Your Application Modernization challenges

Are managers constantly talking about digitalization, innovation, more speed, and more flexibility? Are you under constant pressure to reduce costs? Do you need to observe more and more compliance rules?

But, on the other hand, you’re grappling with a flood of different applications that are difficult to integrate? Are you using monolithic applications that are really at the end of their life cycle? Is your infrastructure rigid, providing inadequate support for new business areas? And, of course, all existing systems need to be stable despite all of the changes?

Conflict between business and ITSource: Own representation

Welcome to harsh reality. Reconciling all of these aspects is a real balancing act.

Let’s look at the challenges in detail:

  • You’re responsible for a range of legacy systems that have now become difficult to maintain.
  • Parts of your application portfolio have grown historically, have numerous interfaces with other operating systems, and are technologically aging.
  • Components of your business-critical applications are no longer supported by their manufacturers, or support will soon be discontinued.
  • New forms of integration between your legacy systems are constantly requested by the specialist area but are difficult to implement or even impossible.
  • Enhancing existing business functions is expensive because it involves so much effort.
  • You have a host of different applications – including monolithic legacy systems and new cloud-native microservices – that are important to your company but are scattered throughout it in your business model.

As early as 2008, Gartner pointed out the importance of making application portfolios more agile: Each new application is integrated into the business model. Without “active” management, the application portfolio becomes a heavy anchor as a result, preventing the company from being agile and flexible. The current market situation and prevailing competitive pressure towards digitalization and agility in IT mean that Gartner’s heavy anchor is even more weighty today. So you’re not alone in facing this challenge: It’s something we’re all confronted with on a daily basis.

Is a Custom Software Development not an option for you? Application Modernization allows you to spruce up existing applications so that they’re no longer a millstone around your neck when you need to make changes. This is because through modernizing your applications, you can move them into a cloud and operate them there. We recommend the careful but decisive modernization of your legacy application with the help of our specialists!

The benefits of Application Modernization

Do you want to digitalize your company without developing any new software? If so, Application Modernization is the way to go!

By modernizing your existing applications, you’ll get a system landscape that’s fit for the future and that doesn’t need to be implemented from scratch at your company. Whereas previously an existing system could only be enhanced at great pains, with Application Modernization, you’ll be able to tap into the opportunity to easily integrate new functions again. This will allow you to react flexibly to the market and introduce new business models.

Application Modernization is an approach for making your existing applications at your company quicker, more efficient, and more flexible.

You don’t need to get straight out there and develop a new system; instead, you can use the existing application landscape while enjoying the benefits of technical innovations.

And you’ll also save money: With cloud-based hosting and the associated operating concepts, you’ll almost always end up spending less! After all, if your applications run in the cloud, you’ll need a smaller computer center or you may not need one at all. Moreover, you only pay for the capacity you require.

Reduce your operating costs by using modern methods such as DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering. Or perhaps it’s important to you to observe certain regulations? Application Modernization enables compliance rules to be observed and new regulations to be taken into account in legacy applications.

We know what we’re doing when it comes to modernizing legacy applications, and we’ll be happy to help you!

Before presenting our method for a migration to a more modern system landscape, we’d like to talk a little more about how Application Modernization works.

How Application Modernization works

Application Modernization can be performed in diverse ways. Some factors that influence the decision as to how to best modernize your applications include the amount of time you want to extend the lifetime of your application by, the amount of business use you’re still getting from your application, and – of course – the technology used to create the application in question in the first place. These factors and other considerations give rise to the possible ways to proceed.

We like the categorization of migration paths defined by Gartner Research: The five options originally described in 2010, the five strategic Rs for application migration, have changed over the course of the years. As of 2018, Gartner Research specifies seven options for modernizing legacy applications. Despite this, we don’t think that Application Modernization with modern methods needs to restrict itself to one of these seven possibilities.

Here, too, the principle of proceeding iteratively in order to find the best approach for the application component in question at the best time again applies. For example, in an initial step we start with replatforming. We then move towards our goal through step-by-step refactoring and some rebuilding of the application components.

Possible approaches and their consequences in detail

Encapsulate

Encapsulation is the basic concept behind the “API economy”. It’s a safety anchor for lots of legacy applications, which are frequently monolithic. The business logic contained in the legacy applications was often implemented with a lot of effort. We retain the core of this business logic and encapsulate it behind modern (REST) APIs. This lays the foundation for step-by-step modernization, whether through the rebuilding of the legacy application or by adding new services in the background that arise in a way that is fully transparent for users of the APIs.

In addition, with this approach, business logic is available and can be reused by your company beyond application borders. This might be achieved through a new Web-based graphical user interface that makes functions of a legacy system usable or via support for mobile end devices for a legacy application.

The application of the Strangler pattern is a tried-and-trusted encapsulation procedure: In this case, we migrate your legacy system incrementally by replacing parts of the functionality with new applications and services bit by bit. Through the continued superseding of features, the new system eventually replaces all of the functions of the legacy system, which can then be taken out of operation.

