Application Modernization – 6 Approaches, Key Considerations, Tips, and Benefits

Keeping pace with the constantly growing technological landscape is crucial for business success. Legacy applications can often become bottlenecks, hindering business agility and innovation. This is where application modernization becomes essential. It’s the strategic move for transforming your existing applications to leverage modern technologies and architectures, enabling them to deliver greater value.
But have you ever wondered what specific approaches are available for application modernization? How do you choose the right one for your business needs amidst a myriad of options?
In this article, we will be discussing the six major approaches to application modernization. Each approach caters to specific scenarios and offers distinct advantages. We’ll explore the ideal use cases for each approach and the factors to consider when you are making a choice. Additionally, we’ll shed light on hybrid approaches that combine multiple techniques to achieve optimal results.

The 6 Approaches to Application Modernization

The landscape of application modernization offers a variety of tools, each suited for a specific task. Now, let’s dive deeper and explore the six key approaches in detail. We’ll examine the strengths of each approach, along with the telltale signs that indicate it’s the ideal solution for your application’s modernization journey. By understanding these approaches and their use cases, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions and achieve optimal results.
1. Rehosting
Rehosting involves moving an application from one environment to another without making any significant changes to its architecture or functionality. It’s often chosen when the current hosting environment is outdated or expensive, and migration to a more cost-effective or modern platform is desired.
When does rehosting become advantageous?
  • If your application is running on legacy infrastructure that’s becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain, rehosting to a cloud-based environment can offer cost savings and scalability.
  • When there’s a need to improve the reliability and availability of your application by leveraging the advanced infrastructure and features offered by modern hosting providers, rehosting becomes a viable option.
  • If your organization is undergoing a merger or acquisition, rehosting can facilitate the integration of disparate systems by consolidating applications onto a common platform.
2. Replatforming
Replatforming involves migrating an application to a new platform while making minimal modifications to its architecture. The primary goal is to leverage the benefits of the new platform without undergoing a full-scale redesign.
When should you consider replatforming?
  • If your application is facing performance issues or scalability limitations due to its current platform, replatforming to a more robust and scalable platform can address these challenges without needing a complete overhaul.
  • When there’s a strategic shift in your organization’s technology stack or infrastructure preferences, replatforming allows you to adopt new technologies or cloud services while minimizing disruption to your existing application.
  • If your application requires compliance with new regulatory standards or security requirements, replatforming can help ensure that your application remains compliant while taking advantage of the security features offered by the new platform.
3. Refactoring
Refactoring involves restructuring existing code or components of an application to improve its internal structure, readability, and maintainability without changing its external behavior. It focuses on enhancing the quality of the codebase and reducing technical debt.
When does refactoring become essential?
  • If your application’s codebase has become overly complex or difficult to maintain due to accumulated technical debt, refactoring can streamline the code and make it easier to understand, debug, and extend.
  • When introducing new features or making enhancements to your application, refactoring allows you to optimize existing code and remove redundancy, resulting in cleaner, more efficient code.
  • If your application is experiencing performance issues or scalability challenges due to inefficient code, refactoring can optimize critical sections of code to improve performance and scalability without the need for a complete rewrite.
4. Rearchitecting
Also known as restructuring or redesigning, the rearchitecting approach involves making substantial architectural changes to an application, typically from monolithic to microservices. It aims to improve scalability, reliability, and performance.
When should you consider rearchitecting?
  • If your application struggles to handle increasing workloads and traffic, it may be time to reevaluate its architecture. Rearchitecting allows you to design a more scalable system that can grow with your business.
  • If your application is relying on outdated technology or is not aligned with the current industry standards, rearchitecting can help you modernize and future-proof your software.
  • Sometimes, applications become overly complex over time due to various patches and updates. Rearchitecting can simplify your application’s structure, making it more maintainable and cost-effective.
5. Rebuilding
As the name suggests, rebuilding involves recreating one or more components of the application or the entire application from scratch. While it may sound like a drastic measure, it can be the most effective way to address issues that other approaches can’t resolve.
When is rebuilding the right choice?
  • If your application is based on a legacy system that’s hindering your organization’s growth, rebuilding offers a fresh start, free from the constraints of the old technology.
  • When your application’s core functionality, purpose, or architecture needs a radical transformation, rebuilding allows you to align with current business goals and market demands.
  • If your application is buried under a mountain of technical debt, rebuilding provides an opportunity to eliminate the accumulated baggage and create a clean slate for a more efficient, maintainable, and cost-effective solution.
6. Replacing
Replacing an application means discarding one or more components of the existing application or the entire application itself and bringing/building a new one in its place.
When does replacement make sense?
  • If certain components of your application have become obsolete or aren’t meeting your current requirements, replacing those specific components with more modern alternatives can enhance your application’s performance and capabilities.
  • When the fundamental architecture or framework of your application is no longer sustainable or efficient, replacing the entire application with a new one built on modern foundations is a strategic move.
  • If your organization has been heavily relying on a vendor-specific application that no longer aligns with your business objectives, it may be time to consider replacing it with a more flexible and customizable solution.
application modernization approaches
However, in certain complex and complicated scenarios, just one of these approaches might not solve everything. There could be situations where you’ll need to employ multiple approaches to get the best out of your modernization effort. Let us now understand how to combine these ideas and use them together.

