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Blog Featured Image - Application Modernization – A Comprehensive Guide to Investing the App Dollars Wisely

Part 1 | Application Modernization – A Comprehensive Guide to Investing the App Dollars Wisely

Businesses are constantly transforming and it is a fact that the super promising entry of a set of disruptive technologies has been triggering a 180-degree transformation of organizations over the recent past. Given the solid impact of these groundbreaking next-gen technologies, it has become a critical winning imperative for companies to adopt them and thereby adapt to the changes that naturally follow in their business models. 

 

Realizing the potential of application modernization

If an organization’s IT infrastructure is challenged in terms of scalability, flexibility, overall performance, and connectivity with insightful data whenever needed, it certainly lacks desired functionality. Modernization of legacy enterprise applications has been among the top IT strategies of companies looking up to digital innovation. However, digital innovation has been progressing at an easy pace and a sizeable number of companies are still stuck at an early stage. App modernization has particularly been one of those areas with tremendous benefits that are still to be realized completely. With everything boiling down to improved efficiency, raised productivity, agility & readiness to evolving digital demands, faster competitive advantage, enhanced customer experience, and improved ROI, the full potential of app modernization in enabling all this is overlooked. The most notable advantage that app modernization can offer is surprisingly reduced IT spending, as it is purely based on pay only for what you use model                                                                                       

While a continual process of app modernization forms the heart of digital success of any organization, there is no one set rule to achieve successful app modernization. Appropriate application assessment and succinct alignment of modernized applications to exact business objectives form the key to success at each step of application modernization, viz. integration, migration, deployment, and management.

Top-sought advantages such as speed, scale, performance, cloud, and new feature development further add value to it, enabling organizations to deliver an improved level of customer experience. On the other hand, giving an afterthought to modernizing legacy enterprise applications results in critical compliance failure, inhibiting growth in long run. Not to mention, along with greater IT security risks than ever. 

 

Leveraging the power of Cloud

Since a majority of today’s discussion on app modernization revolves around on-premise, monolithic applications, it is of paramount importance for organizations to understand what it means for them to update and maintain these apps with the help of cloud architecture and how they can achieve the same. Monolithic applications are typically complex and costly when it comes to moving and scaling them. Moreover, they come with their own integration challenges that further make it an onerous task to update them for one or many architectural reasons. It is thus critically important to comprehend benefits of on-premises app migration to cloud in terms of complexity, cost, and ROI. 

Harnessing the power of breakthrough cloud computing technology, companies that continue to heavily spend on maintenance of legacy applications can simply consider it to move them all to innovative infrastructures such as Microsoft Azure. With incredible abilities to support faster app modernization process at better costs, Azure can move everything, including enterprise apps as well as third-party apps. This can be done in a straightforward lift and shift way (Azure IaaS), or with the help of Azure PaaS. The answers to how and why may vary from company to company, as each organization has its own priorities, goals, and budget. Companies looking up to application modernization with Azure typically pick from cloud-based, cloud-native or cloud optimized applications. 

There are some top technologies that are specifically considered for use in app modernization while designing strategies for organizations. It is a fact that public cloud has been considered as a suitable and one of the most critical technologies involved in application modernization strategy of any organization.

However, when it comes to security and architectural reasons, multi-cloud, private and hybrid cloud technologies also play a crucial role in modernization processes. Moreover, it may not always be possible for a company to move directly to public cloud from data center. That is when the other three models step in, with their individual peculiarities that help in easing up architectural complexity or ensuring policy compliance during the app migration process. 

On the other side, Kubernetes and Containers that are popularly known as multi-purpose computes in cloud possess the ability to enable hybrid cloud model. This eventually is involved in app modernization strategies. Containers as a technology manages compact, lightweight, and consistent packaging of apps that move across various on-premises, cloud as well as desktop environments while migrating. This remains one of the most valued advantages of technology used in devising an application modernization strategy for a company. 

 

R3 – Retiring, Rehosting, Rearchitecting 

Considering massive business value of cloud technology, every small and large business migrating to cloud sooner will not be surprising. To know how to migrate, an assessment must be performed, which helps in identification of applications to be migrated, their configurations and exact influence on the concerned organization. The process of migration is extensive and needs to be closely looked at, especially for the type of applications organizations have in their legacy systems. 

Those apps that serve a negligible purpose for businesses to reach their goals are usually retired. On the other hand, those applications that represent Software as a System (SaaS) or equivalent offerings are recommended to be migrated to SaaS. Application migration to Azure by using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), popularly referred to as rehosting, is currently the most sought-after way of app modernization. 

Rearchitecting is another way of cloud migration of enterprise application. While this method utilizes Platform as a Service (PaaS) as a base, conversion to PaaS is cumbersome in terms of both technical effort and time investment. Moreover, the migration process is lengthier, from minute refactoring to entire application rewrite. Even if apps need to be moved using PaaS, they are first subject to rehosting using IaaS. After actual migration, cloud applications are monitored and subject to security in Azure. 

Among these ways of application migration, rehosting remains the fastest and highly preferred approach, with an added benefit of minimized associated risk. When an organization simply has migration to Azure architecture as its end goal, lift and shift serves as the best solution. With this type of migration, applications simply continue to function as they used to before migrating Azure. Maintenance of apps moved via rehosting is also relatively simple, as they continue to involve the same resources that used to maintain them before they moved to Azure. 

