To be successful in today’s landscape, organizations must deliver memorable customer experiences, demonstrate innovation, and be adaptable to the constant shifts of the marketplace. Embracing cloud technology is imperative to achieve these high levels of scalability and agility while minimizing current and future technical debt. However, moving to the cloud is only one (albeit significant) component of modernizing a business’s applications. Application modernization is a must.
Application modernization is when you take existing legacy applications and digitally transform their platform infrastructure, internal architecture, and/or features. It’s going from tightly-coupled systems with various dependencies to loosely-coupled ones that improve application scalability, resilience, and extensibility. The goal of application modernization is to create a more agile, flexible, and highly available application environment.
However, simply lifting and shifting complex monolithic applications to a public cloud service provider is not equivalent to becoming a modern enterprise. Migrating to the cloud can help speed up innovation, but if businesses do not build cloud-native applications, they are simply moving workloads. To maximize the benefits of the cloud and become a modern business, organizations must strive to be cloud-native.
Why is migration to the cloud necessary for application modernization?
One of the top reasons to migrate to the cloud is to increase business agility, velocity, and scalability. Companies also enjoy increased productivity and efficiency of their workforce when they utilize cloud infrastructure. The cloud enables organizations to digitally transform their business with modern technologies and reestablish their applications within a modern framework.
When a business migrates to the cloud, that shouldn’t be considered the “finish line” in its modernization journey. The cloud is a means to an enterprise’s modernization efforts. An organization also has to update its culture and processes to enable high-performing software development if it is truly looking to modernize its application environment.
Why is application modernization necessary?
The bottom line is that modernizing applications will generate more business. Refusing to update infrastructure, technology, applications, and approaches to software development will place a company significantly behind in a race where there are very responsive and innovative competitors. Enterprises that were not born digital must evolve quickly to stay afloat in today’s ultra-demanding landscape.
Application modernization is not simply a survival tactic, but it is also a crucial method to achieve business agility. Digital transformation offers some of the following measurable outcomes and benefits to a company:
Optimize costs and resources
Modernizing applications utilizing cloud service providers can save businesses money. Planning a cloud migration can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO), allowing organizations to focus on their core business and missions rather than expending energy on managing servers and on-premise infrastructures.
Additionally, by using cloud platforms, enterprises have access to a variety of robust services and automation tools that will eventually result in noticeable savings and cost optimization both of time and money. Deploying enterprise solutions via a cloud service provider allows organizations to retire expensive legacy infrastructure, reduce time and fiduciary costs, experience agility through automation, and reallocate resources towards other imperative business needs.
The migration process to the cloud requires working with a provider who has experience in retiring legacy systems and emerging technologies to migrate databases, servers, and data. Working with a cloud service provider and/or a cloud advisory firm enables businesses to modernize their applications smoothly. Cloud partners provide access to the vital tools and knowledge needed to digitally transform a business. Harnessing the power of cloud-native firms can improve operational efficiency, increase scalability, and improve the overall performance of an organization.
What are the steps of application modernization?
For most enterprises, app modernization is the clear path forward. The question is not whether to modernize but “what” and “how” to modernize. To answer these crucial questions about their legacy applications, organizations need to understand their modernization options and have a deep insight into their applications.
Application modernization is much more than simply migrating to cloud-based workloads. It is the total transformation of an organization’s culture, tools, and processes. Below is a step-by-step strategy for continuous application modernization:
#1: Create Goals for Modernization
Goals will always be the foundation of any strong strategy. Without goals, measuring the success of modernization efforts will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. You have to detail your goals for app modernization and link modernization efforts to measurable business outcomes. For example, greater agility and faster time-to-market with new features can show progress and success as a business embarks on its modernization journey.
Organizations should identify the highest priority and most critical applications to kick off the goal-setting process. From there, they should analyze how the company would benefit from increased reliability, scalability, and performance by leveraging their cloud service provider. Areas of impact can include revenue, market share churn, profitability, and more.
