The Main Features of Legacy Application Modernization

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Have you noticed how quickly cutting-edge inventions become obsolete nowadays? Only a few decades ago, new devices and technologies were ushered to stay with us throughout our lifetime. In the early third millennium, the pace of development in all spheres of human activity has accelerated so much that almost every week some ground-breaking innovations are introduced, ousting the ones that had seemed all the rage just a couple of years before. 

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The IT industry is an abject lesson in such processes whose breakneck headway is a marvel for average users but often a challenge for business owners. The latter have to adopt novel solutions in order not only to stay precariously afloat in the circumstances of cut-throat competition but to get a powerful edge over their rivals in the niche and live up to their clients’ expectations, turning the challenge into a success story

However, many egg-walking entrepreneurs cling to the good old software, partly because of the why-ditch-what-works-well attitude and partly because they realize what a bother legacy software modernization might be. And the greater the complexity of the system and the higher number of businesses it covers, the harder it to modernize it and transfer to new technologies.

Yet, whatever is the excuse for the reluctance to switch to state-of-the-art technologies and products, this transition is imminent. And delaying it will only make the changeover more painful. Having a quarter of a century of experience in custom mobile app development, we at NIX have come to realize that this simple truth holds for any hardware or software and legacy applications are no exception. 

Legacy Application Modernization journey

What is Legacy Application?

Before starting on a legacy application modernization journey it is necessary to get down to the basics and deal with the pivotal question “What is legacy application?”

An archetypal definition would qualify all old solutions as legacy ones. But this diagnosis is at fault on two points. First of all, the very understanding of “old” is vague since some apps stay relevant and efficiently perform tasks for years while still being considered alive and kicking. Second, solutions may become obsolete several months after their release in case breakthrough alternatives have appeared to render them old-school. 

Evidently, there are other factors to mark a piece of software as a legacy application.

  • Being written in a dead language. That’s not Latin or Aramaic, of course. But programming languages can get out of use as well (like Cobol or Natural) so their support becomes non-existent. Consequently, a legacy application stands no chance of being updated, which may lead to increased system vulnerability, inability to bug creeps fixing, and implementation of new market-demand features.
  • Having no experts to maintain them. Technologies age as much as languages do. It can become a challenge to find people today who work with Python 2 or other archaic technologies. Moreover, the lack of quality experts lead to a price of their services being much higher.
  • Being based on short-lifecycle technologies. Not only clothes can be trendy. Sometimes, the entire IT community is obsessed with some latest fad in the digital realm (like Elm) that later turns out to be cost-effective. As soon as the hype is over, developers turn their focus on other technologies, you are left face-to-face with a legacy application and face the challenge, mentioned above.
  • Being a hurry-scurry product. Software, created on short notice, could be based on a non-optimal tech stack and approaches since the most suitable and cost-efficient for the particular case might require much more time than business had. Further, this transforms into a blocker for solution update and functional scalability. It also can lead to one of the three described above factors that make the solution a legacy. 

Have you recognized any of these features in your business app? Then you are face to face with a legacy application.

Problems of Legacy Systems

What are the pitfalls and bottlenecks that await you when you postpone legacy application modernization and keep using your merry old app of Oz? 

Legacy application transformation: benefits

1. Gradual Deterioration of Operation

Everybody around is traveling in supersonic jets, but you huff and puff along on your treasured steam engine. Eventually, you will reach your destination, but your competitors will be miles ahead of you by that time. It means the business will not be able to adapt and fulfill client needs and potentially lead to clientele outflow. Plus, your app will repeatedly reveal new issues and failures that cannot be fixed without legacy modernization implementation. 

2. Compromised Security

Cybercriminals are on a perennial hunt for holes in the safety armor. Over time its strength will become ever flimsier without an opportunity of fixing it. Without legacy application modernization, it is only a question of time when the security defenses will crumble, rendering the app vulnerable. 

3. Close to Zero Integration Potential

Apps rarely function in isolation. As a rule, they operate with a broad range of third-party tools, libraries, and platforms (for instance, social media and payment systems) to provide a satisfying UX to clients and employees. Often, legacy apps are unable to leverage services outside inner infrastructure to expand functionality. As a solution, it can be achieved only at the cost of a prodigious amount of custom code writing, which makes such solutions financially and chronologically inappropriate..

4. Cumbersome and Rigid Structure

Typically, legacy apps rely on monolithic architecture that presupposes single-block software with all modules drawing on a universal code-base. Such a system is highly inflexible since introducing changes to various modules piecemeal is impossible without rehashing the entire app. 

5. Support and Maintenance Dearth

This problem has two dimensions – technical and human. 

Technically, all related problems stem from the absence of support and updates on the part of developers. Being thus abandoned by their creators, software based on these technologies falls into decay that you can only ward off for a time but not ultimately avoid.

The personnel scarcity is a consequence of the petering out technical support. New generations of specialists see no purpose in learning how to deal with relics of the past and old-timers are even harder to come by. Your search and recruitment process turns into a weary marathon – and when you do fall upon a competent expert they will demand outrageous fees for their services. 

Old solutions are often unwieldy (especially if their parents are numerous). Every little problem in them requires eons to identify and fix. The situation can be exacerbated by the absence of documentation mapping out the legacy application architecture or listing its features.

As a result, supporting legacy solutions becomes stabbing about in the dark, and specialists need more time to understand how it works and how to implement changes not to ruin the stability and workability of the system. 

6. Exorbitant Expenditures

All of the shortcomings mentioned above increase the maintenance cost of the app. Such costs include hiring a recruiting agency to unearth experts in ancient technologies, paying for their unique skills and expertise, splurging on more frequent usage of maintenance services than you would after legacy application modernization, and coughing up dozens of smaller sums that are unavoidable when you try to patch up the old system.

