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Application Modernization: When, Why and How

As they get older, the limitations of software applications become more apparent. Many critical applications that businesses have leveraged for years need updates and fixes. There are many reasons why these legacy software applications need a makeover, including scalability limitations, rising costs, maintenance challenges, cybersecurity weaknesses, integration problems, and wastage of computing resources.

Application modernization or legacy application modernization refers to the process of updating legacy software to meet the demands of the modern world and integrate with a more contemporary IT infrastructure. The legacy application modernization market, packed with myriad app modernization services, is on track to reach $32.8 billion by 2027, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 16.7% since 2022.  

Legacy application modernization often involves transitioning from a monolithic architecture that hinges on on-premises data centers to a more cloud-friendly microservices architecture. However, in certain instances, businesses may also have to update their cloud-based applications, a process called cloud application modernization. 

This post focuses on when businesses should consider legacy application modernization, what benefits an application modernization strategy can bring, what alternatives to consider, and how to approach a legacy application modernization or cloud application modernization project.    


When Should Businesses Consider Legacy Application Modernization?

The first thing to remember when discussing legacy application modernization is that, in many cases, legacy applications are amongst the most critical components of a business’s IT environment. Therefore, businesses can’t simply uproot or replace them without significant implications. Legacy applications are serious investments, and they must be treated accordingly. This brings us to the questions: when should businesses consider legacy application modernization, and why? 

Most companies that embarked on a legacy application modernization or cloud application modernization journey did so for a few common reasons:

Performance Issues

The contemporary business landscape is demanding and unforgiving. Therefore, even the slightest performance lag can cause long-term challenges. When critical applications have performance issues such as reduced speeds, suboptimal UX, or software crashes, it’s time for businesses to explore app modernization services. 

Maintenance Complexities

All software and hardware require periodic maintenance; it’s part and parcel of healthy IT environments. However, businesses must watch out for times when maintenance becomes increasingly painstaking and complex and when IT teams aren’t able to navigate the legacy code within these applications.  

Scalability Challenges

Scalability is a critical attribute for modern companies. Therefore, their software needs to scale with their growing needs. When applications hit a wall in terms of scalability, businesses should seriously consider legacy application modernization. 

Cybersecurity and Compliance Risks

Cybersecurity and compliance are two of the most important pillars of an organization. Weaknesses in one can exacerbate weaknesses in the other. When legacy software can’t meet cybersecurity, data privacy, and other regulatory needs, it can lead to disasters. Legacy application modernization is a powerful way to strengthen an enterprise’s cybersecurity and compliance posture. 

Rising Costs

As the challenges mentioned above become more prominent, costs will inevitably rise. Almost every sector today is overwhelmingly competitive and on the brink of saturation, which means businesses must spend every dollar wisely. If legacy applications increasingly leak money, companies must respond immediately.   

Overall Strategic Changes

If an enterprise has to make significant strategic changes and alter its short-, mid-, and long-term business goals, it must have a flexible and resilient IT infrastructure. Legacy applications can affect radical innovation negatively and may not be integratable with new workflows and systems. In these cases, legacy application modernization is a must.

The Business Benefits of Legacy Application Modernization

Now that we know what warning signs to look out for when legacy applications are slowing a business down, it’s time to shift our focus to some of the business benefits of legacy application modernization.

1. Higher Productivity and Morale

Updated software applications can make day-to-day operations smoother, more efficient, and more productive for IT teams. This is critical because businesses can’t succeed unless their employees are comfortable and optimistic about the IT infrastructure, applications, and tools they use. 

2. Happier Customers and Clients

Modernized applications provide myriad frontend and backend advantages. With modernized applications, there is less possibility of facing downtime, disruptions, and delayed services, which is critical in retaining old customers and clients and procuring new ones. 

3. Enhanced Strategic Agility

Markets churn and change like never before, which means businesses must be able to adapt to constantly shifting needs. Legacy application modernization provides enhanced strategic agility, meaning enterprises can take strategic turns with the confidence that their IT infrastructure can support them. 

4. New Revenue Streams

By shifting from a monolithic architecture to a modernized microservices architecture, businesses can access and unlock a broader range of revenue streams and sales opportunities. Via legacy application modernization, enterprises can weave myriad cloud-based features into their systems, making their offerings more valuable and alluring.  