In addition to greater scalability, this process of app migration comes with some of the most desirable benefits for companies such as additional security and reduced capital costs. It must be however noted that no organization that opts for this way of migrating its legacy applications ever receives complete benefits of cloud. The list of advantages remains limited to those offered by Azure. Understanding such technology loopholes while investing in app migration and modernization with Azure helps in avoiding misconceptions, thereby over-expecting benefits out of cloud technology. 

On the flipside, complete modernization of legacy applications with Azure by rearchitecting is a highly effective and most preferred way to experience all the benefits of app and architecture migration to cloud. Rearchitecting of applications by moving them to Azure using PaaS as a deployment and development environment unlocks a complete set of cloud benefits. This method allows for delivery of cloud-based, cloud-native, and cloud-enabled enterprise applications. In addition to auto-maintenance and up-to-date workflow, innovation of apps with Azure provides many other benefits such as auto-scaling of services. The process, although time consuming, has the best of cloud and specifically Azure to offer. 

 

Modernization – Easier said than Done? 

Applications such as Oracle, SAP, and Siebel are custom-built as unbreakable single monoliths, wherein the concerned data, networking configurations and security are strongly coupled with the associated infrastructure. Modernization of old versions of such apps is an uphill battle due to the complexity in individual component upgrades. The process is easier said than done, and typically takes multiple weeks even for the minutest innovations. Legacy applications of larger corporate organizations also pose a similar problem at each step of modernization, including testing, consolidation, and optimization. Lengthy processes may later add to overall costs, at times. 

Enterprise IT systems and operations teams at companies are typically challenged with availability of only app-specific or infrastructure-specific tools, and thus often find it overwhelming to manage such a diverse kind of applications portfolio. Tool fatigue is not a new concept anymore but processes such as app modernization and cohesive application delivery further aggravate it to an all new level for IT operations personnel. While these issues form a tough grind that needs to be broken, it also requires companies to innovate their understanding and execution of application modernization. 

  • Segregating individual application components 

A comprehensive model of an application can be created to break down the complexity of monolith application. This would separately show its individual component, along with segregated pieces such as servers, and storage & network configurations. Advent of technology may also enable facilitated migration of each individual part of applications. 

  • Reducing reliance of apps on underlying infrastructure 

Enterprise apps, if separated from any associated infrastructure, can technically help in abstraction of data & its sources, security configurations and network. When application functions would be abstracted into individual components that can be moved anywhere, it would get much easier than ever to reduce the application dependency on the infrastructure and the process of application migration to desired infrastructures can accomplish. 

  • Considering security as a necessity rather than a choice 

Rushing with security of applications right after their deployment naturally results in a slowdown of the continuous delivery processes. It also troubles security teams. If companies start considering application security as a necessity rather than a choice and devote sufficient attention to it right from the beginning of deployment, it will unburden security teams and add value to app migration and modernization processes. 

In short, solving the monolithic puzzle and segregating its pieces would ease up the process. Turning application data into just another component of the app would deliver incredible insights to build innovative app modernization strategies. Making apps capable of utilizing any infrastructure resources irrespective of their underlying infrastructure and cloud model would be another novel approach to process application modernization with Azure and realize its complete set of benefits. 

There may be exceptional cases that have strict legal or regulatory requisites due to which restrict organizational data from being moved anywhere but be exclusively available on-premises. In such cases, only related applications are retained on-premises; local Azure region is not made available on cloud. 

 

Why Microsoft Azure? 

Azure forms a highly flexible and secure foundation for both legacy and new enterprise applications, and architecture. Its innate security features and built-in intelligence ensures protection and streamlining of workflows, which helps organizations to overcome security threats such as cyber-attacks, and information leaks. With the help of Azure, cloud providers can strengthen their existing security frameworks through more effective security protocols. Microsoft Azure serves as a fantastic way to explore cost-effective benefits of cloud and itself allows services at a much lesser cost. Because of the omission of obsolete architectures, applications, and databases, both capital costs and ownership costs shrink by 20-40%. Large enterprise data storage and retrieval are also accomplished with Azure’s extended storing abilities. 

 

In a Nutshell

The significance of app modernization is being driven by evolving customer expectations, rapid consumerization of IT and increasing availability of affordable and reliable technology. With unmatched benefits, Microsoft Azure is winning the cloud infrastructure space. Azure holds the promise to practically triumph over technical challenges of legacy IT systems and enable effective app modernization. With Azure and using PaaS, app modernization tends to maximize the value of cloud migration. However, like any other means of digital transformation, a one size fits all approach does not work here too. A tailored strategy for app modernization with Microsoft Azure is the most effective solution. This finally helps companies to unlock the potential capital that can then be prudently assessed and redirected to more critical, high-value business areas and reap the benefits of alignment with short- and long-term objectives.

 

Padmavathii Vijay, Enterprise Architect, Motifworks
Padmavathii Vijay
Enterprise Architect, Motifworks
Padma creates solutions to problems by working the entire application life-cycle. With an eye on the future and the experience of the past, she is working on cloud-based architectures that allow scaling of large and complex systems.