After an enterprise has clearly defined how current applications will impact their business success, they can then tie modernization objectives and priorities back to business outcomes.
#2: Understand Your Applications
Before a business can transform its applications, it must recognize its starting point. An organization should take a baseline measurement to understand how its applications are performing. This baseline allows businesses to identify and prioritize the best approach to application modernization for each app and will serve as the foundation for creating the road map for application modernization.
Companies must invest in an observability platform to aggregate, correlate and analyze performance data. Without this, they cannot make data-driven decisions because there is no true understanding of how an application is currently functioning and if modernization is improving it. Observability allows enterprises to capture data about each application to help understand their specific characteristics. This objective and holistic view of applications empowers organizations to decide how to best modernize an application.
#3: Determine the Optimal Modernization Approach for Each Application
After setting goals and collecting data, companies are ready to make data-driven decisions on modernizing their applications. There are three approaches to app modernization: rehosting, replatforming, and refactoring.
Rehosting entails shifting an application to a more modern environment, such as the cloud, to reap cost savings, performance improvements, and ease of operations. The changes only pertain to rehosting; therefore, this approach’s risk and impact are low.
Replatforming is when companies move an application and modify some infrastructure elements for time and resource-saving purposes. Replatforming requires taking an existing component of an application and moving it to a managed service with no changes to business logic. The risk is still low because of infrastructure modifications, but the impact is medium.
Refactoring requires businesses to re-architect an application to optimize and realize the full benefits of cloud services, architectures, and technologies. It allows for improved quality, performance, and the rapid delivery of innovative new features. Re-architecting applications require making code-level changes, so the risk of refactoring is high but ultimately yields a more significant impact.
#4: Observe and Optimize
Taking a baseline measurement in step two gives companies the data to make informed decisions and serves as a comparison during and after modernization efforts. Once the first modernization iteration is complete, organizations can track their goals and demonstrate success by comparing the previous baseline against current performance and other KPIs, such as business outcome data and customer experience. The hope is to see improvements and identify additional modernization opportunities to achieve peak cloud optimization.
Modernization is continuous
The strategy, as mentioned above, is a never-ending process and should be repeated. There will always be new tools and capabilities for companies to discover, incorporate, and support throughout app modernization.
Each iteration of modernization is an opportunity for enterprises to embrace digital transformation holistically. An application modernization strategy is not simply lifting and shifting platforms; it also reshapes an organization’s culture and processes necessary for truly modernizing a business.
2nd Watch offers a comprehensive consulting methodology and proven tools to accelerate your cloud-native and app modernization objectives. Our modernization process begins with a complete assessment of your existing application portfolio to identify which you should keep, replace, retire, or consolidate. We then develop and implement a modernization strategy that best meets your business needs. From application rationalization to application modernization to DevOps transformation and beyond, 2nd Watch is your go-to partner throughout your entire modernization journey.
Contact us to schedule a brief meeting with our specialists to discuss your current modernization objectives.
Post 2020, how are you approaching the cloud? The rapid and unexpected digital transformation of 2020 forced enterprises worldwide to quickly mobilize workers using cloud resources. Now, as the world returns to an altered normal, it’s time for organizations to revisit their cloud infrastructure components with a fresh perspective. Hybrid work environments, industry transformations, changing consumer behavior, and growing cyber threats have all effected the way we do business. Now it might be time to change your cloud.
Risk mitigation at scale
Avoiding potential missteps in your strategy requires both wide and narrow insights. With the right cloud computing infrastructure, network equipment, and operating systems, organizations can achieve better risk mitigation and management with cloud scalability. As you continue to pursue business outcomes, you have to solve existing problems, as well as plan for the future. Some of these problems include:
Scaling your cloud platform and infrastructure services quickly to keep up with increasing and/or unexpected demand.
Maximizing cloud computing services and computing power to accommodate storage, speed, and resource demands.
Prioritizing new and necessary investments and delivery models within a fixed budget.
