Legacy Application Modernization Strategies

Technology moves quickly. What works today may be unsupported or obsolete (or unsecure) tomorrow. In this rapidly changing digital landscape, keeping your technology up-to-date is critical to your long-term success. Central to this goal is a process known as legacy application modernization.

Modernizing application architecture as well as user interfaces and user experience is the most effective way to improve system performance, whether it’s reducing latency or boosting availability and throughput. It can solve issues related to security and reliability, and forge a more efficient path to accelerated innovation and time-to-market. In this article, we explore strategies for modernizing legacy systems. We also touch on the benefits and technologies that are key to legacy application modernization, with a specific focus on Microsoft Azure.


What Is a Legacy Application?

A legacy application refers to any system that is being actively used but relies on outdated hardware or software to operate. When it comes to legacy systems, many organizations have an “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality. Indeed, change can be frightening—especially when that change is highly technical, potentially time-consuming, and expensive.

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is usually quite near-sighted; even if your legacy app works today it remains precariously on the edge of being phased out or obsoleted. This can due to dated security features, efficiency flaws, deficient capabilities or feature sets compared to the competition, and a general inability to interact with modern applications.


What Is Application Modernization?

Broadly speaking, modernization is the process of improving legacy applications by refactoring or reengineering the existing code. Put differently, modernization occurs when software developers alter the code of legacy apps to better reflect the current technological landscape.


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Much of today’s modernization efforts has to do with migrating legacy apps to a cloud environment. But, in contrast to a simple lift and shift (moving legacy apps as-is into the cloud), modernization focuses on refactoring, optimizing, and enhancing. This is the process of revising code for improved performance, compatibility, and features.

Note that modernization usually happens over time, with application components gradually modified incrementally, in order to reduce operational risk.


5 Application Modernization Strategies

As we’ve seen, modernization purports to accomplish a singular aim: Improve legacy systems. So, you might rightly be wondering, “why is there such a diversity of strategies?” This is largely due to the different organizational contexts that must balance decision criteria.

To help project teams optimize this often lengthy and multi-layered task, many strategic models of software modernization have been developed. Below, we review the five most common and promising approaches.

Architecture-Driven Modernization (ADM)

One of the most common initiatives for modernizing legacy systems is known as Architecture-Driven Modernization (ADM). The concept is based on a specification called Knowledge Discovery Metamodel (KDM), outlined by the Object Management Group (OMG ADM Task Force).

While all of this information may be a lot to take in, suffice to say that this approach is largely related to reverse-engineering. Ultimately, the aim is to facilitate common modernization activities such as code analysis and comprehension, as well as software transformation.


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Modernization project teams are encouraged to focus on fundamental questions of analysis and design. This reduces the likelihood that modernized systems will suffer from obsolete concepts or artifacts. Instead, the result should conform to contemporary business requirements like agility, reduced maintenance, improved lifespan, and better interoperability.

Business-Focus Approach

In contrast to ADM, the Business-Focus Approach prioritizes the potential business value that modernization entails. This strategy was pioneered by Gartner following the Application Portfolio Analysis (APA).

In a nutshell, APA is a framework divided along three categorical lines known as utility, enhancement, and frontier. These concepts are inherently coupled with management issues such as cost, opportunity identification, and innovation, respectively.

In optimizing legacy apps, project teams are tasked with balancing the three categories against the three obstacles to obtain the greatest return-on-investment (ROI). When implemented correctly, this approach directly improves the future of your organization’s health and well-being.

Model-Driven Engineering (MDE)

At a macro level, the Model-Driven Engineering (MDE) methodology relies on domain models rather than strictly algorithmic concepts. The result is a modernization approach that is more holistic, underscoring abstract representations of the application domain over mere computing.

To illustrate this point more clearly, consider one of the axioms of MDE: A modeling paradigm qualifies as effective if (1) a domain-knowledgeable user can make sense of the models and if (2) the model is a successful starting point for the implementation of new systems.

MDE is a very interactive strategy in that it values thorough and consistent communication between software developers, designers, product managers, and even users. This is facilitated via a standardization of best practices, terminology, and goals. Successful completion of MDE entails a simplification in design patterns, increased productivity, and optimized compatibility.


What Is a Legacy Application

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Renaissance Method

The Renaissance Method is a relative newcomer to the modernization scene. It urges an iterative approach to assessing legacy systems that encompasses business, organizational, and technical facets.

The focus of this modernization strategy is to ensure that any mission-critical legacy system is modernized with functionality and data integrity intact.

Warrants, Maintenance, Upgrade (WMU)

One of the simplest approaches to legacy system modernization is known as Warrants, Maintenance, Upgrade (WMU).

