Alex Migutsky

Alex Mihutski

Head of Database Migration Department, Ispirer Systems

Modernization is the buzzword on everyone's lips today. All companies are updating their software to ensure it works well and meets security standards. Regular software updates are crucial for businesses to maintain their competitive edge.

In this article, we'll dive deep into the modernization of legacy software. We'll explore various modernization methods and approaches, providing insights on how to upgrade your software efficiently and effectively. Let's get started!

What are legacy systems?

A legacy system is a system that was once cutting edge, but now is considered outdated. Legacy refers to outdated software, technology, or systems that hinder an organization's ability to adapt to market changes and grow.

Such systems can present several challenges and drawbacks. Older technology may not have the latest features and capabilities.

This can make it hard to keep up with the fast-changing IT world. Fixing old systems can get expensive, and it might be hard to find people who know how to work on them. Older systems may not get updates to fix security issues, which is a big worry in keeping them safe from threats.

Software modernization benefits

Software modernization involves updating and improving existing software systems to leverage newer technologies, architectures, and practices. This process offers a multitude of benefits that can significantly enhance an organization's operational efficiency, security, and competitive edge. Here are the key benefits in detail:

  • Improved performance. Obsolete software can experience performance problems, like slow loading speeds and regular system failures. Upgrading can enhance the code, refine the system structure, and utilize cutting-edge technologies to markedly improve the performance of the application.
  • Scalability. Updated and modernized applications are easier to manage with increased workloads and changes in user demand due to their adaptability. This is crucial for businesses as they expand and need to cater to a growing user base or more intricate operations.
  • Enhanced security. Older applications can be susceptible to security risks and data leaks, as they might not get frequent security patches. Application modernization can tackle these weak points by adopting contemporary security measures, encryption, and adherence to the most recent rules and regulations. Modern software is built with the latest security practices, reducing vulnerabilities and improving resilience against cyber threats.
  • Cost reduction. Modern software is generally easier and cheaper to maintain compared to legacy systems, which often require specialized skills and more extensive resources. Automation and improved processes can reduce the need for manual interventions, lowering operational costs.
  • Better user experience. Up-to-date applications typically feature more intuitive interfaces, better navigation, and adaptable design. These improvements elevate the user experience and aid in customer retention, potentially boosting customer contentment and allegiance.
  • Business agility. Staying abreast of technological progress can give a business a competitive edge. Up-to-date applications with advanced functionalities can assist businesses in outperforming their rivals by allowing them to introduce novel features, roll out updates more swiftly, and react to market shifts more efficiently.

Legacy Modernization: Key Approaches

Modernization is a process of upgrading the existing software from legacy to modern. Here are some of the most popular modernization approaches:

  • Replatforming. Replatforming entails transitioning an application to a novel platform with certain enhancements executed to ready the system for a fresh setting.
  • Rehosting. In contrast to replatforming, there's a strategy known as 'lift and shift', or rehosting. This involves transferring an application from one setting to another without altering its codebase. The main objective is to expedite the migration process under stringent timelines and with limited resources.
  • Refactoring. In this process, you modify the code to enhance its organization and comprehensibility, without altering its primary function. Moreover, refactoring helps in recognizing and removing redundant features, thereby simplifying maintenance.
  • Rearchitecting. The strategy entails changing the app's architecture to address scalability, performance, or other critical issues. It goes beyond refactoring, as you restructure the entire system to align with modern design principles.
  • Rebuilding. This involves redeveloping an app from scratch, preserving its specifications and functionality. So, you discard the current codebase to leverage modern development tools and practices.
  • Replacing. It entails adopting either commercially available software or a tailor-made solution to fulfill business needs, while guaranteeing no interruption for end users.

Developing New Software vs. Modernizing Existing Systems

When deciding between developing entirely new software and modernizing existing software, organizations must weigh the benefits and challenges of each approach.

Developing new software starts from scratch, allowing complete freedom to use the latest technologies and design patterns. This method meets current and future business needs without legacy constraints. However, it involves a full development lifecycle—requirements gathering, design, development, testing, and deployment—making it time-consuming and expensive.

Modernizing existing software updates the current codebase and infrastructure. This method is less flexible as it allows only minor changes. Modernization is generally less risky and costly, leveraging existing investments. However, the result can be challenging to maintain due to the mix of old and new code.

