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Gem Corporation
Gem Corporation

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Application Modernization framework – In-depth analysis with case study and 3+ best practices

Defining application modernization

IBM defines it as the process of updating the platform infrastructure, internal architecture, and features of existing legacy applications. The current discourse on application modernization concentrates on monolithic, on-premises applications—often developed and managed through traditional waterfall methodologies—and explores how these can be transitioned into cloud-based architectures and release frameworks, specifically microservices and DevOps.

Challenges of legacy systems – and why they need modernizing

Legacy systems are fundamental to the operations of many organizations. They are especially important for:

  • Maintaining historical business operations
  • Safeguarding important data
  • Ensuring continuous business activities
  • Offering customers a familiar experience. However, despite their benefits, these systems also have significant drawbacks that hinder the organization’s ability to adapt to new standards and preferences – which necessitate application modernization.

Outdated and inflexible architecture
Many older systems were often designed without consideration for future scalability or integration. Meanwhile, these two features are crucial in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape.

This architectural rigidity makes it challenging for legacy apps and systems to adapt to new workflows, integrate with modern software, or expand capacities in response to growing organizational demands. Therefore, business agility and growth are adversely affected.

Security and reliability issues
Outdated applications tend to have significant vulnerabilities in terms of security and operational reliability. As technologies age, they often miss crucial updates that address security flaws and enhance system stability. Therefore, they become susceptible to more and more cyber threats and security risks.

In addition, legacy systems lack necessary updates and patches, which leads to instability and compatibility issues with newer technologies.

Outmoded user interface and experience
Legacy systems commonly provide a user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that do not align with contemporary user expectations and modern standards. This inadequacy results from outdated design principles and significantly impacts user satisfaction and efficiency. Without proper application modernization, this issue may drive away users.

Potentially high maintenance costs
Maintaining older technology is a costly burden because these systems break down more often. Additionally, they become less efficient over time, which necessitates increased maintenance and support. This constant drain on resources diverts funds away from innovation and cost-effective modern solutions. Without timely and effective application modernization, organizations may miss out on the efficiency and potential savings that newer technologies could provide.

The benefits of a modernization initiative

Application modernization offers the following compelling benefits:

Enhanced agility
By updating outdated systems, organizations can respond more rapidly to market changes and customer demands. This is because the integration of agile methodologies and contemporary IT frameworks supports faster development cycles and quicker deployment of new features.

Increased scalability
By leveraging cloud technologies, adopting microservices architectures, and utilizing containerization like Docker and Kubernetes, application modernization allows for dynamic scaling of resources. This scalability is crucial for handling growth and fluctuations in user activity without the need for significant additional investments, as each component of an application can be scaled independently.

Reduced operating costs
Application modernization minimizes the need for physical hardware maintenance and reduces the reliance on manual processes. Therefore, it enables more efficient resource use and reduces human errors and friction, thus resulting in significant cost savings.

Evaluating the existing system – How to do that?

To determine the best approach to modernization, organizations must first thoroughly assess their existing applications. This phase, however, may not be a piece of cake for those with minimal tech savviness, and this is where the expert insights of a professional IT service provider may be helpful.

These are the steps they will follow when analyzing a legacy system that needs modernizing.

Market research and analysis
First, we need to take a deep dive into the factor that drives your modernization project by answering the question: Why do you need to modernize your system NOW?

In most cases, this change is driven by the need to adapt to new market trends and changing customer demands. You may be preparing to catch up with competitors who are moving fast and seizing opportunities. In addition, it can be a part of your strategy to strengthen technology advantages to create new business models and gain profits from new market niches.

Therefore, to kickstart your application modernization project, you need to conduct in-depth market research to understand current and upcoming trends in the field and identify new business opportunities. These insights help you better understand the inadequacies of your current system and the suitable path of modernization.

Defining problems and scope
The team begins by defining the specific issues with the current system, such as performance bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, or user dissatisfaction. In addition, we identify other factors including its functions, modules, or its integration with third-party systems.

From these insights, we define the points for improvement and arrange them based on the level of priority to align with the project’s goals.

Analyzing key aspects

  • Business logic: Understand the processes the application supports and consider how these might be streamlined or enhanced.
  • Data access: Evaluate how data is stored, accessed, and utilized within the application.
  • UI/UX: Assess the user interface and experience to identify areas for improvement.
  • Security: Review current security measures and identify vulnerabilities.
  • Deployment: Consider the infrastructure and platforms used for deploying and hosting the application.

Four common application modernization strategies

Once the assessment is complete, businesses can choose from several modernization strategies, each suitable for different needs and outcomes.

Here are the four common strategies for application modernization

  • Rehosting: Often referred to as “lift-and-shift”, this strategy involves moving applications to new environments without altering the code.
  • Refactoring: This method involves making minor code modifications to adapt to new frameworks or technologies.
  • Rearchitecting: This is a more comprehensive approach, as it changes the application’s architecture fundamentally to add features, improve performance, or scale more effectively.
  • Rebuilding: It means redesigning and rewriting the application from scratch using modern technologies.

A case study of GEM’s application modernization framework

Read full article at: GEM’s Application Modernization Framework (GAMF) – In-depth analysis with case study and 3+ best practices

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