Empowering Your Software Evolution: Unleashing the Potential of Continuous Modernization

Empowering Your Software Evolution: Unleashing the Potential of Continuous Modernization
Miranda Rudy November 27, 2023

Continuous software modernization is the key to scalability, security, and minimizing both technical debt and architectural drift. Technical debt is a major issue for today’s organizations, costing companies a significant percentage of their tech budgets and limiting growth. According to a survey by McKinsey, 3 out of 10 CIOs dedicate more than 20% of their tech budget to resolving tech debt issues that would otherwise be used for new value-generating products.

Architectural drift can contribute to technical debt and is an equally challenging issue for organizations to overcome. A continuous approach to modernization using the architectural observability life cycle ensures drift and tech debt are identified and resolved. As a CIO or software architect, you can modernize your organization’s monolithic architecture with the help of a continuous modernization platform

The right platform allows you to analyze architecture and incrementally modernize to address technical debt. It provides observability to ensure you can identify and resolve issues between releases with the architectural observability life cycle.

What Is Continuous Software Modernization, and Why Is It Critical for Businesses?

Continuous software modernization involves the progressive and continuous evolution of a legacy software architecture. Software architecture problems are incrementally addressed and updated with frequent releases, monitored, and refined during the software development life cycle. It can help organizations spread out modernization, making the process more manageable while reducing risks, future architectural drift, and architectural tech debt. 

Modernization evolves software architecture and delivers new features incrementally, focusing on balancing required architectural improvements with priority features and higher quality. It improves scalability and reduces costs by replacing or refactoring monolith software into more modular architectures, microservices, or serverless functions that offer horizontal scalability at a lower cost and fewer dependencies. 

Architects can extract domains depending on priority and refactor them into microservices. The new services or microservices can be scaled based on performance needs and demand to meet the organization’s objectives.

Ignoring modernization results in more architectural drift and snowballing technical debt. Architectural drift is when software is no longer able to evolve to serve its intended purpose, resulting in an implementation that does not meet changing business requirements. Architectural drift factors into technical debt, adding additional interest to the debt which must be eventually resolved.

Related: Unlocking Excellence: Navigating the Path of Continuous Modernization

Organizations can reduce architectural drift and technical debt with continuous modernization. The architectural observability life cycle is one way that organizations can ensure continuous modernization. It involves five phases that play out continuously to provide a holistic solution to drift and tech debt.

What Is the Architectural Observability Life Cycle?

Architectural observability enables an architect to monitor and detect architectural drift, allowing them to pinpoint and resolve issues during each agile sprint or version release. Architects can address drift incrementally to manage tech debt from past decisions, eliminating dead code and unmanageable dependencies.

There are five main phases in the architectural observability life cycle: analyze, baseline, observe, inform, and fix. A software architect can use this life cycle to effectively modernize monolithic architectures, address architectural drift, and reduce tech debt.

Analyze

Analyzing your existing software architecture is the first critical step in the life cycle. During the analysis phase, the architect is able to identify and visualize domains and identify current tech debt sources that require immediate action to address.

Baseline

After analyzing, identifying, and visualizing domains and tech debt sources, the architect is alerted to the key issues and to-do’s to address them. Creating a baseline allows an architect to watch for future drift. Baselining also helps the architect create a to-do list to address cross-domain database relationships, high debt classes, and cross-domain pollution while discovering and refining domains.

Observe

With an established baseline, the architect can continuously observe the architecture as it changes. Observation allows architects to identify architectural drift, dead code, new domains, new database dependencies, and the introduction of code with high-tech debt.

Inform

As an architectural observability solution detects the architectural changes to the software architecture, the inform phase alerts the architect of significant architectural events. Architectural events can be added to the modernization to-do list, allowing the architect to pinpoint database table interdependencies, dead code, high debt code, and classes to create stories in the next phase.

Fix

With the significant architectural events identified, the architect is able to pinpoint fixes and create modernization stories and to-do list backlogs. Using the baseline, observe, and inform phases, the architect can resolve issues in dead code, common libraries, exclusivity thresholds, and domain identification.

Architects should evaluate fixes to ensure incremental remediation of architectural drift and reduction of tech debt. One report in McKinsey found that paying off tech debt can result in as much as a 50% increase in a software engineer’s time to work on profitable new features and software. Fixing can also include extracting new microservices, refactoring, decomposition, upgrading frameworks, and building new libraries.

It is critical to remember that fixing is not the final phase in the architectural observability life cycle. The life cycle is continuous, and the architect will go through each of the five phases indefinitely to ensure continuous software modernization.

Software Modernization Use Cases

Organizations use software modernization to meet several use cases. While a full transformation, where companies completely replace the legacy architecture with a new solution, is often considered, an incremental, continuous approach is preferred due to its reduced risk and more controlled process, along with its lower upfront time and resource investment.

Related: Why Mastering Architectural Observability is Pivotal to Managing Technical Debt

Modernization can improve the scalability, security, and performance of the architecture by extracting domains from the monolith and refactoring them into microservices, modules, or serverless functions. Companies can modernize without transformation to manage tech debt and prevent architectural drift by creating to-do’s and resolving issues.

Full Transformation

Architects can carry out software modernization with a full transformation. In this use case, the monolithic architecture is completely replaced with new microservices extracted and refactored from the original application in a full transformation. It is an ideal choice when the application needs a complete overhaul, or when it is outdated and difficult to maintain. Businesses often choose continuous incremental refactoring as an investment in a more sustainable best practice, due to the amount of time and resources it can take to create new microservices from scratch.

Incremental Transformation

Incremental transformation is a continuous software modernization technique that is preferred by modern businesses. Instead of approaching modernization all at once, the organization breaks the monolith into pieces and incrementally refactors functions into more modular components such as microservices. It allows the company to invest time and resources into modernization over a longer period, spreading out the process in agile sprints. The architect can also prioritize the functions that require modernization most and leave less necessary functions for later.

An incremental transformation offers a much less risky approach to modernization, reducing interruptions in service considerably compared to full transformation. According to Venture Beat, 51% of respondents to the Infosys Modernization Radar 2022 report cited major interruptions during a full transformation approach, compared to just 21% using an incremental approach. Incremental modernization gives architects time to identify issues between releases and focus on extracting and refactoring a single function at a time.

Architectural Tech Debt Management

As mentioned above, technical debt comes from decisions that delay fundamental improvements, resulting in the need for future reworking that can come at a higher cost later. Continuous software modernization helps architects identify issues in the software architecture early and often. Architects can create itemized to-do’s, identifying what needs to be addressed and how it can be resolved. Modernization allows architects to reduce tech debt and improve architecture without extracting services or transforming them, instead allowing them to manage, contain, and remediate issues.

Prevent Architectural Drift

Architectural drift happens when the description of the architecture drifts from the implementation. Continuous software modernization can prevent architectural drift and mitigate drift in the future. When the architecture worsens and further impacts developer productivity, scalability, and velocity,  architects can identify that drift and resolve it. 

Leverage Architectural Observability for Continuous Software Modernization

Modernization is a continuous process that requires architectural observability to identify and resolve issues between sprints or releases. It can involve a full or incremental transformation to replace or refactor the monolith into scalable microservices. Companies can also modernize without incremental or full transformation using the architectural observability life cycle to identify and resolve technical debt and architectural drift.

Architectural observability is essential on your continuous modernization journey, and a continuous application modernization platform that offers analytics to provide the observability and automation features you need to assist in successful modernization can make all the difference. vFunction helps you reduce technical debt by incrementally iterating large backlogs into several releases. Request a demo to improve your continuous modernization efforts with architectural observability.