How to Choose the Best Legacy Application Modernization Strategy? — The 3 Steps Process

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Legacy application modernization isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. One needs to analyze risks and choose appropriate application modernization strategy before committing to it.

You must initially know the business and technical risk legacy applications pose to your organization. We have written a comprehensive blog on Why Legacy Application Modernization Can Benefit You- Top 6 Reasons; this article covers all the significant risks that a business may face because of legacy applications.

Once you’ve identified the technical and business risks that legacy systems present to your company, you’ll need to decide which legacy application modernization strategy to pursue.

“The optimal strategy for dealing with a legacy problem is determined by the problem you’re trying to solve. Replacement isn’t the only option available.”

Our team at AnAr Solutions follows the 3 steps evaluation process, which helps us determine the best legacy application modernization strategy for a particular business challenge.

Step 1: Evaluate the existing legacy application using six drivers.

Integration and compliance

You must consider two elements before modernizing legacy apps: integration and compliance. You may need to rely on third-party APIs for user verification, geo-location, and data transmission in legacy applications. Integration feature is built-in to the modernized app. However, you must ensure that your apps are compatible with third-party solutions before modernizing legacy software. It would be best to verify that your modern apps will not violate any laws.

Data management constraints

Modernizing legacy apps is difficult because they contain a large amount of data. To use the underlying data practically, you must first take a long, careful look at it. To effectively manage data, you should define tactical data governance rules. It will assist you in removing data silos, making data reorganization and storage space optimization easier.

Risk factors

It is critical to consider the risks connected with legacy application modernization. If you’re modernizing multiple legacy apps at once, you should estimate the time it will take to modernize each one independently. Also, when you have a large number of lines of code, you should handle it with particular caution. Aside from these, you must also examine the operational risks that develop due to modernization.

Existing budgetary resources

It’s essential to have a well-thought-out financial plan in place as a part of your Legacy application modernization strategy. Before upgrading historical apps, you should ask yourself, “What are the budgetary limitations that must be considered?” The main point here is that you need enough money in your budget to modernize legacy applications.

Expenditure review

Modernizing legacy applications is a difficult task. As a result, a detailed assessment of the expenditure is required. It will assist you in determining whether or not your legacy app modernization project will be profitable in the future. You’ll need to calculate the costs of updating your legacy programs using the following analysis:

  • Maintenance cost analysis: Constructive Cost Model (COCOMO) should estimate infrastructure maintenance costs and determine maintenance spending. 
  • ROI analysis: Return on Investment (ROI) should be calculated based on the company’s current situations, and further decisions should be made on factual data.
  • Infrastructure cost analysis: Costs of IT infrastructure should be assessed and calculated. It will assist you in determining how much you should spend on infrastructure.

Time optimization

Legacy application modernization takes effort and patience. Every organization’s app modernization process is unique, and so is the time it takes to complete it. However, it is fundamental for every organization to have enough time to adopt the right legacy application modernization strategy. App modernization is a process that takes time. It’s a voyage that will take some time. There isn’t a set timetable for it. So, to gain the full benefits of app modernization, you should devote a significant amount of time to it.

Step 2: Evaluate different Application modernization strategies and approaches.

Legacy system modernization strategies

To modernize legacy applications, you can either opt for a revolutionary or an evolutionary approach.

Revolutionary Modernization

A comprehensive, from-the-ground-up infrastructure overhaul is referred to as revolutionary modernization. Mergers and acquisitions, for example, frequently need this technique when one company must swiftly adapt to the new entity’s infrastructure.

Another instance where a revolutionary approach is used is when the legacy system has advanced from a burden to a risk. This happens when vendors stop providing support for older applications, leaving organizations with compliance and security holes with no new updates or patches.

This strategy presents disruptions, risks, and higher costs.

Evolutionary Modernization

Organizations that are more reluctant to take any risk usually opt for the evolutionary strategy. The evolutionary modernization strategy is a multi-phased, long-term plan that aims to accomplish the same objectives as the revolutionary approach.

The evolutionary approach takes a workload-by-workload approach to application modernization, allowing you to modernize one workload at a time. This method is less disruptive to business and spreads costs out over time.

If you are locked into a vendor contact, then this strategy to modernize legacy applications can help you wait for a contract to expire.

Different approaches to modernize legacy applications

On a broad level, you have two options: replace your application with a new one or fix your current one. You can either do it in-house or hire someone to do it for you. Let’s begin with the first approach.

Modernization Approach #1: 

You can rewrite or replace your legacy software with ready-made applications to make it more modern. Because of the following drawbacks, it’s an extreme strategy (a revolution rather than an evolution) that’s not very prevalent (organizations prefer to re-platform or re-factor). This approach is rather too radical (a revolution than an evolution); most organizations prefer re-factor or re-platform because of the following drawbacks.