5. Fewer Data Breaches

Data breaches are the ultimate nightmare for any enterprise. Threat actors often use outdated software as an attack vector because they are typically rife with vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Conversely, modernized applications are more resilient to the tools and tactics of cybercriminals. 

6. Optimized Costs

One of the most significant benefits of app modernization services is optimized costs. By modernizing enterprise software, businesses will spend their money and resources on things that align with their goals rather than spending it on fixing bugs, performance issues, and remediation efforts after security breaches.

Are you looking to embark on a legacy application modernization journey with an expert software development partner?

Designing and Implementing an Application Modernization Roadmap

Before moving forward with an application modernization roadmap, businesses must know the alternatives to legacy application modernization. The obvious alternative is to develop new applications from scratch. However, this can be a difficult and expensive proposition for small and medium businesses with limited resources. Large organizations with vast resource banks can explore completely redesigning their IT infrastructure, but even this can be problematic. For most companies, legacy application modernization is a perfect balance between keeping the benefits of older software while making them more compatible with modern IT environments and needs.  

Once businesses commit to updating older software, they must design an application modernization strategy. There are numerous ways to conduct legacy application modernization, including techniques like re-platforming, re-hosting, re-factoring, and re-architecting. These techniques involve technologies like cloud computing, AI and automation, orchestration tools, microservices architectures, and containers. Each of these techniques and technologies requires immense technical knowledge and skills, which means enterprises should ideally commission app modernization services from experts rather than experiment with doing it in-house. 


Re-platforming involves lifting and shifting an application from its existing environment to a new platform with minimal changes to its code. The goal is to take advantage of a modern operating environment without a complete redesign of the application’s core architecture. This technique is particularly effective for businesses looking to migrate their applications to cloud platforms to benefit from scalability and cost efficiencies. Re-platforming often involves changes like modifying the application’s data layer to work with cloud-native services, which can enhance performance and reduce operational costs.


Re-hosting, often referred to as “lift and shift,” is a technique where an application is moved from one environment to another without changes to its code, features, or functions. This approach is typically used for migrating applications to the cloud without any redesign or significant modification. It is a quick and cost-effective way for businesses to start utilizing cloud infrastructure while keeping their existing investment in software. Re-hosting is ideal for companies needing immediate results from cloud migration, with more complex optimizations and redesigns potentially planned for the future.


Re-factoring is the process of altering an application’s internal code and structure without changing its external behavior and functionality. This technique is often used to clean up legacy code and make it more efficient and maintainable. In the context of application modernization, re-factoring can also involve modifying the code to make better use of new cloud-native features and capabilities, such as auto-scaling, serverless computing, and dynamic load balancing. Re-factoring enables businesses to optimize applications gradually, improving performance and reducing costs without disrupting the user experience.


Re-architecting an application involves significant changes to its existing architecture to fully utilize modern technologies and methodologies, like microservices and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. This approach is more comprehensive than re-factoring and can involve breaking down a monolithic application into microservices, which can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. Re-architecting is suitable for applications requiring scalability, flexibility, and improved performance that current architectures cannot support. This technique allows companies to innovate faster and meet market demands more effectively, albeit at a higher cost and complexity than simpler modernization strategies.

By integrating these modernization techniques into their strategies, businesses can rejuvenate their legacy applications and infrastructure, ensuring they meet contemporary standards and effectively support their operational goals.

A third-party tech partner is also invaluable because they conduct assessments of a business’s IT environments to understand the nuances of legacy applications and identify the best ways to optimize and modernize them. Experts like can make legacy application modernization a smooth and transformative journey for enterprises.


Legacy application modernization involves updating outdated software to make it more effective, efficient, and seamless in modern IT environments. Businesses should look out for a few key signs that their applications need modernization: performance issues, maintenance complexities, scalability challenges, cybersecurity and compliance failures, rising costs, and their software’s inability to accommodate overall strategic changes. 

By designing and meticulously implementing a legacy application modernization roadmap, businesses can unlock numerous benefits, including higher productivity and morale, happier customers and clients, enhanced strategic agility, new revenue streams, fewer data breaches, and optimized costs. 

Designing and implementing a legacy application modernization or cloud application modernization project can be daunting and rife with challenges. However, by procuring application modernization services from a tech expert like, businesses can reap the benefits of their application modernization strategy without heavy risks.

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