs. 
  • Need to optimize existing application. Migrating to cloud helps applications to be optimized easier. 

3.  Replatform 

This is known as the ‘Lift-Tinker-Shift’ method. Before moving to the cloud, a few minor changes are made to the application. By doing so, the applications benefit significantly from the new environment. The “tweaking” entails rewriting some applications to leverage the cloud better (e.g., databases, scaling). Simply put, the application is made to be cloud-native here.  

Replatforming is a strategy in which the user needs to know more about the application but is not required to be a programmer. It is more than enough to connect things like a web app to a database, which can be performed easily by a system administrator. 

In certain circumstances, organizations migrate a database to the cloud. For instance, let’s consider a scenario where SQL DB is moved to AWS, and a virtual instance of it is created (VM). This is an example of rehosting. Is the end user going to benefit from the cloud as a result of this? Not yet!  Only through Replatforming can a company reap the full benefits of the cloud. This occurs when database instances are transferred to the Amazon Relational Database Service. Unlike the previous scenario, this approach does not require a highly skilled person. A DBA (Database Administrator) can easily manage a cloud database. 

The DBA does not need to sit and monitor the load all day; instead, can rely on the cloud to notify when the load may exceed the threshold and only take a look at the system when necessary. This is just one of the many advantages of using a cloud-native approach.  This approach is preferred by organizations that want to reap more cloud benefits than simply moving to the cloud. Replatforming can also improve scalability if the on-premises infrastructure is complex. 

4.  Refactor 

Refactoring is simply removing technical debt/application code that no longer serves any purpose. Let us take a retail application, for example. A retailer has an application where customers order dresses. For a long while before replacing it with their own payment system, the retailer was using third-party payment channels. In this case, all the other payment integrations have to be removed.  Simultaneously, new features can be added, resulting in the addition of new code. Refactoring is the process of adding and removing widgets and code bases during the modernization process. 

This is a more complex approach compared to the above three approaches; the code is altered, which may affect the overall operation of the application. Refactoring must be done carefully to ensure that the application operates without any downtime. Users can choose between partial and full refactoring depending on their requirements. Partial refactoring modifies only a small portion of the application, whereas complete refactoring involves entirely changing the application. 

This method is useful when a company wants to improve its app’s performance, readability, and functionality, as well as the ability to implement extensions that are not possible with the existing application. Furthermore, refactoring is widely used when an organization wants to fully leverage cloud capabilities and improve agility and security. 

5.  Rearchitect 

Rearchitecting is the process of taking the best features of your legacy application and improving them with new technologies. The best example of this approach is a home renovation, in which the basic structure or outline of the house remains the same, but every single nitty-gritty detail inside the house is changed according to the owner’s wish. Re-architecting requires a thorough understanding of the cloud platform and the application, including its functionality, data, performance requirements, and usage patterns, to refactor it. To take advantage of cloud-native features, applications must adhere to a scalable, service-oriented framework with built-in redundancy to handle failures.  

This method is used when an organization decides to adopt new technologies and use more open-source tools. Applications that need fast development and updation in the tech stack should be considered for re-architecting, as they will continue to perform poorly if simply lifted and shifted to the new platform. Applications that consume a lot of resources should also be considered for re-architecture. 

6.  Rebuild 

This strategy, like the previous approach to house renovation, can be compared to building a house from the ground up. However, removing an existing structure and constructing a new one that meets the owner’s needs is very challenging. While the scope remains the same, the components are entirely reworked. The application’s existing code is removed, and it is entirely rebuilt in cloud. This also helps the organization to leverage new features from the cloud provider’s platform. 

If most of the legacy system components are still functional, you can partially rebuild them and save money on the project budget. Full rebuilding enables you to adjust the system to the new requirements, making significant changes and reaping all of the benefits of custom software development. 

7.  Replace 

It is often preferable to completely replace an app with a different one rather than spend time, money, IT resources on its modernization. While it is impossible to reuse legacy business logic in this situation, some customization and rewriting of business logic may be included. Hence one can replace the old application with a new one. While this isn’t a legacy application modernization strategy, it gets businesses out of legacy software. 

If your program has become more of a hindrance than a tool, you may wish to reconsider your requirements and replace it with a new solution. 

Questions leaders have about modernization 

We saw the many approaches used to modernize applications. It is already a humongous task for leaders to find a balance between their tasks. They have to remain updated on the latest technology trends, have to maintain a healthy workplace atmosphere, plan goals, and many more. But the rising challenges with legacy systems and growing user expectations have to be resolved. 

Did you know?  

  • According to Forbes, 91% of firms polled said that when mission-critical server hardware and applications go down for just one hour, the average cost of loss to the business is $300,000.   
  • According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 36% of respondents cited legacy systems as one of the most significant barriers to integrating real-time analytics. In addition, a third of respondents said data silos also impeded their growth.  

