A Simple Guide for Getting the Most Out of Legacy Application Modernization

Rob Eguchi

Solution Architect, Prime TSR

You’ve built a plan to deliver a new modern application interface to better serve your business. Due diligence has been performed, ROI calculated, and technology and business leadership teams both agree that this enhancement is well overdue.

In a pre-cloud world, the next steps were fairly trivial: select a front-end programming framework, get to work and let the team know when you’re done. The technology decisions beyond the UI were largely ignored — database, operating system, security, disaster recovery, etc. — since those were already in place and essentially transparent to the end-user.

However, by not considering all layers of an application, several critical concerns may still exist even after the new interface has been completed.

  1. The already high cost to maintain the application
  2. The current performance issues that restricted new features from being added and the strain this new interface will put on it
  3. The complexity to integrate with internal and external systems
  4. The long implementation time it took to add new trivial features

Now, in 2019, we have options to mitigate these concerns and modernize applications using cloud-native technologies. It all starts with performing due diligence, often called an Application Modernization (AM) Assessment. An AM assessment will help you create a clear personalized strategy and ROI analysis of modernizing your applications and help provide a better understanding of how the cloud, and its vast resources, can help you better serve your business and improve your ability to scale your applications in the near future.

At the completion of this assessment, normally a 2 to 4 week exercise, you will determine if modernizing your applications using a cloud strategy is an activity worth pursuing. Here are some questions an AM  assessment can answer:

  • Can migrating your applications to the cloud:
  • Reduce their overall TCO?
  • Significantly increase their performance and stability?
  • Significantly decrease the time it takes to implement new features?
  • Provide real-time scalability to handle increased workloads?

Through this assessment, you will uncover deeper insights into the benefits of moving your applications to the cloud, as well as a clear application roadmap that will guide you on next steps.

Why Should You Modernize Your Applications in the Cloud?

Application modernization is a way to modernize legacy systems in a cost-effective, efficient way. It also includes the integration of new functionality to provide the latest functions to your business. The overall goal of a modernization project is to create new value from existing applications.

Here are critical signs that you might want to evaluate your AM options:

  1. The cost to maintain critical systems are high
  2. The cost to update & upgrade systems are complex, time-consuming and often deal with outdated technologies
  3. The application software or infrastructure is unstable
  4. Takes too long to implement new features
  5. Security / Compliance is always lagging and requires significant resource investments to keep up to date
  6. Integrating with other systems is complex and time-consuming
  7. Performance suffers from every new feature added to the application

If any of the answers to these questions are yes, it’s a signal that you should be evaluating modernizing your applications by migrating them to the cloud. The next steps you take as an organization depends on the technical and business considerations.

There is no single path to the cloud. Each application can go its own route. You can have 20 prioritized applications to move to the cloud and each have their special way to get there.

So, what are your options?

Let’s start with the six most common AM strategies recommended by Amazon

  • Re-host (Lift & shift)
  • Refactor (Re-architecting, Re-writing)
  • Replatform (Lift & reshape)
  • Repurchase (Move to a different product)
  • Retire (Shut down the app)
  • Retain (Continue using the application as is)

We broke down each strategy, also called an Application Modernization pattern, to help you understand what AM pattern is best for your situation.

REHOST (Lift & Shift)

Rehosting is a strategy for moving an application or operation from one environment to another – without redesigning the app.

Choose this option when:

  • You’re looking to “try the cloud” before making an investment
  • Need to save from current on-premise storage & licensing costs quickly
  • No plans to make major modifications to the application
  • Interim option before fully moving to the cloud

REFACTOR (Re-Write, Re-Architect)

Refactoring is a strategy to re-imagine how the application is architected and developed, typically using cloud-native features.

Choose this option when:

  • You have a critical application that is aging (over 10 years old, generally)
  • You’re unable to scale the performance or feature-set of the application easily
  • Security compliance is complex and time-consuming

REPLATFORM (Lift & Reshape)

Replatforming is a strategy to upgrade a custom application to run on the cloud and utilize cloud-native functionality.

Choose this option when:

  • Refactoring is too expensive and time-consuming

REPURCHASE (Move to a different product)

Repurchasing is a strategy to purchase another product that will replace the functionality of the current application.

Choose this option when:

  • Functionality, features, and technology are severely outdated and out of the upgrade path
  • The current vendor has deprecated the solution or no longer supports the application
  • A SaaS product is superior to your current application

RETIRE (Shut down the app)

Retiring is a strategy to shutdown an application because it no longer provides value to the business or has proven to have a negative ROI.

Choose this option when:

  • The application isn’t core to the business and is no longer important to the business.
  • The application doesn’t align with business goals

RETAIN (Continue using the application as is)

Retaining is a strategy to continue using the application as is and defer any AM activities until a later date.

Choose this option when:

  • AM assessment did not provide the expected ROI to take other AM actions.

We are still in the early stages of cloud-native technologies and we continue to see the impact modernizing applications can have on organizations. If you’re experiencing any of the issues stated in this article, it might be a good time for you to review your options and an AM assessment is the best way to do it.