The relationship between cloud adoption and app modernization

Just like a business must constantly change and adapt in response to new challenges and opportunities, so too must business applications. Digital transformation, or the changes that come with the adoption of digital technology in every aspect of society, is fast approaching critical mass. And if there is one thing that the last year has made clear, it is the fact that cloud adoption is how businesses of all shapes and sizes implement their own digital transformation.

The future of business applications lies in the cloud

Businesses are no longer asking themselves IF they should adopt a cloud strategy — but rather asking WHEN they should do it. Shifting your business to the cloud comes with many benefits that include improved collaboration, efficiency, agility, business resilience, operational costs and more. By harnessing the power of the cloud, you’re opening the door to new markets and enhanced user experiences for all.


The benefits speak for themselves, and yet most businesses have only moved a small percentage of their workloads to the cloud. One of the main reasons for this is that the remaining core business workloads are harder to move and need a more holistic and thoughtful approach to their cloud migration because they share dependencies.

There is no question that digital transformation is essential if you want to keep up with the pace of modern business environments, especially considering factors such as the speed of technology change, continuous innovation, dynamic market conditions and competitors striving to be faster and leaner at every turn. And so now the only question that remains with cloud adoption is the HOW. How are you going to get the full value that the cloud has to offer for every aspect of your business operations?

The problem with rehosting or ''lift and shift''

Many of the applications you use in your day-to-day business operations will work in the cloud exactly as they did when they were on-premise, without needing to make any changes to the application code itself. And so a lift-and-shift approach makes sense. Why spend the money on refactoring, re-platforming or re-architecting when it isn’t necessary?

Well-known cloud services have all the features that appeal to many organizations — pay-per-use, high resiliency, the ability to scale resources based on usage, self-service and more. They expect all these benefits to lead to better service quality, better efficiency and much lower costs compared to traditional IT infrastructures.

But there are two major issues with simply rehosting legacy business applications:

Existing business applications were developped using traditionnal IT paradigms

This means they’re usually monolithic in nature and designed for a static/fixed capacity in a limited number of data centres. Lifting an application to the cloud doesn’t magically give it all the dynamic features that cloud-native applications offer. In some cases, they can’t even utilize certain basic cloud features, such as automation, at all.

Your IT team lacks certain necessary skills 

The majority of the technology workforce of today has years or decades of experience in developing business applications within the traditional IT infrastructure. For those who do have experience with application development for cloud environments, it is often within a specific aspect of the process. This means that most of your IT team will need to be reskilled or upskilled before you even begin.

There is more to your journey to the cloud

At this point, there is no denying that moving to the cloud is the optimal method for future-proofing your business operations. By doing so, you have the ability to turn costly and often unpredictable capital expenditures into more manageable and fixed monthly operational costs. Upgrading or downgrading your systems can be done with ease, and your company is able to work safely and securely from any location as long as they have an internet connection.

But if you want to truly take full advantage of a cloud computing environment and avoid both frustration and heavy costs in the future, you need to include application and system modernization in your cloud migration and digital transformation strategy. This is especially true when it comes to moving your critical legacy systems to the cloud. With modernization, your existing business applications are central to your migrations process.

Every component of every application is individually analyzed, compared to an equivalent cloud-native service, and rebuilt or refactored so that it can run natively within a managed cloud service. This might feel like too costly an approach to take. But as you can see from the table in this article, the costs of a lift-and-shift approach versus a modernization approach balance out within a five-year period.

So, while rehosting might seem to be the more cost-effective solution at first, the limits, complications and challenges of using traditional applications within cloud environments can end up costing you more than you imagined. And this is where the power of IBM Cloud Paks comes into play. With six solutions offering dozens of functionalities and integrated cloud services, IBM Cloud Paks are AI-powered software designed to help make the process of modernizing your existing applications as simple as possible.

Modern business need modern applications

While there are tremendous benefits to both cloud adoption and application modernization, it is important to remember that there is no one-and-done, one-size-fits-all solution for either. It is an ongoing process and will require a consistent commitment to the process — one that is supported by a comprehensive application modernization strategy.

You will also need to make sure you have a complete overview of your entire technology stack. This allows you to cope with the increasing complexity of your cloud systems and to ensure your business is taking advantage of all the benefits and getting the results you expect from your cloud strategy.

At the end of the day, different scenarios will influence the decision of which model you use for your cloud adoption strategy. But the benefits of adopting modernization now, before your current technology becomes obsolete and has to be replaced, are compelling. One option that you may find works for you to get the best of both rehosting and modernization is to use a “Modernization after Migration” model.

You’ll be able to decrease your dependence on your on-premise infrastructure a lot faster and then continuously modernize your workloads once they are in the cloud — thereby getting the long-term benefits offered by cloud-native applications.

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