Modernizing Business Applications, Part 1: Overview and Rationale

By | October 1, 2016

In IT, each generational transition has called for modernizing and redesigning applications, business processes and IT infrastructure to exploit new capabilities and efficiencies. This occurred when PCs and LANs usurped the mainframe and drove client-server computing, eliminating expensive hardware and the issue of data scarcity. Innovation happened again when the internet and WANs disrupted client-server computing, and then subsequently tech modernized again when cloud computing gained popularity. Consequently, the need for application modernization is a regular, if not entirely predictable occurrence in IT. App modernization isn’t carried out as a fashion statement, status symbol or to keep up with nimble tech startups, but for cold, hard business reasons. Regardless of the era, the benefits of a periodic app overhaul include better performance, more features, greater usability and higher reliability. But while the need to modernize is obvious, it’s unique to each business. And choosing the modernization approach to go with can be difficult because there are several options. In part one of this five-part series, I explain the technological and business catalysts driving the need to modernize business applications and overview common architectures and techniques.

All the business reasons for application modernization are addressed in the current cycle of modernization. However, moving to the cloud, whether public or private, also provides much greater application scalability, deployment flexibility, responsiveness for today’s mobile users and efficient use of IT resources. The third platform is an excellent model for understanding modern application design. It derives its name as the successor to prior mainframe and client-server frameworks, and its impetus is the nexus of four primary technologies: mobile devices, social networks, cloud services and big data analytics. Together, these change nearly everything about applications: their features, UIs, internal instrumentation, how they are designed, developed and deployed, even the application lifecycle and update frequency. 

Read on for a discussion of using cloud services to modernize legacy applications and future installments will cover two popular modernizations techniques, PaaS stacks and containers by first outlining the basics and then surveying various product and service offerings for each.