Refactor-Replatform Dilemma

In the months to come, companies of all shapes and sizes will be looking to start or accelerate their digital transformation, and that means adopting full-stack or hybrid cloud technology. As they start putting their digital transformation and cloud migration strategies together, they are finding that they must consider modernizing their applications.

The quicker they do this, the sooner they can accelerate delivery and improve their operational efficiency. But modernization is not a one size fits all process, and there are various methods they can choose from to get it done. So you may find yourself asking what the value of replatforming versus refactoring your applications is and why you would opt for one or the other.

In this blog, we break down the differences between replatforming and refactoring so you can make the best choice for your business.

The Refactoring Approach

Refactoring, also sometimes referred to as rearchitecting, is probably the most complex of all the cloud migration and application modernization techniques. This is because it requires changing the coding of your applications and, therefore, extensive testing to ensure you don’t lose necessary functionality.

You also have to ensure that you optimize the app to avoid incurring high costs through poor resource utilization once it is in the cloud.

What is Refactoring ?

Refactoring refers to the process of restructuring applications to better suit a cloud environment while maintaining its external behaviour. Note that it is similar to but not as intensive as completely rearchitecting an application from the ground up.


With refactoring, you are modifying your existing legacy software or large portions of the codebase so your applications can work in the cloud the same way they did before. The refactoring approach can be the most time-consuming and resource-intensive.

You may make only a few small changes or refactor large chunks of your codebase. But you want to take advantage of cloud-based features such as the flexibility and elasticity that they offer. The fact that it can provide the highest ROI once you are running in the cloud is a serious consideration, though.

Refactoring Pros

Long-term savings – Refactoring can reduce your long-term costs by matching your cloud infrastructure to the resources you actually need. Because you can scale your resources as needed, it reduces unnecessary consumption and delivers long-lasting ROI for your refactoring efforts.

Lifetime flexibility – Application architectures that are cloud-native and built around microservices make it easy to rapidly adapt and change to suit new customer requirements because adding new features or modifying current functionality is simple.

Increased resilience – Because you can decouple the components of your applications and bolt your own custom managed solutions together while also enjoying high availability, your application inherits the durability your cloud infrastructure delivers.

Refactoring Cons

Vendor lock-in – While you want your applications to be more cloud-native, doing this means it will need access to more cloud features. This can make applications tightly bound to the public cloud platform you decide to use.

Time-consuming – Refactoring your applications is resource-intensive and much more complex than other modernization techniques. This means it takes much longer before they start showing value to your business.

Skills required – Refactoring requires advanced coding, automation and DevOps skills and is not something that a beginner can do.

Losing functionality – With refactoring, you are changing many aspects of your applications at the codebase level. This means there is a high risk of errors in the code itself, as well as at the configuration and infrastructure levels. With every mistake comes delays, increased costs and possible outages

The Replatforming Approach

Sometimes referred to as a “Lift, Tinker and Shift” strategy, the replatforming approach involves making changes that allow an application to function in the cloud. This often results in improved profitability, user experiences, security and scalability.

It is the middle ground between simply rehosting (lift and shift) and refactoring or rearchitecting an application. The goal is to take advantage of a cloud infrastructure with as little modification to the application as possible.

You can use the replatforming approach while migrating your on-premise applications to the cloud or replatform an application that you’ve already rehosted. This technique is often associated with e-commerce, but it applies to all industries.

What is Replatforming ?

Replatforming an application involves making a few cloud optimizations with the goal of achieving a specific tangible benefit but without changing the core architecture of the application in question. Some common modifications that may be made to an application during replatforming include:

  • Changing how an application interacts with databases in order to benefit from an elastic database infrastructure and automation
  • Leveraging reserved resources and allowing for improved scaling with minimal changes to an application’s codebase

You can use the replatforming approach while migrating your on-premise applications to the cloud or replatform an application that you’ve already rehosted. This technique is often associated with e-commerce, but it applies to all industries.

Refactoring Pros

Cost-effective – The replatforming approach does not require a major development project and is therefore more cost-efficient.

Scalable – With replatforming, there is no need to commit to a large modernization or migration effort. You can move some workloads to the cloud, experiment with the environment and learn what you need to before moving on to other workloads.


Cloud-native functionality – Replatforming allows you to give legacy applications the ability to leverage cloud capabilities such as managed storage, data processing services, auto-scaling, infrastructure as code (IaC) and more.

Refactoring Cons

Scope creep – With a replatforming project, it can be easy to find yourself in the middle of a full-scale refactoring project instead. It is essential to prevent unnecessary changes in order to manage the scope of replatforming an application.

Unnecessary changes – It can be easy to get carried away with the cloud features you want to add to an application. But it is important to stick to only common, well-known cloud components because specialized components often require dramatic changes and, therefore, refactoring.

Automation is essential – The benefits of replatforming are limited if you plan to manage your cloud-based workloads manually. Therefore, you will at least have to invest in basic automation that provides a level of flexibility when operating the application in the cloud.


Modernizing your applications is a major undertaking. But a large part of it also involves understanding how your updated applications will operate in their new environments once you have finished migrating them to the cloud. When modernizing your applications, it is important to consider your business goals, as well as the capacities of each application and the costs involved in modernization.

Refactoring and Replatforming are just two of the so-called “6Rs of migration” or modernization, with the others being Rehosting, Repurchasing, Retiring and Retaining. Each has its own pros and cons, so in order to make the best decision about which of these techniques to employ, you should conduct comprehensive research on them all and discuss the different options with an expert like Company Name.

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