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What is application modernization?

As legacy apps become difficult to update, many organizations consider application modernization. Discover its benefits and how to craft an application modernization strategy that works.

Application modernization is a means to help organizations survive in a digital world.

Today, organizations must adopt solid modernization strategies to stay competitive in the market. According to a recent IDC report, IT organizations need to create a modernization and rationalization plan that aligns with their overall digital transformation strategy. Based on IDC’s research, 83% of enterprises are rationalizing, or optimizing, their technology infrastructure. However, only 35% say their approach to modernization and rationalization is effective.

So, what is application modernization, and why is it important?

What is application modernization?

If an organization’s IT infrastructure includes legacy applications that are difficult to update, almost impossible to migrate, or a nightmare to administer, the IT team should consider an application modernization strategy.

According to IBM, application modernization takes existing legacy applications and modernizes their platform infrastructure, internal architecture, or features. Application modernization centers on bringing monolithic, on-premises applications — which IT teams usually update and maintain with waterfall development processes — into cloud architecture and release patterns.

Why should organizations modernize applications?

Legacy applications are often monolithic applications, which have two characteristics that make modernization desirable:

First, they are difficult to update.

Second, they are difficult and costly to scale.

An application modernization effort can greatly increase a legacy application’s ability to support emerging business requirements.

The benefits of application modernization

In addition to direct business benefits, an application modernization effort offers the following advantages:

  1. Better and deeper application insights. Application modernization creates greater levels of insight into the application, dependencies, user activity, and more. These insights help organizations plan for cloud scalability, performance improvements, and business alignment. It also helps reduce risk and downtime.
  2. Vastly improved performance. With application modernization comes new features, functions, and services. Additionally, with an improved deployment model, applications can run faster and perform better.
  3. Cost optimization. Application performance improvement reduces costs and deployment time. Application modernization strategies shorten the time it takes to update applications and cut operational costs.
  4. Improved efficiency. Legacy apps are clunky, hard to update, and difficult to troubleshoot. But application modernization eliminates such barriers and helps teams become more productive. With improved application efficiency, teams can service clients better and access cloud-native tools.
  5. Executive-level and business benefits. Application modernization allows organizations to continuously deliver best-case user experiences. Teams can shape and shift an agile application or service to fit ever-changing business models, mitigating the risk of support loss in legacy software environments.

Crafting an application modernization strategy

Application modernization generally comes down to two factors: cost and complexity.

But don’t let these factors stop you. The benefits of modernizing applications greatly outweigh costs or complexity challenges. An application modernization strategy may include the rearchitecting, rebuilding, re-coding, refactoring, re-hosting, replatforming, or even the retirement and replacement of legacy systems. Old applications that are not optimized for mobile may require replatforming.

Of course, cloud application modernization solutions are not always focused on rebuilding from the ground up.

What do you need to modernize your applications?

Businesses should take the following steps to ensure their application modernization strategy is successful:

  1. Set business, operational, and technical objectives. It’s important to outline IT and business goals with realistic and measurable outcomes. To begin, understand how an application modernization strategy will affect revenue, churn, market share and visibility, customer experiences, profitability, and more. Then, set realistic KPIs underlying application modernization efforts.
  2. Document and benchmark existing applications, processes, and services. Knowing your applications and infrastructure makes it easier to modernize apps. Use tools that provide full-stack observability into an entire application. But to properly modernize applications, it’s key to understand auto-instrumentation, observability for hybrid cloud environments, capability for multicloud modernization, and the capacity for scale.
  3. Understand the six R’s of modernization. The six R’s include retiring, retaining, rehosting, replatforming, refactoring, and rearchitecting. Once you understand your goals and map out application sets with modern observability tools, choose an application modernization strategy. In some cases, this might be a cloud-native application development where IT refactors the app entirely. Or, the team might use specific serverless designs as part of the modernization efforts. Similarly, you may need to further develop DevOps and DevSecOps practices to ensure the healthy and proper lifecycles of an application modernization strategy.
  4. Monitor and measure progress during the migration. Once a modernization plan is in place, strategize how to monitor and measure the process. It’s important to create a baseline of metrics in an application modernization strategy. This helps identify issues you need to address before a modernization project begins. Once you complete the modernization effort, use that baseline as a metric for success. For example, to improve overall customer experience, monitoring and measuring KPIs should revolve around uptime, application performance and response times, service and application error rates, lead time for changes, application WAN performance, and more.
  5. Review, refine, and repeat. Once you establish a modernization process, review other applications and services in the IT portfolio. Application modernization is an ongoing process, and there will always be new features and functions to implement.

However, each modernization effort is different. Measuring new performance requirements against benchmarks and other migration efforts can help teams refine processes and improve application usage and performance.

Applying automatic and intelligent observability for application modernization

To execute a successful application modernization strategy, work with partners and tools that provide the multicloud observability necessary to be successful. For example, the Dynatrace Software Intelligence Platform delivers automatic and intelligent observability to simplify cloud and application modernization complexity and accelerate digital transformation.

Dynatrace’s Davis AI engine eliminates the guesswork and provides AI-powered insights covering your entire environment, including metrics, logs, traces, and a full topological model with distributed tracing, code-level detail, entity relationships, and user experiences. With this advanced, automated observability, Davis provides teams with information about events taking place in cloud environments and automatically remediates issues before users are affected.