Application Modernization Trends: Goals, Challenges, and Resources

application modernization trends
Bob Quillin May 4, 2022

Over the past few years, application modernization has continued to gain traction and some relevant trends are taking shape. The Covid-19 pandemic further accelerated this transformation and there is a high level of motivation to modernize applications. 

Foundry’s State of The CIO Study 2022 revealed interesting data:

  • Application/legacy system modernization jumped from #8 to #3 in terms of priority
  • Of the top three focus areas, two are directly related to the importance of modernization. By modernizing infrastructure and applications (#3 at 40%), you will see an increase in system performance (#2 at 43%)

These trends indicate that Kubernetes (K8s) and cloud platforms alone did not solve the problems of large legacy monoliths that cannot be easily lifted and shifted. In these cases, application modernization will require refactoring or rearchitecting, which takes more effort..

According to internal insights from Microsoft, application modernization initiatives were accelerating even before the pandemic hit. However, many organizations haven’t been able to keep up with the trends due to their existing legacy systems. These outdated systems and monolithic architecture hinder business operations and user experience.

Application modernization delivers benefits to enterprises: with a modernized infrastructure, you can leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence. 

Application Modernization Trends and the Legacy Dilemma

For most businesses, existing applications are still vital to business processes. They often support core functionalities and host essential data. Most organizations still use legacy systems because they are crucial to business operations. Dismantling such systems and building new ones would destabilize or disrupt business processes. 

Related:  What is Application Modernization, and Why is it Important?

Monolithic applications technologies, infrastructure, and architecture are more rigid than newer, microservices architectures. It’s challenging to integrate with modern software advances. As a result, it limits the IT teams’ ability to develop new features quickly and efficiently. Some legacy systems are already obsolete, making replacing them challenging or impossible. In such cases, the only alternative is modernizing applications.

What Companies Are Thinking About

Integrating monolithic applications with cloud-based platforms, tools, and advanced technologies can be challenging. And while this integration is vital to business success, increasing productivity and revenue, the majority of companies are not cloud-native and don’t yet have an executive mandate to migrate monolithic workloads to the cloud. 

At this point, application modernization is still discretionary. Still, forward-thinking companies are jumping on board in droves, recognizing the opportunities that await and the risks of hesitation. For those testing the waters, they are wondering what they should concentrate on with regard to goals, challenges, and resources. 

1. The Company

With the dynamic business trends, every business strategy likely includes a cloud strategy. Companies are racing to adopt a “cloud-first” policy when onboarding new workloads.

Some ways of implementing this policy are:

a) Modernizing Data

Gartner analysts predict that by 2025, at least 85% of companies will adopt the cloud-first principle. However, it won’t be easy to implement their digital strategies without cloud-native technologies. 

This rings true since the majority of enterprise workloads are not cloud-ready. So how do workloads become cloud-ready?  

Modernizing data is about replacing legacy databases to be able to handle distributed and streaming data sources and sinks. 

b) Migrating to a New Architecture

Another application modernization trend is embracing new architectures. Instead of shifting a legacy application to the cloud in its entirety, you can move some of its features to more efficient architectures. This enables faster development.

When modernizing any application’s codebase, monitoring the various sections is essential. Some become more difficult to repair, and updates take longer than expected.

Moving to new architectures will solve such issues. It also addresses security, scalability, and reliability concerns. You’ll also be able to resolve issues with tolerance, capacity, and redundancy.

c) Breaking down the Monolith into Microservices 

Monolithic applications have a single large codebase. In contrast, microservices applications operate independently. Every feature or application handles one service.

This transformation to microservices helps you develop and deploy updates and new features. Your technology stack becomes more flexible. Also, there’s minimal risk of downstream effects that comes with changes in the underlying code.

d) Rehosting to the Cloud 

The cloud revolutionized our digital experiences with innovations such as mobile payment systems. Clearly, most legacy applications still in use need cloud modernization. In some cases, you can accommodate application modernization and innovation by simply rehosting existing apps to a cloud provider. 

Cloud-native platforms also allow developers to leverage the principles and tools of the cloud environment. It becomes possible to deploy the new digital workloads to cloud-native platforms.

What About Modernizing with a Hybrid Cloud Architecture?

In some cases, fully modernizing for the cloud is unnecessary, based on your computing requirements. Depending on your business goals and budget, you can use a public, private, or hybrid cloud.

For instance, if your application experiences usage spikes, a public cloud can be more suitable. It can scale appropriately to accommodate the spikes at lower costs.

However, if there’s little or no financial gain from a complete migration or your app’s constant usage, a hybrid cloud is another option. 

What an Internal Modernization Team Is Thinking About

Modernization teams are tasked with executing the strategy. They’re trying to understand where to start, what they can do internally, if they have executive sponsorship and budget, and do they need external help? They need clear goals and adequate resources.

Cloud modernization is a complex process that requires a particular set of skills. Your modernization team also affects your application modernization initiatives. As more companies rush to adopt a cloud-first policy, modernization experts have more competition. 

This skills gap is a significant challenge, which slows the modernization process. Companies struggle to attract and retain the few experts available, with expensive perks and benefits.

The most appropriate long-term plan to manage the skills gap is nurturing cloud skills in your current IT team. Your team already understands your existing system and processes, knowing the weak points.

If you train them on the cloud, it will take less time to start seeing returns for your financial investment. It also eliminates the costs of hiring and onboarding new team members. 

The Solutions from Cloud Providers

Cloud providers also play a significant part in application modernization trends, but for most, their goal is to mainly lift and shift, moving containerized services to the cloud and eliminating provisioning and manual efforts. But no one is tackling the business logic. Why? Because application modernization is hard, complicated, and requires automation, AI, and data science to understand what’s truly needed to modernize.