Rehost

With this Application Modernization option, the already implemented core application is not changed; instead, it is merely moved to a new hosting environment. Want to know why? Sometimes, it’s necessary for operational reasons if, for example, computer centers need to be vacated or converted. More frequently, it’s a kind of life insurance for the legacy application, which can be operated more cost-effectively, flexibly, scalably, and securely on a modern cloud platform than in the legacy environment.

This approach is frequently called a lift&shift. We’d be pleased to help you to choose a suitable cloud platform. Examples of the lift&shift approach include VMware P2V migrations and VM export/import. This step is considerably easier if the legacy application already exists in a container architecture. However, we also understand rehosting to mean a switch of application server or the host-to-Linux migration of your application.

Replatform

This is easy to confuse with rehosting, but in the case of replatforming, minimal changes to the code of the legacy application are allowed. These changes do not modify the already implemented and tested business logic but adjust the application in line with a new runtime environment. Examples include a migration from Oracle WebLogic to Apache Tomcat or an application changeover from an Oracle DB to a much more elastic, flexible, and generally more cost-effective open source RDBMS solution such as MySQL or PostgreSQL.

Refactor

Refactoring is a standard tool of our software developers, since this technique is often used during Custom Software Development, too. Refactoring means the manual or partially automatic structural improvement of software code while retaining the behavior of the application. A vital (but sometimes not fully adequate) prerequisite for effective refactoring is a high degree of coverage of the code test automation. Refactoring takes your application to a whole new level when it comes to maintainability, scalability, portability, and security. In addition, refactoring sustainably increases the productivity of the development team.

We use the “North Star” principle for refactoring: We do not modernize arbitrarily, but pursue a specific goal. In the case of Application Modernization, the 12-factor app target vision has proven its worth. We also help you to ensure that each application is capable of running without restrictions in containers.

Refactoring creates the foundation for rearchitecting your application, too. Here, we split the existing code into front-end, back-end, and (micro)service components and clear up any technical inadequacies that have long been neglected.

Rearchitect

This involves rethinking the architecture. And in some ways, this is the prerequisite for many of the other options described here.

When modernizing applications, we want to preserve the basic functional properties of the application, but doing everything exactly as it was done before is not always a recommended approach, since it could mean that opportunities to improve your methods and digitalize your business processes are missed. With rearchitecting, we change your application in a way that allows us to transfer it to a new architecture. These new architecture potentials allow us to improve the resilience of your application and to reduce operating and maintenance costs. For more information on the possibilities of rearchitecting, see our application architecture consulting offering.

Rebuild

If the other options do not go far enough or if the possibilities they offer have already been fully exploited, in many cases modernization is still possible by rebuilding an application component. Unlike when we develop a completely new custom software, in this case we still orient ourselves towards the functional requirements underlying the legacy components. We insert the new component seamlessly into an existing network. You could see this as similar to the complete replacement of a defective motor while retaining the chassis and bodywork.

Replace

To continue with the car analogy, the option of replacing an application equates to buying a new car rather than replacing individual components. In the case of a replacement, the assumption is that the best way to meet the persisting functional requirements of the legacy application is to use a completely new solution. And you guessed it: For the new solution, we’re faced with the “make or buy” question again. If the answer is “make”, we’re happy to help you with advice and Custom Software Development.

As already mentioned, Application Modernization rarely involves just one of the listed options. The diagram below shows a typical example of a migration that combines the rearchitect, refactor, encapsulate, and rebuild elements to create an all-round overall concept for the step-by-step switch from a monolithic to a modular service structure.

Combination of application modernization optionsSource: Own representation

Every legacy system is different. Let’s choose the best way to modernize your legacy application together, finding the perfect combination and order of options for you!

Our Application Modernization services

We’ve developed the procedure outlined below for our Application Modernization strategy. We’ve already successfully modernized numerous legacy systems on the basis of this.

  1. At the start of an Application Modernization project, we sit down with you and talk about your ideas and visions as well as about the purpose and goals of the modernization process. We then formulate a cooperative model so that it’s always clear which project phase we’re in, which goals we’ve already achieved, and what our next objectives are. Moreover, we put together a team that meets your requirements and can quickly drive the modernization of your applications forwards.
  2. In the next step, we work with you to analyze your legacy system and formulate a migration plan with defined migration steps and milestones. We choose the best combination of methods from the existing options for Application Modernization.
  3. Then, the step-by-step implementation process starts. This means that you have a run-capable application at all times and individual parts of your application are modernized and improved with each iteration. This framework enables the interruption-free operation of your software. Each step is rolled out quickly, allowing us to gather feedback together and use this feedback for the next migration steps.
  4. Alongside the modernization of the application, we take care of the infrastructure requirements. To do this, we use the build pipeline including test automation and automated deployments, for example, and we look after the automatic provisioning of the environments. We ensure the smooth operation of your application at all times thanks to DevOps and Site Reliability Engineerings methods.

As you can see, this approach enables a seamless transition from your legacy application to the new world.

Your specialist department remains productive and you end up with a modernized application that you can now enjoy – so let’s get started!

Your contacts

Novatec_Markus-Mueller

Markus Müller

Director Software Engineering

Dominik Meyer

Managing Director
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Your direct contact Markus Müller Director Software Engineering
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