This iterative process prioritizes customer satisfaction above all else. In this model, all modernization attempts are derived from customer feedback and application auditing. The necessary resolution is then applied to achieve the desired level of user satisfaction.


5 Legacy Application Modernization Technologies

In conjunction with your modernization strategy, you’ll also need to decide which digital tools will best serve you in your digital transformation.

In this section, we discuss application modernization technology and summarize five tools that lay at the heart of an effective application modernization approach.

1. Cloud Computing

The cloud has become a vital component of any company’s digital transformation. In terms of legacy app modernization, internet-based cloud services bring flexibility, agility, and scalability to your legacy applications, and usually comes along with cost savings to boot.

2. Containers

A container is defined as a software unit that bundles all the necessary code an application requires to rapidly and reliably run across multiple computing environments. This means seamless deployment, whether it’s an on-prem data center, the public cloud, or a wok laptop.


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3. Microservices

“Microservices” is a particular approach to application architecture. It focuses on building a single app consisting of several smaller services. This development style drastically improves things like scalability, fault isolation, data security, and the capacity for code experimentation.

4. Automation

Automation is all about eliminating manual drudgery. Because automation is so effective at offloading repetitive and error-prone human tasks, it represents one of the best ways to improve productivity by giving employees more time to engage in meaningful work.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are effective app modernization technologies. They allow you to derive rich insights from data and applications in order to drive intelligent decision-making.


The Benefits of Application Modernization Strategies

Now that we understand the various technologies and approaches to application modernization, let’s look at some of its primary benefits. Legacy application modernization allows you to:

  • Streamline business processes
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Improve customer experience
  • Cut costs
  • Enhance security and reliability
  • Empower cloud-native app building
  • Strengthen agility, compatibility, and interoperability
  • Accelerate innovation and time-to-market (TTM)

The bottom-line is clear: Legacy application modernization is about so much more than just staying ahead of the tech curve. But what about the cost?


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The truth is that despite the upfront costs to modernize, most legacy apps actually cost your business more in the long-run. That’s because the cost of maintenance—and the associated loss of revenue due to inefficiencies—is ongoing and indefinite.


Get the Right Microsoft Azure App Modernization Services for Your Business, With Atmosera

Microsoft Azure is a sophisticated, secure, and comprehensive public cloud computing platform. It boasts over 200 products and cloud-based services to streamline operations, improve productivity, and modernize legacy applications.

Leveraging the power of Azure is as easy as partnering with the right Microsoft-certified Partner.  At Atmosera, we’re an Azure Expert Managed Services Provider (MSP) with 8 Microsoft Gold Level certifications and Advanced Specializations in Application Modernization, Azure Migration, and Data Analytics on Azure — the highest levels of recognition possible from Microsoft. Our employees are recognized thought leaders who have written over two dozen software and technology books, published hundreds of articles, and spoken at key conferences around the world. And to top it off, we’ve won many awards over the years including the Microsoft US Partner Award for Intelligent Cloud and the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) Worldwide Partner of the Year Award – twice!

Our skills and qualifications allow us to successfully accelerate your journey to a modern application and data landscape through a host of modernization options, including:

Core Services

  • Application re-architecture and re-factor
  • Application lift-and-shift to the Azure cloud
  • Greenfield application development with Modern Web technologies
  • Cross-platform, modern mobile development
  • Software process modernization with Azure DevOps + GitHub
  • Modernization of your Data Estate
  • Leverage of modern Data & AI capabilities
  • Data reporting and analytics with Power BI.
  • Data governance with Microsoft Purview


  • Azure Synapse Analytics
  • DevOps
  • Azure App Service
  • Azure GitHub
  • Azure API Management
  • Databricks
  • Azure Machine Learning
  • Azure Cognitive Services
  • Azure Data Factory
  • Azure Data Lake
  • Cosmos DB
  • Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS)
  • Azure Arc
  • SQL Server
  • Azure SQL Database
  • Azure Virtual Desktop
  • Azure SQL Managed Instance
  • Azure Monitor
  • Azure Spring Apps
  • Azure VMware Solution
  • Azure Web Application Firewall
  • Personalizer

For all of your modernization projects, you can trust Atmosera. As a top Microsoft partner with almost 30 years of industry experience, your application modernization strategy is in good hands. We use Azure to rehost, re-platform, refactor/repackage, rearchitect, rebuild/rewrite, or replace legacy systems. Plus, we offer 24/7/365 management and monitoring based in the US.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can transform your business. Curious about our method?

Check out this case study to discover how we determine and deploy the right modernization approach for your organization’s unique needs.



Featured Image Credit: Diggity Marketing

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