Application modernization is the practice of updating older software for newer computing approaches, including newer languages, frameworks and infrastructure platforms. This practice is also sometimes called legacy modernization or legacy application modernization. It is the software development equivalent of renovating an older home to take advantage of improvements to efficiency, safety, structural integrity and so forth. Rather than retiring an existing system or replacing it wholesale, legacy modernization extends the lifespan of an organization’s applications while also taking advantage of technical innovations.
Application modernization enables an organization to protect its investments and refresh its software portfolio to take advantage of contemporary infrastructure, tools, languages and other technology progress. A robust application modernization strategy can reduce the resources required to run an application, increase the frequency and reliability of deployments, and improve uptime and resiliency, among other benefits. As a result, an application modernization plan is a common feature of an enterprise’s overall digital transformation strategy.
Common patterns for modernizing applications include:
The foundational strategy for successful legacy app modernization is to conduct a thorough assessment of candidate applications. This analysis should include an evaluation of the app’s technical characteristics, its suitability for a cloud migration or similar shift, the ROI of such a modernization, the application’s interdependencies with other systems and other criteria.
Another key strategy for application modernization is for businesses to develop a long-term application modernization roadmap to effectively managing their resources. Most organizations are better served by approaching application modernization in a piece-by-piece manner rather than all at once. This can help teams to properly manage the performance and availability of their existing applications while also undertaking the work of modernization.
There are several intersecting technologies fundamental to application modernization.
Most enterprises have significant investments in their existing application portfolio, from both a financial and operational standpoint. While the term “legacy” sometimes has a negative connotation in software, in reality these legacy systems are often among a business’s most mission-critical applications.
Few companies are willing or able to simply retire these applications and start over; the costs, productivity losses and other issues are too great. Therefore, application modernization is the most sensible way for many enterprises to realize the advantage of newer software platforms, tools, architectures, libraries and frameworks.
Two of the most significant trends in legacy app modernization are multi-cloud and hybrid cloud. Multi-cloud refers to using two or more public cloud services for cost optimization, flexibility, availability and other reasons. Hybrid cloud refers to a mix of public and private cloud as well as on-premises infrastructure, usually with integration between these environments.
Modernization helps software teams optimize existing applications for these more distributed computing paradigms, rather than requiring them to rebuild their critical applications from scratch. As a result, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are two of the most prominent catalysts for legacy modernization.
A related modernization trend is the IT industry’s embrace of containers and orchestration as a means for packaging, deploying and managing applications and workloads. While you can containerize a legacy app, containers are viewed as an optimal fit for a more decoupled approach to development and operations—namely, microservices architecture.