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Application modernization: migration from legacy systems

Legacy applications are a burden for many companies undergoing a digital transformation. Software built on out-of-date platforms, using old programming languages and tools, hides unmitigated risk. That is why today application modernization is a high priority for many organizations that were simply not “born” digital. 

Why you need application modernization?

When your application has been running reliably for years, it is easy to overlook the need or urgency for upgrading it. But will your systems be able to support your future strategy and help you remain competitive? Have you also considered factors like security and maintenance costs? What may initially seem like a saving, could turn into something more expensive than you have anticipated.

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application modernization_mobile phone


Legacy systems typically have big codebase and monolithic nature. You cannot simply modify or replace one system module as even a small update can create conflicts across the system. Any change requires more time and effort. On another note, re-architecting your legacy code with modern technologies will help you reduce the cost of having highly experienced developers maintain code that few can work with.


When a legacy system is no longer supported by their manufacturers, they enter a stage when they become a danger to the company. Soon after it also becomes non-compliant with the latest security standards and is not safeguarded from potential threats. A single unpatched vulnerability can enable attackers to access all applications, middleware, and databases running on the server platform.


The older your application gets, the slower and slower it becomes. Legacy systems usually consume more resources causing more frequent failures, which leads to inefficiency and unproductivity. As performance speed depends on the optimal usage of technology capabilities, migration and redesign help you achieve this by using the best technologies. 

Talent pool 

Developers who are just starting out are learning programming languages like JavaScript and C#. As a legacy technology moves further past the point of manufacturer support, there are fewer and fewer IT professionals with the knowledge of those technologies. Thus, the costs of the smaller pool of experts in that technology grow. 


Companies are constantly looking to take advantage of new technologies, but often disregard how they can integrate with their current software. To make legacy apps compatible with third-party tools, a big amount of custom code is required, while modern apps are integration-ready by default. The risk of the final integration going wrong with outdated apps is high. It can lead to delayed deployment, cancelled implementations, or costly and unplanned upgrades.

5 ways to embark on the application modernization  journey

Now that the question is not about whether to modernize at all, we look at how to modernize. Should you move your core applications to hybrid cloud? Which technology areas or applications will deliver the largest impact or highest value for the business? Here are 5 ways to embark on your application modernization journey. 

Understand your needs and define goals

The benefits your organization would gain from the modernization project will completely depend on your needs and goals. That’s why it’s important to assess the readiness of your current IT landscape and identify priorities.  To start with, evaluate your current application portfolio: legacy environment, application usage, interdependencies, data types and establish how it aligns with the current business objectives. What are the potential solution paths and what is needed to achieve the desired business objective? Then, identify various modernization options driven by your application assessment and business objectives. Are there sufficient resources to commit to the project? What are the budgetary constraints and timeframe requirements? application modernization_cloud computing

Move your applications to the Cloud 

The choice of which applications to move or not to move to the cloud should be based on your application assessment. Decide how to get your application from where it lives today to where it needs to be tomorrow – Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, On-premise or Co-location. When opting for Hybrid Cloud, for example, you move the application and its data without making any significant changes to the application itself. This approach can be a good starting point for large scale optimization projects when organizations are looking to shift their on-premise infrastructure in a short period of time.


On another hand, modernizing an application for the cloud can range from refactoring to rearchitecting, to an entire app rebuild. A common approach is to first rehost the application to derive some basic cloud benefits, and then fully rearchitect or rebuild it to maximize these benefits over the long term. It is important to understand how your application will function in the cloud. If you have a lot of file movement, it could be very costly, and you might want to look at storage. In any case, it’s important to select your cloud vendor wisely and know your pricing. For example, when opting for AWS, you need to pay extra attention to selecting your AWS regions, as making the right choices upfront can save you thousands. 

Modernize user experience  

Modernizing a legacy application goes hand in hand with modernizing user experience as it directly impacts the way people work and helps them navigate new technologies. It does not have to be just a beautiful application that will win a design award. Consider what your users need first and then make it pretty. Be ready to have an application that can be consumed on phone, tablet, and monitor and look at what you want the user to do across all three screen formats. Start with gaining a deep understanding of your users’ behavior and prioritize the most important parts of the system: the parts that will create more value for the business and users when redesigned. 

Start with a Proof-of-Concept (PoC)

Defining the outcomes of your application modernization project is critical — especially in large organizations when you have multiple stakeholders of various levels of technology and business understanding. A proof-of-concept can vary from UI mockups to a simple MVP and can be implemented for verifying the feasibility of your selected cloud migration approach, app rebuild, new feature implementation, etc. Instead of executing a complete app modernization, you develop a workable solution that is good enough to prove your hypothesis but not loaded with side features or high-end UI. This way you save critical resources that would otherwise be spent on scaling a tested solution. 

Incorporate Continuous Delivery 

A successful application modernization never ends. That’s why continuous delivery is critical to business transformation success. It helps the team keep up with competitors, often cloud-native companies, who are pushing updates out faster. The bar is set increasingly higher as users become accustomed to applications that are highly reliable and frequently updated. The best way to begin on the continuous delivery journey is to incorporate a DevOps approach. It involves boosting collaboration and implementing regular feedback between the development and operations teams. This enhanced connectivity between the teams translates to an increased velocity of delivery, along with increased reliability in production.

To sum up

Regardless of the approach you take, application modernization is about realigning technology to your business needs and doing so in an efficient and cost-effective manner. All application modernization ways deliver fundamental advantages, such as improving agility, speed, scalability, security, and reliability, while reducing costs and making expenditures more predictable. 
Whether you have already embarked or are just starting on your app modernization journey, benefit from partnering with an IT company with extensive experience in app modernization. 
Violeta is a Marketing Specialist at Accedia, promoting the value of developing software innovation. Social Media savvy, passionate about writing and traveling.


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