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Why Application modernization is key for the digital transformation of businesses

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By Neelesh Kripalani, Sr. VP & Head- Center of Excellence – Clover Infotech.

The recent pandemic has spurred the demand for digital transformation amongst organizations, with a need for an agile and scalable IT environment to meet the ever-growing customer needs. To make matters worse, the fulfillment of this need is further diluted and blurred by monolithic architecture that these businesses run on. Digital transformation is just a mere idea if it’s not combined with an intent of application modernization and cloud migration. Organizations must ramp-up their game and adopt application modernization in order to get ahead of their competitors.

Application modernization is breaking down legacy applications into its individual functions so that each function runs on its own with the help of containers, thereby, making the framework agile, scalable, faster-to-deploy, and independent. To understand Application modernization, we need to first break down its components:

ComponentsLegacy < ——————————————————– > Modern
ArchitectureMonolithicSOAMicro-services
InfrastructurePhysicalVMCloud
DeliveryWaterfall/ScrumAgileDevOps

Application Modernization is not just about transforming off-line business processes to digital, but leveraging legacy applications to build micro-services of individual functions in order to enhance productivity, and reduce costs.

True application modernization exercises encompass pivoting the underlying architecture from monoliths to micro-services, migrating from physical servers to cloud computing, and moving the delivery method from waterfall to DevOps. Some organizations implement these with incremental steps due to capital constraints, while others go for a complete overhaul. Whichever way an organization choses, they need to consider and align these three critical aspects of their IT infrastructure.

Organizations need to realign their legacy applications with new business requirements, in order to become a complete digital-native enterprise and create new business value from aging legacy applications, without having to reinvest. There are business-critical applications that need to run 24×7 in a year and stopping them for a complete overhaul might not be feasible. This is where micro-services shine. Application modernization can be implemented for one application function at a time without having any domino effect on the existing application stack.

The need and commitment towards modernizing the IT environment must be agreed upon internally. It must be backed by strong executive-level sponsorship. A recent report suggests that many organizations fall back from their digital transformation journey due to miscommunications between teams or the management, and end up running legacy architectures on cloud, or modern applications on physical servers, which makes the whole process redundant, inconclusive, and is deemed as an experimental failure.

There are strategies for all kinds of businesses with different capital appetite. Some are more beneficial than the others. Let’s look at the 3 R’s of application modernization:

Re-host – This is the cheapest and the most sought-after option. Re-hosting is primarily a ‘lift-and-shift’ model that lifts the existing application stack and migrates it to cloud. The downside to this model is that the application stack remains untouched. Businesses could benefit from having their application landscape on the cloud, however applications remain the same. The outdated applications are incompetent to reap the complete benefits of cloud, and hence prove to be not worth the ROI.

Re-Architect – This is similar to remodelling your car one step at a time. In this method, aging applications are broken down into its components, and each function is converted into a micro-service with the help of containers. These micro-services talk to each other via REST APIs and are independent of each other. This results in agility in development, faster time-to-market, and an increase in overall resilience. Micro-service architecture perform best in a cloud environment and enables to reap benefits such as scalability, pay-as-you-go subscription, and remote accessibility.

Re-build – Contrary to re-architecture, re-building means scrapping the old car and building one from scratch. In this method, legacy application codes are re-written keeping cloud-native environment in mind. Old codes are replaced with shorter lines of codes that are optimized for maximum productivity and output. This is the most advised methodology for long term practices. It might take up a lot of resources to re-write the codes, and optimize the application, but in the long run, it enables businesses to enjoy the benefits of being a true digital-native enterprise. Organizations will be able to accelerate innovation, increase efficiency, fasten time-to-market, and reduce overall operational costs.

There are a host of benefits of transforming from being on-premise to being digital-native with the help of application modernization:

Cost of Infrastructure/ Scalability – Cloud offer pay-per-use model, which allows enterprises to scale when they need to manage increased workload with considerably lower cost-of-ownership.

Agility – With applications no longer OS dependent, thanks to containerization, developers can free their arms and code with multiple OS instances. Also, micro-services make functional fixtures easier to update. Each function or micro service within the application can be allocated to teams with respective ownership. This leads to room for experimentation, innovation, and a heathy competition, thereby, accelerating growth.

Security and Resilience – Legacy applications are considered as hot-targets by hackers. There are instances where legacy applications can no longer be updated, giving hackers an opportunity to exploit. When applications are migrated to the cloud, they are automatically updated and the security patches are well taken care of. Even in an unforeseen event, the cloud infrastructure switches to a back-up, ensuring seamless business continuity.

Operational & Resource Cost – Application modernization helps organizations develop an agile framework that reduces time and cost of resources and increases their efficiency. Developers can spend more time on building productive apps, and enhancing the organization’s ability to grow faster.


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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