Hybrid Approaches to Application Modernization

In some cases, a hybrid approach to application modernization can offer the best of all worlds, allowing you to optimize benefits while minimizing drawbacks. A few ways of implementing a hybrid modernization strategy are:
  • Tailored Modernization: Consider using a hybrid approach when there is a need to tailor the modernization strategy to each component or module of your application. For instance, you might want to rehost less critical components while refactoring or rebuilding core functions. This approach can save time and resources.
  • Phased Modernization: You can Implement modernization in phases. Begin with a quick and non-disruptive approach, such as rehosting or refactoring, to address immediate concerns. Then gradually phase in more comprehensive approaches as needed. This helps manage risks and minimize disruptions.
  • Legacy Integration: Hybrid modernization can involve integrating new components or microservices into your existing application while preserving legacy systems. This allows you to leverage modern capabilities without completely replacing the old system.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Evaluate the cost-benefits of different approaches for each component. If certain components require substantial redevelopment, while others can be adequately addressed through less disruptive methods, a hybrid approach allows you to allocate resources wisely.
Having understood the hybrid strategies, it is important to note that all the approaches, standalone or hybrid, make sense only when a particular scenario demands them. Neither can be stated as the most ideal option for all situations. Carefully assess the needs and requirements before making the final decision.
It is not an easy task to choose the right approach for a few specific scenarios. Then how do we choose the best fit? Certain factors need to be assessed to decide on which approach to take. Now, let’s look at these factors.

Key Considerations for Choosing the Right Approach

When embarking on the journey of application modernization, it’s crucial to consider several factors to determine the most suitable approach for your specific situation. These factors may include:
  • Business Objectives: Understand your organization’s current and future goals. Is the primary goal to reduce costs, improve performance, or adapt to changing market demands? The answers to these questions will take you closer to the decision that’s right for your case.
  • Technical Debt: Assess the extent of technical debt in your existing application. The more significant the debt, the more likely you’ll need a comprehensive approach like rebuilding or replacing.
  • Resource Availability: Consider the availability of skilled resources, time, and budget. Some approaches may require more resources and time than others. Also, assess whether you can achieve this internally or if you’ll need to outsource it to an expert.
  • User Impact: Analyze how each approach will affect your end-users. Minimizing disruption to the user experience is often a top priority for critical applications.
  • Scalability and Future-proofing: Evaluate whether the chosen approach will support your application’s scalability and future needs.
With these key factors taken into account, you can easily converge your thoughts toward one of the approaches or go with a hybrid approach.

Measuring the Impact - Evaluating the Success of Your Modernization

The application modernization journey is incomplete without a thorough examination of the impact your chosen approach has had on your applications and, by extension, your organization. Measuring this impact is not just about post-project analysis but also about ensuring that the modernized applications continue to deliver value in the long term.
  • Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate the application’s performance, such as response times, resource utilization, and scalability. Compare pre-modernization and post-modernization metrics to gauge improvements.
  • Collect feedback from end-users to understand how the modernization has affected their experience. This could include surveys, focus groups, or user analytics. Look for improved usability, reduced errors, and increased satisfaction. Implement feedback loops that allow for continuous improvement.
  • Calculate the return on investment (ROI) of the modernization effort. Determine how the changes have impacted revenue, customer acquisition, or other business metrics. Use the learnings from this evaluation to craft better and more focused modernization efforts in the future. Analyze potential risks and associated costs to decide if modernization is worth the investment.
Ready to modernize your legacy applications for lasting success? Taking the support of an expert modernization partner can be an ideal thing to choose the right modernization strategy and implement it efficiently. They will be able to assess and evaluate the intricacies of your requirements to tailor the modernization effort.
Partner with KANINI! With our deep industry expertise and consulting-led approach, we’ve helped many businesses transform their applications successfully. Get in touch with us today!

Edwin Peter

Edwin is a Solution Architect at KANINI. Bringing 20+ years of IT experience spanning presales, application development & architecting, app modernization, and legacy migration combined with deep knowledge across Telecom, Oil & Gas, IFE, HCM, and Healthcare, Edwin is a true cross-domain solution expert. He is well-versed with both – Windows and Unix/Linux platforms and proficient with .NET, Angular, Azure, and legacy technologies like C/C++/VC++, Perl, and Shell Script.

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