In addition, there is a compromise option - conversion. In essence, this is a type of modernization, but the result is almost the same as with the development. And if you automate the conversion, you also have an opportunity to save up time and money.

Common mistakes organizations make during legacy software modernization

When modernizing a legacy system or application, it's essential to update not only the software but also the processes that brought you to your current state. Neglecting the modernization of processes can lead to falling behind in innovation once more.

To effectively address process improvements, consider the following approaches:

  • Outsource development to a product development firm with established, efficient processes. Ensure they provide training and upskilling when transferring the product back to your team.
  • Engage an agile development consultant to train your internal product team.
  • Hire new talent with expertise that aligns with your updated framework and processes.

Real-World Examples of Well-Known Companies Modernizing Their Software

Many well-known companies have undertaken significant software modernization efforts to stay competitive and meet evolving business needs. Here are a few real-world examples:

Walmart modernized its e-commerce platform to compete with online retailers like Amazon. The company rebuilt its website and mobile applications using a microservices architecture and cloud-based infrastructure. This upgrade enhanced the website's efficiency, expandability, and the speed at which new features can be introduced, thereby enriching the overall shopping journey for clients.

Ford modernized its IT infrastructure and software development practices as part of its broader digital transformation strategy. The company adopted cloud computing, data analytics, and agile development methodologies. This modernization drive aids Ford's endeavors in networked vehicles, self-driving technology, and enhancing overall operational productivity.

ING Bank embarked on an extensive software modernization journey by adopting agile methodologies and migrating to the cloud. The bank's overhaul included modernizing outdated systems, refining applications that interact with customers, and strengthening cybersecurity protocols. This modernization has helped ING Bank stay competitive and provide better services to its customers.

Key trends in software modernization

There are several key trends in software modernization these days:

  • AI is everything. Businesses make huge investments today in AI development, understanding the potential it has to enhance overall operational efficiency. By prioritizing IT modernization and deploying AI based solutions, organizations can process data faster and gain a competitive advantage.
  • Microservices and containerization. Microservices architecture and containerization allow businesses to innovate faster and respond more quickly to customer needs by enabling more frequent updates and the rapid deployment of new features. This modular approach ensures greater application reliability and uptime, providing a seamless and consistent experience for customers.
  • Orchestration and automation. Orchestration and automation significantly reduce the time and effort needed to deploy and manage applications, resulting in faster delivery of new features and services to customers. Automated processes ensure higher quality and consistency, minimizing errors and downtime, thereby enhancing the overall customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Cloud computing. When people discuss application modernization, they are typically referring to the process of migrating traditional applications to run in modern cloud environments. These include public cloud platforms, private clouds and hybrid clouds.

3 Steps for Successful Software Modernization

Ensuring the success of your legacy software transformation involves following these essential steps:

1. Assess Your Current Systems.
Begin the modernization journey by assessing your existing IT systems. Identify critical components and functionalities that are vital to your operations. Highlight any issues that could impact user experience, hinder application performance, or pose obstacles to future scalability.

2. Create a Modernization Strategy Roadmap.
A technology roadmap is a must when introducing new, large-scale IT solutions to your business. It can help you define your overall business goals, break them down into smaller milestones, assign specific tasks to team members, identify potential roadblocks, and more.

3. Find the best solution.
In fact, software modernization can be performed within modernization services or utilizing tools for modernization.

At Ispirer we provide modernization services by combining expertise of our experts and automation by using our proprietary software - Ispirer Toolkit. Such an approach allows us to optimize resources and save time. If the software you plan to upgrade is a database or application, you can use Ispirer Toolkit to automate the process. This tool allows you to automatically migrate a database from outdated to a modern one, and replace the old programming language with a new and modern one.

The toolkit supports a large number of databases, including Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, DB2, Informix and others. The pool of supported applications is also large and includes Java, C#, C++, JavScript, COBOL, Delphi etc. In addition, the level of automation can be improved up to 100% through tool customization. For more information on how this works, see the article on customization.

Final Remarks

Modernizing legacy systems goes beyond mere technological updates; it's about safeguarding your organization's future. It empowers businesses to align with strategic goals and capitalize on emerging digital opportunities.

Key motivations driving legacy modernization include enhancing customer experience, fostering agility, and optimizing costs. Common strategies for modernizing legacy systems include migrating to the cloud, updating applications and software, and migrating data.