7. Hamstrung Business Opportunities

Employing outdated software is a severe handicap to your workflow in case of the app functions internally. And if it is meant to solve the problems of clients… well, it is more likely to cause new problems than handling the existing ones.

This “magnificent seven” is the best proof that staying with legacy apps is no option for companies having big-time aspirations. But perhaps it makes sense to build a new app instead of modernizing legacy applications that you are using?

Building Anew vs Modernizing Legacy Applications: What to Choose?

Generally, people adopt one of the two tactics when some of their belongings go out of order. Some of them try to mend whatever is broken to continue enjoying the thing they got used to. Others prefer to discard it and buy a brand-new item instead. But when business software is concerned you can’t go by personal preferences while choosing either modus operandi. 

When total abandonment of a problem app and building a new one make sense?

  • Legacy application modernization is going to be impractical – either because its cost is prohibitive or because it is too effort-consuming.
  • Legacy application modernization is unattainable – because the technology the old app was built with is so obsolete that there is no way to implement legacy modernization: the technological gap is unbridgeable. 

When should you opt for legacy application modernization?

  • The contemporary app market has no ready-made product to offer that would suit the organization’s business needs to a tee.
  • The app is mission-critical for the company’s operations (like it is included in its portfolio).
  • The existing app is the best fit for the current security regulations. 

Having created dozens of apps for different industries – from automotive to eСommerce – we at NIX know that the last three drivers are by far the most frequent, persuading a lion’s share of companies to embrace legacy application modernization.

Legacy Modernization Options

Step-by-step guide to modernizing legacy app

There are three basic legacy system modernization approaches for you to choose from

1. Cloud Hydration

This method means redeploying the app to the cloud with minimal changes to its structure. Usually, such transformations boil down to modifying the way of interaction between the program and the database so that upscaling and automation opportunities provided by the cloud are made available. This approach is a cost-effective mechanism of getting access to cloud-native services and functionalities.

2. Going Serverless

With this approach, you can stay on-premises or move to the cloud (the latter is more typical today) but the app works without in-house server software and hardware. By choosing this model of legacy application modernization, organizations can focus on their essential business processes instead of dispersing their attention on infrastructure management routine (capacity and cluster provisioning, patching, operating system maintenance, etc.). Another perk of serverless architecture is the exclusive upscaling flexibility it provides.

3. Containerizing It

This one presupposes packing all software components into one object to be further easily moved wherever you like. The most popular variety of containers is the microservices deployment that enables consistent operations and enhanced app development while drastically cutting down on overhead.

When you have selected a legacy application modernization strategy, you should carefully map out the modification route.

An App Modernization Algorithm to Follow

To turn application modernization into a success story, the following steps must be taken.

Step 1. Define the Goals

You should have a clear vision of what you would like to achieve by modernizing your legacy app in terms of technical characteristics, expected performance indicators, and business objectives.

Step 2. Take Stock of What You Have

Your legacy app should be thoroughly analyzed to assess its business fit and value as well as the current technical landscape concerning the three major elements: data, business logic, and UI. By doing it, you will know which components of it need upgrading and which are doing fine the way they are.

Step 3. Select Modernization Depth

This choice should be made separately for each element and feature. Each next level is more complicated and effort-consuming – and consequently more costly.

  • Encapsulation. Data and functions are boxed together to provide access to them as services through an API. 
  • Rehosting. App elements are moved to another infrastructure with no changes introduced to any of them.
  • Replatforming. Leaving its code structure, functions, and features intact, the app is migrated to a new platform, which involves only slight code tweaking.
  • Refactoring. Non-functional attributes are augmented via eliminating technical debt by dint of optimizing the code. 
  • Rearchitecting. The code is altered in order to relocate it to a new application. 
  • Rebuilding. It is totally rewriting the app’s component while retaining its specifications and scope.
  • Replacing. Here, you get rid of components and supplant them with new ones.

Step 4. Fathom Your Budget

Although app modernization isn’t such a big-ticket endeavor as building an app from scratch (and this is the main reason why it is preferred), it is still not a bargain-price issue. So before embarking on it you should make sure that your business is able to make this investment in the current moment.

Step 5. Determine the Tech Stack

A proper choice of tools, languages, libraries and other software to be instrumental in app modernization is crucial for the ultimate success of the procedure.

Step 6. Outline the Modernization Plan

The entire procedure should be mapped out with a documented list of components to be upgraded, the sequence of modernization stages, and the timeframe for each of them. 

Step 7. Appoint the Team

You should contract a seasoned software development partner who will do all the work in case your company doesn’t have in-house experts.

Step 8. Implement the Modernization

When everything and everybody is ready, carry out the procedure closely following the charted scenario.

Step 9. Test the Modernized App

Conduct make sure the upgraded product functions in accordance with your expectations and requirements.

As you see, legacy app modernization is a no-nonsense endeavor that requires taking into account a lot of factors and meticulous fulfillment. When faced with such an ordeal a DIY approach is not an option for outcome-driven entrepreneurs. That is why it is wise to engage the services of a seasoned IT company that has sufficient expertise to deliver a top-notch result. NIX United has a huge experience in such projects guaranteeing awesome UX, high performance and seamless operation of the end product.

Conclusion

Sticking to legacy apps puts a grievous halter on the efficiency and growth prospects of your company. By modernizing it, you will be able to keep abreast of the latest technological advancements and provide your business with new development opportunities, cutting costs, process optimization, and income raising eventually.