Innovating faster to remain, or gain, competitive advantage.
Overall, to avoid risk, you need to gain efficiency, and that’s what the cloud can do. Cloud infrastructure, applications, and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are designed to decrease input, and increase output and effectiveness. The scalability of cloud services allows enterprises to continue growing and innovating, without requiring heavy investments. With continuous cloud optimization, you’re positioned to adapt, innovate, and succeed regardless of the unknown future.
Application modernization for data leverage
Much of the digital transformation started with infrastructure modernization and the development of IaaS as a base line. Now, application modernization is accelerating alongside a changing migration pattern. What used to be simply ‘lift and shift’ is now ‘lift and evolve.’ Enterprises want to collaborate with cloud experts to gain a deeper understanding of applications as they become more cloud native. With a constant pipeline of new applications and services, organizations need guidance to avoid cloud cost sprawl and streamline environment integration.
As application modernization continues, organizations are gaining access to massive amounts of data that are enabling brand new opportunities. This requires a new look at database architectures to make sure you’re unlocking value internally and potentially, externally. While application modernization and database architecture are interconnected, they can also transform separately. We’re starting to see people recognize the importance of strategic cloud transformations that include the entire data footprint – whether it’s the underlying architecture, or the top level analytics.
Organizations are getting out of long-term licensing agreements, monetizing their data, gaining flexibility, cutting costs, and driving innovation, customer value, and revenue. Data is pulled from, and fed into, a lot of different applications within constantly changing cloud environments, which brings both challenges and opportunities. Enterprises must transform from this to that, but the end goal is constantly changing as well. Therefore continuous motion is necessary within the digital transformation.
Changing core business strategies
One thing is for sure about the digital transformation – it’s not slowing down. Most experts agree that even after pandemic safety precautions are eliminated, the digital transformation will continue to accelerate. After seeing the speed of adoption and opportunities in the cloud, many enterprises are reevaluating the future with new eyes. Budgets for IT are expanding, but so is the IT skills gap and cybersecurity incidents. These transitions present questions in a new light, and enterprises should revisit their answers.
Why do you still have your own physical data center?
What is the value in outsourcing? And insourcing?
How has your risk profile changed?
How does data allow you to focus on your core business strategy?
Answering these questions has more enterprises looking to partner with, and learn from, cloud experts – as opposed to just receiving services. Organizations want and need to work alongside cloud partners to close the skills gap within their enterprise, gain skills for internal expansion in the future, and better understand how virtualized resources can improve their business. It’s also a way to invest in your employees to reduce turn-over and encourage long-term loyalty.
Security and compliance
At this point with security, compliance, and ensuring business continuity, enterprises must have solutions in place. There is no other way. Ransomware and phishing attacks have been rising in sophistication and frequency year-over-year, with a noticeable spike since remote work became mainstream. Not only does your internal team need constant training and regular enforcement of governance policies, but there’s a larger emphasis on how your network protections are set up.
Regardless of automation and controls, people will make mistakes and there is an inherent risk in any human activity. In fact, human error is the leading cause of data loss with approximately 88% of all data breaches caused by an employee mistake. Unfortunately, the possibility of a breaches is often made possible because of your internal team. Typically, it’s the manner in which the cloud is configured or architected that creates a loophole for bad actors. It’s not that the public cloud isn’t secure or compliant, it’s that it’s not set up properly. This is where many enterprises are outsourcing data protection to avoid damaging compliance penalties, guarantee uninterrupted business continuity, and maintain the security of sensitive data after malicious or accidental deletion, natural disaster, or in the event that a device is lost, stolen or damaged.
Next steps: Think about day two
Enterprises who think of cloud migration as a one-and-done project – we were there, and now we’re here – aren’t ready to make the move. The cloud is not the answer. The cloud is an enabler to help organizations get the answers necessary to move in the direction they desire. There are risks associated with moving to the cloud – tools can distract from goals, system platforms need support, load balancers have to be implemented, and the cloud has to be leveraged and optimized to be beneficial long-term. Without strategizing past the migration, you won’t get the anticipated results.
