Modernizing Your Applications for the Cloud
How to build modern apps that allow you to fully leverage the speed, flexibility, and scalability of cloud environments.
Legacy methods of application development slow your ability to innovate and iteratively improve your software.
The old ways of doing things—things such as “waterfall development” and limited update releases—are now a detriment to your ability to compete. This is especially true in the face of an ever-growing list of disruptive startups that are fully immersed in cloud-native development.
There’s increasing pressure in 2021 for enterprises to change the ways they develop software to become more agile and efficient, and that’s where modernizing your applications comes into play.
Application modernization (or app modernization) is a term used for the process of enhancing existing systems to meet evolving business needs. The idea is simple: Instead of throwing out the critical business applications you use every day, you can build on their foundations and better suit them to your evolving business needs.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about modernizing your applications for the cloud and cloud-like environments.
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Benefits of application modernization
In many organizations, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of applications—all in need of enhancements or maintenance to continue providing value. At a certain point, the cost of maintaining or adapting the application outweighs its benefits to the business.
When paired with cloud-native architecture, app modernization also increases scalability—or the ability for a developer to efficiently configure and chart a path for dynamic utilization patterns. This optimizes the availability of a given application while also reducing potential downtime if a particular region experiences a network outage.
Finally, app modernization creates new lanes of innovation by giving developers more flexibility in how they work. Through modernization, developers can:
- Customize apps in an almost limitless fashion
- Enable DevOps to unlock CI/CD and automation
- Simplify operations while increasing reliability
Now that you fully understand the benefits of modernization, let’s dive into the different levels of it and how your business can move forward to achieve each one.
Levels of application modernization performance
While every organization’s path to app modernization has a different starting point, there are generally four different levels they need to pass through on their journey to elite performance.
If your organization is at this level, you have a limited understanding of your applications, which leads to inconsistent quality and efficiency. You utilize a manual build and deploy process, rely upon legacy integration dependencies, and lack centralized logging.
Due to all of these factors, you may have a limited view into the performance of your applications and are most likely handcuffed and unable to quickly develop, update, and deploy applications.
Your team has a general understanding of all your applications and utilizes a common development process across all departments. In addition, you have a centralized codebase with version control and a common code repository.
At this level, your applications dependencies are known and you have achieved manual application level redundancy.
Your organization is nearing elite performance with applications abstracted from infrastructure, a microservice architecture, and security (SecOps) integrated into a DevOps process. In addition, your architecture standards are stateless and you have implemented integrated monitoring.
By working to reach this level, your organization now employs a tightly managed development lifecycle, has integrated operational responsibilities, and has implemented a standard development process throughout your company.
At elite performance, your organization has built upon all the previous levels to greatly accelerate the build and deployment of your applications. Your logs are consumed as event streams, you are utilizing pre-built blueprints for increased speed and accuracy, and your code deployment pipelines are continually flowing.
Because of all these improvements, you no longer need production changes out of deployment and are able to maximize your efficiency when it comes to building, updating, and releasing new products. In addition, as a result of increased reliability, your DevOps team experiences increased job satisfaction and work-life balance.
Getting started modernizing your applications
Not every enterprise is at a point where modernizing makes sense—or is even advisable.
For companies who are ready to make the journey, app innovation has the power to accentuate an organization’s strengths and drive efficiency in how their unique value is delivered. As such, it’s intrinsically tied to that company’s innovative maturity and business goals.
Before starting down the path of modernization, there are two things to consider: technical ability and internal culture.
1. Technical ability
App modernization involves recoding large segments of the software that powers the application.
Sometimes this means cracking open an application to find and improve functions an enterprise relies on while discarding the rest. Other times, it means converting the language of the software itself.
Beyond the ability to transform the actual guts of an application, enterprise IT departments also need to be able to work comfortably and effectively within cloud platforms.
This often means rethinking current pipelines and workflows, like:
- Rethinking build/test/deploy best practices
- Becoming more agile
- Version and code branching
- Automating infrastructure as code
- Adopting test automation and continuous delivery
While this leap can greatly accelerate development and deployment, it comes with a learning curve.
For those enterprises without the technical knowledge in-house, the modernization process will take investment in either the resources necessary or in a third-party with the experience to offer guidance throughout the process.
2. Internal culture
If technical ability is about the nuts and bolts of app modernization, internal culture is about an enterprise’s readiness in the offices outside of IT.
Some enterprises have a clear understanding of the need to modernize their application portfolio and are eager to get the process rolling. Others have areas within the building that need to be sold on making the investment.
In this situation, a case needs to be made within the enterprise that the efficiencies in workflows, reduced development times, and quicker speed to market offered by modernized applications will more than offset the cost of the process itself.
Any push up the chain for modernization should also include a clear understanding of the desired outcome of the process, whether that outcome is to remain competitive or take the lead in disrupting the market.
While every enterprise has different needs—and those needs ultimately require unique solutions—the process of app modernization generally breaks down into these four steps:
Let’s dive into what each of these steps looks like.
Once an enterprise has decided to invest in app modernization, the first step is an audit of every app within its portfolio.
This audit helps identify those applications that are critical for the enterprise as well as those that would benefit from modernization. It also highlights applications that should be sunsetted and, in many cases, reveals applications the enterprise didn’t realize were running on its infrastructure.
For those applications deemed worthy of modernization, there are different ways they can be updated.
Depending on the need of the enterprise, the modernization process can vary.
If you are working with a third party on the process, you’ll likely receive a clear blueprint on which apps should be modernized first, how they should be updated, and the best way to migrate them to the cloud.
If you choose to tackle the job on your own, however, there is the additional challenge of sifting through the sheer number of cloud-native technologies at your disposal. Many of these technologies offer the same benefits, which means deciding which ones to use should come down to:
- What is the value (cost, business case, benefits)?
- Is the tech useful?
- Do we have the right talent to operate the tech?
If the application will not be refactored but simply hosted on the cloud versus another on-premises datacenter, then migration is essentially a lift and shift exercise. For refactored apps, tools are implemented to make the migration seamless.
The migration process is also when all the underlying networking configuration is shored up so the final changeover happens without a hitch.
Efficiency optimization ensures apps are taking full advantage of the cloud’s operational performance lift with little to no change to an application’s features, functions, or services.
Secondarily, continuous improvement efforts that result in small enhancements to how the application is designed, that address single points of failure, or that adopt the cloud platform’s native services can add additional performance gains.
In a Nutshell …
Modernizing a company’s application portfolio is not a sprint. It either takes a company having the core competencies in-house or the use of a trusted partner to ensure the transition happens smoothly and effectively.
Doing it right takes a solid roadmap, beginning with a thorough audit and an understanding of an enterprise’s needs and goals.
When paired with a robust public cloud service, modernized apps can provide a company with the ability to continuously innovate on their services free from the bindings of static applications. This not only saves resources and reduces costs, it better positions a company in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
At Redapt, we can help you with every step of the application modernization process, from a full assessment of your current application portfolio to refactoring and modernizing, migration, and optimization.
To get started with application modernization, contact one of our experts today.