  • It’s expensive requires a larger budget.
  • It takes a long time.
  • It carries business risks.
  • Developers may not like to work on it.

In most circumstances, the disadvantages listed above rule this method out. But there are some advantages as well — 

For example — 

  • You can redesign your business process for maximum productivity.
  • You can automate and optimize the system for a better user experience.
  • You can avoid possible problems with new feature additions, architecture redesign, migration, and so forth.

There are a few instances where this revolutionary approach makes more sense than more traditional tactics like re-platforming or re-hosting. Assume you’re modernizing a legacy application with the most recent technologies and frameworks available. Although it is a valuable marketing asset, the actual business risk of such a modernization process is modest. You aren’t storing sensitive information there, and it isn’t the basis of your company model. If your application crashes, the repercussions will be minor.

Another way to look at the risk factor is from a different perspective. When changing the present code poses too many risks, it may be required to replace a legacy application. This could be due to a variety of factors, including security concerns. The revolutionary approach might be the only way to go if updating specific components could result in data breaches or system outages.

Also, if your legacy systems are no longer helpful, replacing them may be the best choice. There could be a possibility that the business process they use to support may no longer exist, or you have acquired a new company, and merging both teams will need some major changes to your business process.

Modernization Approach #2: Updating or Fixing Current Application

This approach modernizes only selected components of your application. Rather than a single strategy, it’s a collection of strategies that don’t mandate the development of a completely new system.

There are multiple steps to update a legacy application, and most businesses proceed in stages. By moving in a step-by-step process, you can avoid any significant shock that may appear after introducing a big change at once.

This modernization approach has several advantages — 
  • it’s cheaper to implement
  • it’s easier to plan and execute
  • it carries fewer business risks and interference
But on the other side, this approach comes with numerous drawbacks — 
  • it only heals the symptoms rather than removing the complete root cause.
  • In the future, your developers are likely to run into similar issues.
  • The challenge of hiring and maintaining legacy system talent also persists.
  • It might not give productivity boost and automation benefits as you may expect.

You should now see why evaluating your business needs and software issues are critical. You won’t determine the best strategy for your project if you don’t do your analysis.

Now, let’s find out how to modernize legacy applications using this approach.

A. Modernization by Re-Hosting

Migration to new infrastructure is arguably the simplest of all modernization approaches (a virtual or physical). With this approach, you keep the application architecture essentially the same and don’t significantly modify the functionalities.

Migration to the cloud is the most common choice here. Selecting one of the major cloud service providers like Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon’s AWS can assure that your infrastructure remains up to date as they have large teams of developers taking care of it. 

B. Modernization by Re-Platforming

Another approach is to re-platform; this can be done by moving your legacy application to a new runtime environment by running it on a new platform. You make changes to ensure that your program runs in the new environment. With this approach, you have to make minimal changes to the code while keeping the architecture and functionalities as it is.

Companies that re-platform typically do it in conjunction with cloud migration. It’s a sort of middle ground between re-hosting and re-architecting, both of which are far more complex operations.

C. Modernization by Re-Architecting and Re-Factoring

You can integrate re-architecting and re-factoring or pick one of these approaches. When migration to a cloud service or new runtime environment is not enough, it’s feasible that you’ll need to optimize your existing code.

Switching to new application architecture, like optimizing current code, is a wonderful method to increase the efficiency of your system without having to spend hours building a new app from scratch.

Note that this approach is only meant to update or fix an existing legacy application, not to develop an entirely new one.

D. Modernization by Rebuilding Selected Components

This approach focuses on identifying and rebuilding essential legacy components that need to be modernized without affecting the application’s scope. It could, for example, be a specific feature or a group of elements that make up the user experience.

This approach is suitable for enterprise SaaS companies that don’t want to risk confusing their customers by launching an entirely new app built with modern technology.

Step 3: Choose the modernization strategy with the best impact and value

Now that you have understood the risks and have evaluated your legacy application through six key drivers. Finally, map the available application modernization strategies regarding their effects on technology, functionality, architecture, cost, and risk to determine which one will have the most significant impact and value for your organization. 

The key is to weigh all options to see how much each will have the desired effect with the minimum effort and the maximum positive impact.

Final Words

Engineering, recruitment processes, workforce retention, and daily digital operations are just a few of the issues caused by legacy software. They add up to an excessive expense in terms of money and time, and they stifle your business’s progress.

Choose well-tested modern technologies with a vibrant developer community to avoid legacy technology difficulties. Make no impulsive decisions, and avoid adopting new, hot, and popular technologies. If you’re tempted, consider whether you truly need them (why use a blockchain when a regular database meets the standard?). Consult with professional software developers to ensure that you’re making effective decisions.

Select the appropriate legacy modernization choices for your business needs once you have data. You have the option of replacing your present application or using one of the available fixes.

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