Cloud migration comes with unique challenges, but there are effective solutions. Some common challenges are:

Financial Limitations

Despite the undeniable benefits of cloud migration, the process can be financially straining. BCG reports that successful modernization projects consume 10% of an enterprise’s market capitalization. Every stage requires immediate resources, and since the process takes time, the total costs may be high in the long run.

Regardless of these costs, it’s possible to achieve cloud migration with a limited budget. For instance, you can implement batch adoption. 

It breaks down the migration process and costs into manageable installments. It saves you immediate costs and allows more flexibility.

Data Compliance and Security issues

Two key areas to consider when looking at the cloud migration process are availability and security. 

Before starting, ensure your team includes engineers specializing in cloud security. They should be familiar with automating security processes, configuration parameters, and monitoring systems.

You should also consult cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud for insights on the same. When comparing cloud providers, choose vendors with dedicated migration resources and support teams.

Data security is also another primary concern. The cloud provider ensures the infrastructure’s security, but data and workload security are on you.

Most providers have robust security measures, but your team needs to configure them and set up security controls. Moving large data volumes and configuring access controls can also expose sensitive data.

Modernizing Monolithic  Apps for the Cloud

Any business in this digital era must be proactive in adopting technical innovations. Application modernization is an essential part of your business’s success. Financially speaking, it’s one of the easiest ways to meet the current digital performance standards.

The challenge is that legacy apps rely on outdated systems instead of No-Code/Low-Code environments. When you modernize a legacy app, you get several microservices.  

The individual components are therefore loosely-coupled and independent of one another. Because of this, it’s easier to scale and deploy them independently. 

If you can’t keep your existing application, and you can’t get rid of it, how do you decide how much or how far your modernization project should go? Do you re-host (lift-and-shift), refactor, re-architect, or rewrite? 

In some cases, it’s possible to move applications directly to the cloud or the lift-and-shift method. It’s relatively easy, fast, and less risky. However, from a business and performance perspective, lift-and-shift may not be the best option. 

Here’s why:

The Five Main Pitfalls of Lift-and-shift From a Business Perspective


It may be possible to lift-and-shift applications to the cloud, but some apps are not compatible. Identifying these specific apps helps determine how to handle them before the move.

Modernizing monolithic applications for the cloud can also lead to performance and latency issues. Applications that depend on third-party software are also often unsuitable for the lift-and-shift method.

Low Speed and Inaccessibility

The lift-and-shift method is faster than other methods; however, optimizing older systems for the cloud may take longer than building new ones.

Some apps may also be unable to leverage cloud computing resources. Since they are not cloud-native, it may be challenging to run them efficiently.

You can modernize applications by rehosting (re-platforming) or refactoring them into microservices. 

Even if you can lift and shift your applications, it’s best to restructure them. It’s the only way to leverage the cloud benefits such as Kubernetes and containers.

Cloud Can Be Costly

Thinking of the lift-and-shift method is like moving your car to your neighbor’s garage. Your car may be safe, but you’re still responsible for the repairs and maintenance.

After completing the modernization initiative, some lifetime costs are system maintenance and software updates. However, hosting your app on your server also costs extra, including hardware or equipment, service, and repairs.

Cloud hosting gives you a competitive edge and has lower security risks despite the lifetime costs. You’ll pay one fee covering offsite management, servers, disaster recovery, and cloud storage. 

Modernizing for the cloud may have higher upfront costs but higher long-term costs. 

Cloud Vendor Lock-in Concerns

Some companies are hesitant to modernize for the cloud for fear that it will be challenging to move from one platform to another. If this is a concern, you can bypass the issue using multi-cloud computing.

Since you rely on several cloud computing services, you can take advantage of the benefits of each platform.

Security Issues

The main concern with the cloud’s security is accessing the platform from any location. Accessing data from an insecure network can create a weak point for cybercriminals. Using weak passwords and credentials can also make it easy to bypass security measures.

However, other hosting options also have similar security concerns. Businesses even report higher security after migrating data to the cloud.

Realistically, most security issues come from the user, not the platform. Businesses and cloud providers are equally responsible for security. Ensure you implement security best practices such as multi-factor authentication and strong passwords. 

Data encryption is also an excellent way to protect sensitive information. You can also choose a private cloud to enjoy the cloud benefits while maintaining strict data security.

Combining Modernization and DevOps

Many companies are considering “Continuous Modernization”, identifying and taking action on technical debt accumulation as part of the new release process. They are combining application modernization with DevOps to leverage new IT architectures with minimal changes, costs, and time.

Application modernization and DevOps complement each other, so combining them is more beneficial. Since the technology sector is dynamic, the best solution is continuous modernization. This approach aims to provide value and digital business support in less time.

Continuous modernization addresses technical debt before it becomes a significant challenge. This forward-thinking approach enables you to eliminate technical debt as it accumulates and avoids risky service interruptions in the future.

Embracing the Future

As technology evolves, new application modernization trends keep emerging. Adopting continuous modernization will help your business keep up with emerging technology advances. Once these trends are understood and agreed upon by stakeholders, the next question is, “Well, how long will this take?”

The goal is clear, but you need a reliable, innovative platform for application modernization. 

vFunction is the future of application modernization and cloud migration. It’s the only holistic platform that intelligently breaks down complex monolithic Java applications into microservices.

With vFunction, your team can develop scalable and repeatable models that speed up cloud migration. It offers the necessary tools and visibility to enhance and accelerate the modernization processes by 20X.
Request a demo today and redefine your business success with application modernization trends.