Application modernization

Application modernization is the process of improving your current applications, or creating new ones, in order to take advantage of technology and align your company’s hardware architecture with business needs. 

An application is a program designed to perform a specific task directly for user’s benefit or in some cases for another application. That’s why the launching of an application modernization project is not an easy job. 

IT teams are responsible for keeping applications running without problems in order not to affect the continuity of business operations and this may be time-consuming and resource-consuming. Furthermore, we should be clear about the value of such updates on existing applications in terms of improvement of functions and/or features. 

Sometimes application modernization is required since the old software becomes incompatible with new versions of operating system within a system hardware and the same operation requires an update for the purpose of a more efficient use of time and resources. 

There is a variety of traditional methods to modernize applications like rewriting existing application code and update it to a more modern, web-friendly programming language. Other programmers prefer a web interface to be placed in front of the obsolete application in order to save still valuable parts therein. 

The main challenge is that many out-dated applications contain a business process workflow which is coded and tied to other aspects of the legacy code. 

Planning a modernization process of application infrastructure is very important. An option may be migrating the entire application to a new environment which may contain different parts of application and organize the entire application with a container orchestrator like Kubernetes. 

Another option is the creation of cloud-based native capabilities that connect with existing applications, through APIs, in order to provide new functionality. From containers to microservices, DevOps and security, we must understand all the different facets of application modernization process when we plan architecture and / or migration thereof. 

What are containers? 

Like a shipping container, a software container is a standardized package of software. A container contains everything required to make a software run, such as software code, runtime, system tools, system libraries and configuration. 

From the point of view of the users or owners, containers may look like a real server. 

There is a variety of containers such as: 

  • Infrastructure containers or container system: the service they provide allows the execution in isolation of multiple functions of the operating systems. 
  • Process containers or application containers: These containers are what most contributes to this blog, since they provide a system to package applications and all their dependencies, which is a very useful feature in the development and distribution thereof. These containers are widely used in the cloud to distribute applications, they are also very efficient for system administrators or tools such as the aforementioned Kubernetes for container orchestration. Just to mention a few, we can see these systems in Docker and system-nspawn. 
  • Sandbox containers: The main feature of Sandbox containers is the isolation they provide in an environment which allows said containers to run in an encapsulated environment where they have restricted access to operating system resources or user data. 

Benefits Containers can bring to Organizations  

In Mexico, organizations started learning about containers just a few ago; in the Mexican business landscape there are companies more advanced than others on such topics. If you are considering to adopt containers, here are some benefits you can get from them: 

  • Choice of any cloudzip, migrate, and run applications on any private or public cloud. 
  • Decrease commercialization time: the application is the new business, therefore, they generate competitive advantage. Containers can accelerate the delivery of new services with operational and development agility. 
  • Faster deployments: the use of containers allows development teams to reduce the time and frequency required to deploy and enable new services.  
  • IT Infrastructure Optimization: reduce infrastructure costs through the centralization of services, primarily on software, not hardware. 
  • Increased operational efficiencyautomate application and infrastructure management by concentrating your team on a single operating model. 

Are containers and microservices the same? 

Container deployment and use are practically one step away from microservices. Microservices are not a “what”, but a “how”, they refer to the way the application architecture is designed. An architecture based on microservices allows dividing applications into multiple compact and independent elements. Unlike the traditional, monolithic approach of the applications, where everything is compiled into one piece, microservices are independent elements working together in order to accomplish the same tasks and achieve the business goals. Containers help to make the above happens. 

Example of a microservices-based application 

Netflix is ​​one of the first companies to make extensive use of containers. They redesigned and restructured the applications that once ran their entire video service using a microservices architecture. For some years, Netflix has made use of more than 700 microservices approximately to manage each of the functions the entire service they offer consists of. 

This is an example of some microservices of Netflix: 

  • Main menu: a microservice that provides names and images of the content available. 
  • Recommendations: a microservice that takes the history of views and, through analytics, recommends similar content. 
  • Content selection: a microservice that provides on your phone, tablet, computer or television the video file to play with a video quality based on your Internet speed. 
  • Billing: a microservice that calculates the monthly fee to be charged through your credit card. 

We know that modernizing legacy applications make digital transformation more difficult, time consuming, and costly. Even when the budget is not a concern for the organization, IT teams know that software is becoming obsolete faster and faster and we require action plans to modernize the infrastructure of our applications in the most efficient way. 

Every application was an investment at the beginning, so the main challenge is to retain the value of applications, without restricting the innovation and adaptability to modern hardware. 

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