It can seem overwhelming to take on the constantly changing cloud (and it certainly can be), but you don’t have to do it alone! Keep up with the pace and innovation of the digital transformation, while focusing on what you do best – growing your enterprise – by letting the experts help. 2nd Watch has a team of trusted cloud advisors to help you navigate cloud complexities for successful and ongoing cloud modernization. As an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Partner, a Microsoft Azure Gold Partner, and a Google Cloud Partner with over 10 years’ experience, 2nd Watch provides ongoing advisory services to some of the largest companies in the world. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey!
The cloud market is maturing, and organizations worldwide are well into implementing their cloud strategies. In fact, a recent McKinsey survey estimates that, by 2022, 75% all workloads will be running in either public or private clouds. Additionally, according to VMWare, 72% of businesses are looking for a path forward for their existing applications, and it is important to consider an app modernization strategy as part of these migration efforts.
Whether it be a desire to containerize, utilize cloud-native services, increase agility, or realize cost savings, the overall goal should be to deliver business value faster in the rapidly changing cloud environment.
Application modernization has a focus on legacy or “incumbent” line of business applications, and approaches range anywhere between re-hosting from the datacenter to cloud, to full cloud native application rewrites. We prefer to take a pragmatic approach, which is to address issues with legacy applications that hinder organizations from realizing the benefits of modern software and cloud native approaches, while retaining as much of the intellectual property that has been built into incumbent applications over the years as possible. Additionally, we find ways of augmenting existing code bases to make use of modern paradigms.
Application Modernization Strategies
When approaching legacy software architecture, people often discuss breaking apart monolithic applications and microservices. However, the most important architectural decisions should be centered around how to best allow the application to function well in the cloud, with scalability, fault-tolerance, and observability all being important aspects. A popular approach is to consider the tenants of the 12-Factor App to help guide these decisions.
Architecture discussions go hand in hand with considering platforms. Containerization and serverless functions are popular approaches, but equally valid is traditional VM clustering or even self-hosting. Additionally, we start to think about utilizing cloud services to offload some application complexity, such as AWS S3 for document storage or AWS KMS for key management. This leads us to consider different cloud providers themselves for best fit for the organization and the applications overall, whether it be AWS, Azure, GCP (Google cloud platform), or hybrid-cloud solutions.
Another very important aspect of application modernization, especially in the cloud, is ensuring that applications have proper automation.
Strong continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines should be implemented or enhanced for legacy applications. Additionally, we apply CD/CI automation for deploying database migrations and performing infrastructure-as-code (IaaC) updates, and ensure paradigms like immutable infrastructure (i.e. pre-packaging machine images or utilizing containerization) are utilized.
Last, there is an important cultural aspect to modernization from an organizational to team level. Organizations must consider modernization a part of their overall cloud strategy and support their development teams in this area. Development teams must adapt to new paradigms to understand and best utilize the cloud – adopting strong DevOps practices and reorganizing teams along business objectives instead of technology objectives is key.
Modernizing software architecture is often described as splitting a monolithic codebase but can imply any improvements to the software itself, such as decoupling of components or addressing tech debt in the codebase. Other examples might be finding new design patters that allow for scale, addressing resiliency within an application or improving observability through logs and tracing.
What is Meant by App Modernization?
Application modernization is the process of migrating an incumbent or legacy software application to modern development patterns, paradigms and platforms with the explicit purpose of improving business value. It’s a part of your entire application modernization strategy and implies improving the software architecture, application infrastructure, development techniques and business strategy using a cloud native approach. Essentially, it allows you to derive increased business value from your existing application code.
We often think of application modernization in the context of cloud, and when planning a migration to cloud or modernizing an application already in the cloud, we look at what services and platforms are beneficial to the effort. Utilizing a service such as Amazon S3 for serving documents instead of a network share or utilizing ElasticSearch instead of the database for search are examples of infrastructure improvements. Containerization and other serverless platforms are also considered.
