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Application modernization is the transformation of a legacy app’s features, infrastructure and code to better align it with an organization’s requirements. Many applications are modernized for cloud services like Azure, so that they can use cloud APIs and in turn deliver superior time-to-value, plus lower operating costs.

There are multiple options for application modernization, ranging from the relatively straightforward – e.g., rehosting a legacy app in the cloud – to the more involved, such as rebuilding or entirely replacing the existing program. The best choice will depend on the app in question as well as the budget for the project and the capabilities of the technology partner.

In this post, we will cover some of the current options for application modernization in Azure, along with examples of how Hanu has enabled customers to improve their environments through these routes. But first, let’s see why modernization is worth doing in the first place.

The benefits of modernizing business applications for Azure

Modernizing legacy applications is an important component of digital transformation. The exact rationale for updating an app will vary from one organization to the next, but the general benefits are similar across all cases. They include:

Reduced total cost of ownership

Moving an on-prem application into Azure provides an opportunity to reduce the associated infrastructure spend and also shift from a CapEx to OpEx model. For Mott McDonald, Hanu assisted with an Azure migration and in the process reduced the company’s IT infrastructure costs 50% by eliminating unnecessary workloads. Additional savings can be achieved through such modernization, thanks to improved resilience that curbs downtime

Better agility and scalability

Remaking an on-prem app for the cloud lets organizations act more quickly on opportunities, without the impediments of relying on legacy code and infrastructure. They can harness the power of technologies such as containerization and continuous delivery in the cloud – for instance by using a set of containers to rapidly set up a standardized test environment. Updates can be implemented more efficiently, and the modernized application can be scaled to more users.

Improved security and performance

Azure features many built-in security mechanisms and services. It offers granular controls for compliance and privacy, along with deep insights into how applications are performing and the actionable alerts and recommendations associated with them. Choosing to move certain services into Azure is also a convenient way to get free Extended Security Updates, rather than paying for each migrated virtual machine.

Now let’s pivot to the different options for modernization, starting with rehosting.

Pros and cons of the rehosting approach to modernization

Rehosting an application is sometimes referred to as a lift-and-shift, for the simple reason that the app in question is being “lifted” from its current on-prem environment and “shifted” as-is to a cloud equivalent. For example, an app with a monolithic architecture could be moved from a company data center to IaaS. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to rehosting:

Pros

  • Simplest, quickest way to migrate an application to Azure.
  • Doesn’t require huge changes to code or architecture.
  • Relatively low-risk approach for critical workloads or ones that use specific hardware.

Cons

  • May require more ongoing manual intervention and management than other approaches.
  • Doesn’t leverage the full capabilities of cloud technologies and APIs.
  • Can result in performance issues due to non-optimization.

When Campus Management came to Hanu, they wanted to migrate their core Windows Server 2008 implementation to Azure as soon as possible. This rehosting was successful, with the infrastructure being moved from the company’s servers to Azure VMs, which unlocked OpEx savings (no more CapEx on related internal IT infrastructure) and improved security and uptime in the cloud.

What is re-platforming in the context of app modernization?

Replatforming is another approach to application modernization, similar to rehosting but with a higher degree of technical change to the migrated app. A replatformed app might include certain modifications designed to make it a better fit for a cloud environment like Azure.

Through replatforming, it is possible to experiment with a cloud environment and tap into its unique benefits without starting from scratch. Possible forms that replatforming could take include updating the way that an application interacts with its database, containerizing it or connecting it to cloud resources for easier scaling. Containerization, for example, lets an app be modernized without changing its underlying code.

Overall, re-platforming is an intermediary approach. It’s more complex than rehosting but less so than refactoring and optimizing an application for Azure.

Ultimately, the results of a rehost will vary depending on the partner that assists with the effort.

When refactoring and cloud optimization are worth it

This approach entails the most changes, but can also yield the most benefits over the long haul.

In a refactor, the application is modernized through changes to its actual code. An app may be re-architecting the app to be cloud-native, meaning that the local hardware it previously depended upon is replaced by cloud instances. Transitioning an application from a monolithic architecture to a micro services-oriented one is also a common refactoring path, as microservices enable faster updates and more efficient maintenance.

Done correctly, a refactored app should be more resilient, scalable and high-performance than an on-prem predecessor, not to mention more cost-effective. But so much depends on the execution, as refactoring requires a specific skill set and roadmap.

Hanu follows a clear roadmap for migrating services such as SQL Server to Azure. Workload optimization and refactoring are important components of this approach because they ensure that the applications involved can take full advantage of modern data platforms within Azure. Think of refactoring as ensuring a close match between what a workload requires and the particular cloud resources needed for meeting those requirements.

Whether your circumstances require a life-and-shift or a refactor, our experienced team will help you find the right path forward in Azure. Contact us today to get started.