Legacy Application Modernization Doesn't Mean Starting Over

Jun 06 2022

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Understanding the Journey to Transform Legacy Applications

The challenge for many well-established organizations is that they are working on monolithic legacy systems. And when they think of application modernization from significant, heavy, single-deployment architecture to less weighty and more agile technologies, they get pushed back by several questions.

Does the application need an update or a 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 crucial in the age of digital transformation.

Let's look at the definition and significance of modernization.

What is Modernization?

Legacy application modernization is 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, service models, etc.

Why Rethinking Modernization is Important

Not long ago, modernization would have been considered moving applications from the mainframe to somewhere else. Of course, businesses did that to save Operational Expenditures (OpEx), address technology upgrades, and support continuation problems. But those data migrations were expensive, time-intensive projects that primarily 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 flexibility 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 processes.

Modernization- Bringing Agility and Responsiveness 

In digital time, flexibility and scalability are essential things that systems need to be able to perform. The result is of 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 modernization means to respond to the new requirements. 

For instance, H&K International, a leading manufacturer and kitchen equipment supplier, was using a legacy ERP system, which was difficult to use and lacked features that 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 can gain better insights into its products and client behavior with the new web-based enterprise application. 

Top Benefits of Application Modernization

Modernization has excellent benefits, including accelerated innovation, agility, and scalability, empowering new business ideas, and augmenting process workflows. Several pain points around current applications could use modernization in more creative ways to fuel business growth. 

Speed & Agility 

Outdated systems confine business ability to ramp up new features and services quickly.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


Microservices involve breaking more extensive software or application into smaller pieces of reusable code. This allows code to run independently, enabling a 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 cost-effectively elevating performance and scalability. 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 on available security patches, support from OEM, and availability of skilled support staff. Modernization can help alleviate such blockage and align businesses with current demands. 

Decomposing the Legacy Application – Latest Trends

Generally, modernization entails Heavy Modernization and Light Modernization. Heavy Modernization means re-coding, and Light Modernization 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. Let's have a look at trends and other details: 

Heavy modernization  

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

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

Light Modernization 

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

Two approaches can be used for light modernization- The Multi-cloud approach and the Hybrid cloud approach.

The multi-cloud approach includes using two or more public clouds to optimize the processing and costs for your applications. This trend is also common, especially for businesses looking to enhance application optimization and service availability.

The hybrid cloud approach uses a mix of private and public cloud services for modernization needs. This trending approach also includes using on-premise infrastructure to ensure seamless integration between the private and public cloud. 

An example is CSCS, a skills certification scheme for the UK construction industry. The company faced the continuous challenge of long processing times and lengthy customer service calls in issuing the cards. The company leveraged a microservice-based architecture to develop a web application that put a check on the authenticity of the certificate. The system is linked with different awarding bodies and well-integrated with the card production system using FTP/XML files.

Technologies of App Modernization

Getting to the market faster has become an inevitable aspect of today's competitive landscape. Enterprises have started surpassing the break-fixes and seeking innovative app services to modernize their business applications. True digital transformation requires the modernization of components and technologies. Without them, you cannot go to market faster with new products and services. Have a look at what those technological elements are:

Containers & Kubernetes

Containers and Kubernetes have emerged as two critical enablers of hybrid and app modernization strategies. Containers make different codes as a standalone package. This makes the code portable, enhances computing capabilities, and slashes down the underlying infrastructure's dependencies. It offers immense flexibility to switch to any cloud service based on 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 critical aspects of enriching customer experience. Taking business to mobile improves accessibility and brings value to the table with anywhere, anytime flexibility.


Instead of monolithic development, you can go for microservices in the modernization process. Microservices means you decouple the architecture into smaller and easily-processable pieces so you can deploy each one of them independently. Hence, app modernization must be done this way in a step-by-step manner so you can easily update and operate each microservice segment without any interdependencies on the whole framework.  

Artificial Intelligence/ML

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

Modernization Does Not Mean Starting Over

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 enterprise's core. During modernization, some parts of the original software are preserved, making the process less expensive when compared to writing code for a new application. Applying modernization means turning old legacy systems into lucrative business assets. 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 application modernization? At Icreon, we have worked on multiple modernization products and delivered rewarding results. Discuss your pain points with our modernization experts so that you have complete insights into how you can ensure a seamless migration for your applications. Explore Icreon’s Modernization & Migration Services.