Development techniques also need to be addressed in the context of modernization. Developers should focus on the parts of the application that deliver value to customers and provide competitive advantage.
If developers are focused on maintenance, long manual deployments, bugs, and log investigation, they are unable to deliver value quickly.
When working with modern distributed cloud applications, teams need to follow strong DevOps practices in order to be successful. CI/CD, unit testing, diagnostics and alerting are all areas that development teams can focus on modernizing.
Legacy Application and Legacy Systems
In this context, legacy software refers to an incumbent application or system that blocks or slows an organization’s ability to accomplish its business goals. These systems still provide value and are great candidates for modernization.
Legacy can imply many things, but some common characteristics of legacy apps are:
Applications that run older libraries, outdated frameworks, or development platforms or operating systems that are no longer supported.
Architectural issues – monolithic or tightly coupled systems can lead to difficulties in deployment, long release cycles and high defect rates.
Large amounts of technical debt, dead or unused code, teams who no longer understand how older parts of the application work, etc.
Security issues caused by technical debt, outdated security paradigms, unpatched operating systems, and improper secret management.
Lack instrumentation with no way to observe the application.
Maintain session state on the client (require sticky sessions, etc.).
Manually deployed or must be deployed in specific ways due to tight coupling.
Pillars of Application Modernization
When approaching a modernization project, we specifically look to ensure the following:
The modernization initiative should follow a distributed computing approach, meaning it should take advantage of concepts such as elasticity, resiliency, and containerization. Converting applications to adhere to the principals of the “12-factor app” in order to take advantage of containerization is a prime example.
The application must be built, tested and deployed using modern CI/CD processes. Older source control paradigms such as RCS or SVN should be replaced with distributed version control systems (git). Infrastructure as code should be included as part of the CI/CD system.
Holistically integrate logs, metrics, and events enabling “the power to ask new questions of your system, without having to ship new code or gather new data in order to ask those new questions” (Charity Majors https://www.honeycomb.io/blog/observability-a-manifesto). Observability is key to understanding performance, error rates, and communication patterns and enables the ability to measure your system and establish baselines.
Application teams should be aligned along business function, not technology, meaning multi-disciplinary teams that can handle operations (DevOps), database, testing (QA) and development. A culture of ownership is important in a cloud-native application.
App Modernization Examples
Application Modernization is not:
Just containerization – To take full advantage of containerization, applications must be properly architected (12-factor), instrumented for observability and deployed using CI/CD.
Just technical solutions adapting the latest framework or technology – The technology might be “modern” in a sense but doesn’t necessarily address cultural or legacy architectural issues.
Just addressing TCO – Addressing cost savings without addressing legacy issues does not constitute modernization.
Just running a workload in the cloud
Just changing database platforms – Licensing issues or the desire to move to open source clustered cloud databases does not equate to modernization.
Limited to a specific programming languages or specific cloud providers as a hybrid cloud approach can be deployed.
Application modernization includes, among others, combinations of:
Moving a SaaS application from a single to multi-tenant environment.
Breaking up a monolithic application into microservices.
Applying event driven architecture to decouple and separate concerns.
Utilizing cloud services such as S3 to replace in-house solutions.
Refactoring to use NoSQL technologies such as MongoDB, ElasticSearch, or Redis.
Containerization and utilization of PaaS technologies such as Kubernetes or Nomad.
Utilization of Serverless (FaaS) technologies such as AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, OpenFaas, or Kubeless.
Creating strong API abstractions like REST or gRPC and utilizing API Gateways.
Transitioning to client-side rendering frameworks (React, Vue.js, etc.) and serverless edge deployment of UI assets, removing the webserver.
Moving long running synchronous tasks to asynchronous batch processes.
Utilizing saga patterns or business process workflows.
Will ultimately focus on enhancing business applications, improving customer experience, and enable rapid digital transformation for the organization.