Modernizing Legacy Applications or Developing new ones

A significant trend has emerged in the world of business technology and IT systems during 2021 — organizations need to accelerate their digital transformation. This is leaving many businesses at a crossroads as they ask themselves how they can deal with their legacy applications.

These legacy applications had been developed or selected because they are great at what they do. Or at least they were. In 2021, businesses are finding that their legacy infrastructure is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Applications may have become difficult to maintain, update and support. Operational efficiency may be suffering too as these older applications struggle to keep pace with the requirements of modern business.

So where do business owners go from here? Do they modernize these legacy applications, bringing them up-to-date, or do they target a complete digital transformation by developing wholly new applications?

A Realistic Approach to Modernization

More than three-quarters of business owners report that they are “too invested in their legacy apps” to make wholesale changes. With this in mind, we can see that many organizations are reluctant to leave behind legacy systems, even if these systems are holding them back. 

The fact is, new applications and systems are necessary during digital transformation. Realistically, organizations cannot retain their legacy architecture indefinitely. Instead, they need to be realistic, acknowledging that some legacy applications will need to be left behind and that replacements will need to be developed.

Some applications may be cloud-ready — in other words, they can be quickly moved into a cloud environment to support digital transformation. Modernizing these legacy applications will be a relatively straightforward task. This will not be true for all of your applications, so it is important to audit your digital tech stack and identify candidates for modernization and replacement.

Utilize APIs to Extend Functionality

Not all applications are going to be suitable for immediate cloud deployment. Despite this, you may not need to replace all legacy applications just because they are not cloud-ready. APIs can play a vital role in making your program of modernization and digital transformation more efficient and effective.

APIs can fundamentally extend applications to make them suitable for cloud deployment and functionality. The API — or application programming interface — acts as a secure gateway that enables interactions between system components or between separate applications. Business owners may find that APIs can help them build whole new levels of functionality from existing legacy app structures, opting for effective modernization rather than a potentially lengthy development process.

Focus on Incremental Modernization

One problem with legacy application architecture is that the digital structures are unwieldy and unsuitable for achieving the agility required in the modern business landscape. While this is certainly true in many cases, it does not mean that legacy systems necessarily need to be discarded altogether.

Solutions such as IBM’s Cloud Pak utilize the Kubernetes platform to effectively break the functionality of the application down into more manageable components. These components can then operate independently, supporting individual features and functionality. This results in the delivery of microservices, which can be integrated with other applications in your tech ecosystem to achieve a manageable process of incremental modernization.

Containerization for Fast Development

Once you have identified which applications you can effectively modernize and implemented efficient measures to accelerate this process, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of the application ecosystem. Development processes for replacement applications will need to be executed quickly and efficiently so that your business experiences minimal disruption.

Containerization can be used to accelerate development and deployment. This is the process of building an isolated environment within an operating system that’s specifically designed for the application in question. Resource allocation becomes much easier and more efficient, eliminating much of the friction associated with developing and deploying applications.

By minimizing the workload through realistic identification of apps that need to be replaced and redeveloped, and by utilizing containers to accelerate development, businesses find that the route to digital transformation becomes far more straightforward. Statistics released by IBM showed that the implementation of development containers via the Cloud Pak solution reduced development time by up to 84% and resulted in a 75% reduction in operational expenses post-deployment.

Consider Microservices During Development

We’ve already touched on breaking monolithic applications down into microservices and achieving incremental modernization as a result. Microservices can go even further than this, supporting effective development for replacement applications.

These microservices provide much of the functionality required when developing new applications. If you already have this functionality available to you as a result of decomposing a legacy application with a container, this dramatically decreases the workload associated with developing a replacement.

Adopt Automated Deployment Models

A significant part of digital transformation relates to the mindset of business management and teams. A digital transformation toolkit is certainly important during the process, but this needs to be supported with the right attitude and the right approach.

Forward-thinking DevOps best practices are critical when it comes to developing and deploying replacement applications for your legacy systems. Automation is at the heart of this. By embracing this concept and automating key tasks during deployment, the route to a fully modernized, fully optimized digital application architecture becomes far more straightforward.

Modernize and Develop with IBM's Tools

The best strategy for accelerating the digital transformation of your organization is to utilize a hybrid approach. Some of your legacy applications will be transferrable to cloud structures and are therefore ready for deployment. Others may require API extensions to prepare them for future-ready business models, while some applications may need to be broken down into microservices ready for incremental integration. Of course, there may be applications that need to be replaced altogether.

IBM’s tools can help you to accelerate this process by bringing together all aspects of the hybrid model as you modernize your systems. We are an IBM Platinum provider, and so we are perfectly positioned to deliver what you need. Reach out to our team today to discover more.

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