Application Modernization

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Application Modernization Definition

Application modernization is the consolidation, repurposing or refactoring of legacy programming or software code to create new business value from the existing application and align it more closely with current business needs.

Image depicts the steps of an Application Modernization model: Legacy, Migration/Digital Transformation, and Modern.

Application Modernization FAQs

What is Application Modernization?

Application modernization or legacy application modernization is the process of modernizing the features, internal architecture, and/or platform infrastructure of existing legacy applications. By migrating and modernizing legacy applications, your organization creates new business value from aging applications by updating them with modern, well-aligned capabilities and features.

Many application modernization approaches are focused on bringing monolithic, on-premises applications into cloud-native architecture and release patterns—specifically, modern application development processes such as microservices DevOps—rather than maintaining and updating onsite using waterfall software development processes. This is a critical step, because it is resource intensive and time consuming to meet current business needs while keeping legacy applications running smoothly. This becomes an even greater challenge when software becomes too outdated to be compatible with current systems.

Application Modernization Services

To address some of the challenges detailed above during the migration from legacy to new platforms, legacy modernization services integrate new functionality for the business. Options offered by legacy application modernization services include interoperability, re-architecting, recoding, re-engineering, re-hosting, replacement, re-platforming, and retirement, as well as clarifications to the application architecture and legacy software modernization.

Legacy Modernization Benefits

Application modernization offers insight into the functionality of existing applications, and enables strategic re-platforming of applications to the cloud to achieve scale and other performance gains. The benefits of application modernization include:

Performance. Applications and new feature delivery are faster and perform better.

Cost reduction. Application modernization reduces the amount of time needed to update applications and overall operational costs.

Efficiency. Application modernization improves employee productivity, unlocking new business opportunities, and allows team members to better serve clients by accessing cloud-native technology.

Business benefits. Continuous delivery of best-case end user experiences, independent of changing technology over time, is another benefit of application modernization. Systems can be reshaped and changed and can be deployed rapidly in process-driven ways, mitigating the risk of support loss in legacy software environments.

Application Modernization Tools

There are multiple examples of application modernization technology. Some include:

Cloud-native computing. This model executes functions in the cloud off-premises. Although it does not eliminate the need for a server, cloud-native technology outsources software code to the cloud provider. That code then runs based on individual requests.

Containers and Kubernetes. These enable developers to design scalable, consistent applications that are flexible enough to work across a wide array of environments.

Monolith to application modernization microservices. There are several benefits fueling the transition away from monolithic applications and toward more efficient microservices. The use of microservices makes updates simpler and less costly for architectural reasons, since application components are no longer packaged together.

Application Modernization Challenges

There are several inherent challenges for any application modernization strategy, and each of them impact the search for optimal application modernization vendors for a particular enterprise:

Projects create vendor lock-in over time. As the length of time it takes to modernize applications stretches on, organizations sometimes must select a single container or cloud vendor, which can cause unplanned cost increases later.

Monoliths are difficult to break—by design. Modernizing older versions of many applications such as Oracle, SAP, PeoplesSoft, or Siebel is difficult because these were designed to be unbreakable monoliths. In other words, these legacy applications and their associated data, networking configurations, and security, tend to be tightly coupled with the underlying infrastructure. This close linkage makes individually upgrading application components difficult; even minor updates often trigger a major, slow process.

Application siloing. Within larger enterprises, applications tend to live in silos. For example, different business units may install and run the same applications on completely different infrastructure. This makes testing more difficult, and makes it an even greater challenge for IT to optimize and consolidate infrastructure budget.

Tool fatigue. It can be challenging for the IT operations team to manage a diverse portfolio of applications because the available tools are either application-specific (such as SAP Landscape Management) or infrastructure-specific (such as CloudFormation). It is difficult to weave multiple overlapping product points into a coherent mesh of application delivery services for most IT operations teams, who find mastering this crush of tools and the vendor contracts that come with them overwhelming.

How to Modernize Legacy Applications

Clearly, application modernization challenges typically boil down to complexity and cost. For example, legacy applications may significantly benefit from re-architecting or re-platforming, but the complexity of modernization might outweigh the benefits if the legacy apps are too heavily coupled to existing infrastructure and systems.

Ultimately, successful legacy system modernization relies on strategic selection of application modernization steps designed to forge a clear path to improved ROI and customer experience. For example, the project must clearly demonstrate it will yield benefits of cloud migration, new feature development, performance, speed, or scale, at a reasonable cost.

Application modernization strategies may include the re-architecting, re-building, re-coding, re-factoring, re-hosting, re-platforming, or even the retirement and replacement of your legacy systems. Very old applications that are not optimized for mobile may require re-platforming.

Of course, cloud application modernization solutions are not always focused on rebuilding from the ground up. Application modernization and migration trends hone in on the original structure of the software or application and aligning it with current business processes—and what they are likely to look like in the future. This may be non-invasive, such as linking the app via a web-based front end or a modern cloud service, or it may be invasive and involve heavy re-coding.

Application Modernization Best Practices

To overcome the application modernization challenges discussed above, enterprises must evolve the way they consider modernizing applications. The following are some best practices for developing a mainframe application modernization framework.

Break up monoliths. Create a comprehensive model or application modernization roadmap, including: the intended organizational structure, servers, network configurations, storage configurations, and how the application will deploy on the servers. Break the model down into components, and model all networking between them. This simplifies creating a virtualized application environment using open source and other tools such as containers and cloud APIs and makes this approach possible to implement at scale.

Untether applications and infrastructure. Abstract and separate all enterprise applications from the underlying infrastructure, including all data sources, network configurations, data, and security configurations. This way, application components can run anywhere, using different combinations of infrastructure, without any changes to code, achieving total portability and breaking away from vendor lock-in.

Lower cost with components. The application lifecycle of an organization is composed of various application environments, versions, and deployments. Catalog an application into its essential components so it is simpler to create as many new versions of the application as needed. This dramatically speeds the integration testing, migration, performance testing, and planning processes.

Build application security into the entire application lifecycle. From design to development, the entire service lifecycle should be planned for—including application modernization and security. This keeps applications safer from the moment they are deployed, regardless of their infrastructure.

Manage with modular view. At the heart of the modernization process is a modular view of the application. This enables the organization to manage applications at an individual component level and run and test the application in a virtualized environment. This also enables the enterprise to remain infrastructure agnostic.

Does VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer Provide Application Modernization?

Just like the data center, cloud deployments require robust application services. For this reason, cloud application services such as load balancing, a web application firewall (WAF), and service mesh for microservices are part of any digital transformation.

The VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer’s application assessment solutions are future proof in several important ways:

Infrastructure agnostic. Modern application formats and enterprises leverage hybrid environments and use the hybrid cloud like a portal between one workplace and another. The VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer’s platform works across multiple environments seamlessly, spanning on-premises and cloud environments without decreases in ease-of-use or performance, or increases in cost or complexity.

Centralized management. The VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer’s offers centralized management, allowing application services to be deployed as many and managed as one.

Elasticity and automation. The VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer’s integrates with all cloud platforms, offering automation and elasticity everywhere without the need to provision application services.

Analytical insight. Visibility into the health of your infrastructure and applications is critical, and you get that from intent-based, machine learning capabilities with the VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

In an infrastructure and application landscape that is changing rapidly, it’s critical to be ready for cloud migration and application modernization and optimization initiatives.

For more on the actual implementation of load balancing, security applications and web application firewalls check out our Application Delivery How-To Videos.