With so much at stake, organizations must take the necessary steps to bridge the gap between rising client expectations and their existing applications. Though it is a difficult decision, technology will undoubtedly enable company leaders to reach their goals. In an effort to assist leaders’ visions, we have compiled a few most asked questions about modernization and have answered them in order to provide clarity for making the necessary decision. 

Question 1: It might be challenging on the ground, but nobody complained yet. Is modernization really necessary for my application? 

Whatever the goal, accomplishing it in a way where all the people involved are happy is termed a success. All of your apps may be running fine with the legacy system, and all your employees may be repetitively doing tasks to achieve the organizational goals but is it the right approach? Rather than waiting for somebody to complain and then take action, one must foresee the roadblock and take proactive measures to prevent it.

According to a recent Forrester Consulting study, modernizing existing apps and infrastructure is a primary digital transformation goal for more than 40% of IT decision makers.

Benefits of App Modernization: 

  • It increases the scalability, flexibility, security, and infrastructure of the application. 
  • A developer can ship code more regularly. 
  • Fewer downtime incidents in order for the application to run effectively.  
  • Will instantly result in a good customer relationship because their journey with the company will be frictionless, and their trust in a brand will grow. 
  • Allows a company to secure its investments while also refreshing its software portfolio to take advantage of modern infrastructure, tools, languages, and other technological advancements. 

Did you know?

According to Vanson Bourne analysis, firms that upgrade their legacy IT systems might save 13% on overall operational costs. Also, firms with upgraded legacy apps might see a 14% increase in annual income.

This means that organizations that ignore the requirements of legacy application modernization will incur higher operating costs. As a result, such organizations will gradually compromise on scaling opportunities, incur increasing technical debt, and, ultimately, find their operations unsustainable. 

Read on to know how CellGate accelerated its business growth by modernizing its application. 

Question 2: Will Modernization cost a lot?  

Several factors must be considered when calculating the costs of modernizing a legacy system. To begin, there is an initial cost for upgrading systems with new software and training and consulting fees. But is that all there is to it? 

Costs associated with legacy systems:  

  1. Maintenance costs: Legacy systems frequently require ongoing maintenance to stay operational, which can be costly. This can include the cost of upgrading hardware and software, as well as the cost of hiring specialized staff to maintain the system. 
  2. Integration costs: Integrating a legacy system with new systems or technologies can be a complex and costly process. 
  3. Skilled training costs: Legacy systems may require specialized training for users, which can be time-consuming and costly. 
  4. Security risks: Legacy systems may not have the same level of security as newer systems, which can increase the risk of data breaches or cyber-attacks. 
  5. Cost of system replacement: Over time, the cost of maintaining a legacy system may outweigh the cost of replacing it with a newer system. Replacement can be an expensive initial investment, but it may be necessary to meet the demands of the business.

According to the US Government Accountability Office, ten of their legacy systems cost around $337 million per year to operate and maintain.

Costs associated with App Modernization:  

  1. Upfront costs: There will be costs associated with the development and implementation of the modernized app, including the cost of any necessary hardware or software and consulting and training services.
  2. Ongoing maintenance costs: Ongoing maintenance costs include the cost of upgrading hardware and software.
  3. Risk of disruption: When modernizing an app, there is always some risk of disruption, as it may be necessary to take the app offline temporarily during the modernization process. 

Read this blog to learn more about the visible and invisible costs involved with cloud. 

Question 3: Should the entire system be modernized all at once?  

Modernization might be accomplished in stages or all at once. The application dictates how modernization should take place. Every application is unique, as are the requirements of each organization. For example, it is better for a few applications to be rehosted, whereas certain applications demand refactoring.  Which strategy to choose and how to implement it all depends on your cloud partner. A good partner is essential at all stages of modernization. Right from consulting, clear communication, experience, tools, and strategy, it is imminent to have a competent cloud partner. 

Get to know how we modernized Chalk Mountain’s scheduling and monitoring system step by step to achieve the optimum result. 

How to efficiently do app modernization? 

The better one understands legacy systems, the easier it is to improve them. Because it is not their primary focus, most organizations do not constantly build or modernize applications. Internal teams may lack the skills required for the “new” environment and system training. As a result, it is unlikely that sufficient internal resources will be available to make all of the necessary decisions regarding modernization strategy, cloud, or microservice support. Also, many may not be aware of the value that modernization can bring to their organization.  

So, it is important to have a cloud partner who can help you with all this. Choosing the right cloud partner is one of the most critical steps in the modernization process. The right cloud partner is capable of determining the best modernization strategy and developing a risk mitigation plan, as well as a well-defined modernization roadmap to address modernization bottlenecks. Your cloud partner should understand the current market scenario and map it coherently with the challenges your company is facing and may face in the future. With years of experience and tremendous success in the projects undertaken, Eleviant can be the right cloud partner for you. 

Contact us to begin your modernization journey. 

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