The rise of application modernization and how to approach it

If recent times have taught us anything, it is that technology and digitization capabilities continue to advance at a rapid rate. Organizations, rightly, are fearing being left behind with legacy systems, and there are many reasons why application modernization strategies make business sense.

One of the most obvious and essential drivers is cost. Maintaining and operating legacy applications will become increasingly expensive as time passes. At the same time, new software engineers will also be eager to master new technology instead of being trained on old systems. For instance, a survey conducted by UK Cloud found 83 percent of organizations saw skills and capabilities as an impediment in adopting cloud. As engineers proficient in the dated technologies leave, new training requirements will eat into budgets. 

Indeed, many legacy systems were never intended for such longevity, scale and unforeseen problems. This situation means that as application architecture requirements become more complex, the user experience can suffer, and newer features become harder to onboard as a result of ageing infrastructure. 

Risk is another crucial driver of application modernization. Older systems are far more likely to fall short of compliance requirements, and in many cases the cost of bringing such architecture up to speed with regulations outweighs the benefits. Other risk factors include:

Expanding into overseas marketsEnsuring compliance with local authoritiesGrowing cybercrime threats which demand security postures that can only be effective on modernized applications. 

The case for application modernization.

It should be clear that the case for application modernization is unequivocal. However, because of the speed of technological change they’re up against, enterprises are often scrambling to keep up with the latest standards and innovations. This leads to problems because constant upgrades are expensive and can result in a short shelf-life for many applications. 

The traditional ‘lift and shift’ approach is fast becoming obsolete. Instead, enterprises need to adopt a ground-up approach that is future proofed by being more able to anticipate longer-term dependencies.

Moreover, modernization must help applications work natively in the new environment, which in most cases will be in the cloud so as not to create friction that hinders efficiency. 

There is no denying that updating a legacy system is a complex business. Because of this many organizations will require dedicated support in application modernization services. The demand for which is expected to reach $16.7 billion in 2022 having grown at an average annual rate of around 19 percent over the last five years. 

And while large enterprises will be responsible for most of this spending, it is essential to note that application modernization is available to organizations of all shapes and sizes across every sector. It is also compatible with cloud computing, blockchain, augmented reality and virtual reality, and AI. 

The six Rs of application modernization 

How enterprises approach application modernization will of course vary depending on a whole range of circumstances. 

There is no one size fits all formula that can or should be prescribed. Enterprises that commit to application modernization can involve several potential pathways — referred to as the ‘six Rs’. 

The first involves refactoring code without changing its functional attributes, a step which is inevitable in any modernization project. 

Next is rehosting or re-platforming, which is how applications are moved to new infrastructure. To rehost, enterprises can lift and shift the application, whereas adjustment and reconfiguring are needed to re-platform. 

Other options include rewriting the entire application code from scratch to meet new specifications (such as cloud-based infrastructure) and replacing legacy applications altogether with off the shelf software.

Enterprises may also choose to retire legacy applications if their functionalities are no longer needed. In contrast, other applications could be retained in the new environment without fragmentation if deemed necessary for business continuity. 

How to approach the application modernization process

Most modernizations are likely to require a combination of the six Rs, some best practice tips organizations can follow to increase the likelihood of success are as follows. 

Where projects may involve migration to a modern environment such as the cloud the cloud architecture must be considered carefully. A pure-play cloud setup may not be the right fit for every enterprise, options such as hybrid cloud, private cloud, and multi-cloud environments can be considered before arriving at a decision. 

Opportunities to deploy software as a service (SaaS) solutions can also be considered. Typically, this exercise can form part of a thorough assessment of an organization’s current environment to gain a deep understanding of key business drivers, goals and existing underlying technology. Once completed, the next step could involve preparing a readiness report to map application dependencies and analyze the need to collect, cleanse and migrate data. 

Next, a proof of concept identifying a targeted modernization objective should be implemented, which can be optimized with automation helping define KPIs for each service level agreement. Furthermore, with the correct planning and execution (including data recovery and backup strategy), 50-70 percent of migration and 30-50 percent of the validation process can be automated. The proof of concept will also cover integrating optimized or refactored applications into the technology landscape, streamlining the release of the latest features to users. 

Ultimately, a successful application modernization process will help enterprises achieve continuous improvement across the operating lifecycle, increasing efficiency at every increment and scaling as required. 

As we have seen, there is far more to this than the traditional lift and shift approach. By leaving the lift and shift behind in favor of a ground-up system, organizations can ensure their applications operate friction-free in their new environments.

Photo credit: Pressmaster / Shutterstock

Chaitanya Rajebahadur is Executive Vice President and Head of Europe, Zensar Technologies. An experienced business leader with significant success in the industry, Chai has built a strong base in Financial Services, Manufacturing, Retail and Telecoms industries. Chai has over 22 years experience in the IT, Digital Transformation and Process Outstanding Industry through his previous positions held at global companies such as iGATE, Xansa and Hexaware and has managed businesses in Europe, US, India, Middle East, Singapore and Australia. 

Author: Martha Meyer