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Legacy Application Modernization Doesn’t Mean Starting Over

The recent pandemic has stirred the business world, spurring the demand for an agile and scalable IT environment to meet the evolving needs of customers. Still the challenge for many well-established organizations is that they are working on monolithic legacy systems. And when they think of application modernization from large, heavy, single-deployment architecture to less weighty and more agile technologies, they get pushed back by several questions.

Does the application just need an update or complete revamp? Is the current system not able to meet customer needs? Does it come with security risks? And most importantly, does modernizing mean completely starting over the business again?

We need to rethink what modernization means and why it is important in the age of digital transformation.

What is Modernization?

Legacy application modernization is the process of migrating legacy applications to the latest technology architecture. Put simply, it means updating old systems with advanced features and capabilities that better align with futuristic business goals.

Application modernization can be varied depending on the nature of the business problem. It could be functional improvements, new user experience, integration with APIs, new data feeds, new architecture setup, or service models, etc.

Why Rethinking Modernization is Important

Not so long ago, modernization would be considered as moving applications off the mainframe to somewhere else. Of course, businesses did that to save Operational Expenditures (OpEx) and to address technology upgrades and support continuation problems. But those data migrations were expensive, time-intensive projects that largely involved moving the application as it is to the target environment. And they often deliver no value in terms of business growth.

In those times, few people imagined the amount of flexibility would be needed to outperform in the digital era. Not even they envisioned that there would be a need to integrate business functions with other applications to create composite applications and functions.

Modernization- Bringing Agility and Responsiveness

In digital time, flexibility and scalability are really important things that systems need to be able to perform. The result is two parts? First, it creates an inevitable need for more agility in legacy systems. Secondly, it calls for rapid innovation in rolling out new business functions and products that would optimize business processes to keep abreast of changes. Therefore, we must rethink what is meant by modernization to respond to the new requirements.

For instance, H&K International, a leading manufacturer and supplier of kitchen equipment, was using a legacy ERP system, which was difficult to use and lacked features which would hinder business growth. Seeing the urgent need for modernization, the company transitioned from the DB2 database to a new MS SQL database architecture. Now, the company is able to gain better insights into their products and client behavior with the new web-based enterprise application.

Important Benefits of Application Modernization

Modernization comes with great benefits including accelerated innovation, agility, scalability that empower new business ideas and augment process workflows. There are a number of pain points around current applications that could use modernization in more creative ways to fuel business growth.

Speed & Agility

Outdated systems confine business ability to quickly ramp up new features and services. Mostly businesses assign a team to fix and maintain the applications without a plan. With the help of modernization, you can bring improved agility to add new features and functionality in a quick time.

Services based architecture (Micro services)

Microservices involve breaking larger pieces of software or application into smaller pieces of reusable code. This in turn allows code to run independently, enabling more agile workflow. Businesses can use tools like Kubernetes to automate application deployment, scaling, and management without worrying about back-end integration.

Performance and Scalability

Legacy modernization may unlock new revenue streams by elevating performance and scalability in a cost-effective manner. Cloud native applications provide scalability to handle traffic spikes during the festive season and new launches.  

Security and Support

Most of the legacy applications have restrictions about available security patches, support from OEM’s and availability of support skilled staff. Modernization can help alleviate such blockage and align businesses with current demands.

Decomposing the Legacy Application – Latest Trends

Generally, modernization entails Heavy modernization, which means re-coding; and Light modernization, which means using the original app through a modern cloud service.

One option that’s often preferred is a complete makeover of the application. That means rebuilding. But rewriting a million lines of code with intensive low-code environment compatibility is a huge undertaking.

So, for this heavy modernization, companies are embracing modern techniques known as ‘service decomposition.’ This simply implies that breaking down heavy legacy applications into components that can be easily maintained and developed independently. Further, the technique involves exposing the built components through APIs, often termed as containerized microservices.

The containerization technique has emerged as a way to deal with modernization by packaging applications with all the tools or services, which are required for them to run. As it leverages tools, technologies, and code required to run an application, it allows different components to extend their useful life. The power of components lies in taking proactive decisions to break the system into discrete parts rather than waiting for the point where the application no longer meet the business needs.

One such example is of CSCS, a skills certification scheme for the UK construction industry. The company was facing a continuous challenge of long processing times and lengthy customer service calls in issuing the cards. Another challenge was that there was no mechanism in place to check the authenticity of the cards. The company leveraged a micro service-based architecture to develop a web application that put a check on authenticity of the certificate. The system is linked with different awarding bodies and well-integrated with the card production system using FTP/XML files.

For Light modernization, an application is moved to another infrastructure (cloud for example) without revising the original code or changing its features.

Important components of App Modernization

Getting to the market faster has become an inevitable aspect of today’s competitive landscape. In fact, a research by Forrester predicts that enterprises will surpass the break-fixes and seek innovative app services to modernize their business applications.

True digital transformation requires modernization components. Without them, you cannot go to market faster with new products and services.


Containers make different codes as a standalone package. This makes the code portable, enhances computing capabilities, and also slashes down the dependencies on underlying infrastructure. It offers immense flexibility to switch to any cloud service based on given requirements.


DevOps combines development with IT operations. During app modernization, DevOps helps accelerate the app development cycle through its specialized nature of continuous delivery with quality, scalability, and enhanced security.


In today’s competition, mobile has become one of the key aspects to enrich customer experience. Taking business to mobile improves accessibility and brings value to the table with anywhere anytime flexibility.

Artificial Intelligence/ML

Updating business processes require modern technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Chatbots, to develop smarter applications that can speak, listen, act, and think like humans.

Modernization Does Not Mean Starting Over

As modernization involves creating new business value from existing, aging applications by updating them with advanced features, it does not mean building from scratch. Whether packaged or custom-built, aging systems often remain at the core of the enterprise. During modernization, some parts of the original software are preserved, making the process less expensive when compared to writing a code for a new application. Applying modernization means turning legacy old systems into a lucrative business asset. Moreover, it means equipping businesses with modern features and the latest technologies to compete with new competitors in ways they could never have imagined.

Given the potential benefits and promising opportunities for the digital era, isn’t it the right time for your business to rethink modernization? At Icreon, we have worked on multiple modernization products and delivered rewarding results. Let us talk your pain points around the modernization of legacy systems.