Application Modernization Demystified with Best Practices and Insights

Sep 18, 2023 | AWS

Application modernization is not just a buzzword: It’s an important strategy for businesses hoping to stay competitive by accelerating innovation in a digital world. The demand for application modernization around the globe is snowballing as well—the application modernization services market is projected to reach $40.2 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 17.4 percent from 2023 to 2030.

Whether you’re migrating to the cloud, embracing containers, or revamping your entire application portfolio, the path to modernization is riddled with challenges. In this blog, we’ll explore what application modernization is, the importance of aligning modernization efforts with business goals, the role of cloud service providers, and more.

Related: Learn more about application modernization from industry experts at nClouds, Techstrong Research, and Amazon Web Services in a recorded webinar here.

Understanding Application Modernization

Application modernization refers to the process of updating and transforming an organization’s existing software applications to align with current technology trends, business needs, and user expectations. This transformation can cover a variety of strategies:

  1. Migration to the Cloud: Many organizations are moving their applications from on-premises data centers to cloud environments. Applications on the cloud are designed to take full advantage of all cloud resources, which can offer scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency.
  2. Containerization: Containerization involves packaging applications and their dependencies into containers, making it easier to deploy and manage applications consistently across different environments.
  3. Microservices Architecture: Modern applications are often built using microservices, where the application is broken down into smaller, independently deployable services. This approach enhances agility and scalability.
  4. Legacy System Modernization: Legacy applications, which might be outdated and difficult to maintain, can be modernized to improve performance, security, and functionality while preserving valuable data and business logic.
  5. User Experience Enhancement: Modernization can also focus on improving the user experience by redesigning the application’s interface and making it more intuitive and responsive.
  6. Common Migration Strategies (The 7 Rs): Each organization’s application modernization is unique and dependent on its immediate business objectives. In some cases, it may be forced with an immediate lift and shift with re-platforming messaging and database layers. Subsequent phases could focus on re-architecting to be cloud-native. 

Boosting ROI through Modernization

Modernization, when executed strategically, can significantly impact an organization’s bottom line. One of the primary ways modernization can enhance ROI is through cost optimization. Migrating to an infrastructure built on Amazon Web Services, for example, allows organizations to scale their resources up or down based on demand. 

Related: Unlocking Cost Savings and Efficiency: How Cloud Computing with AWS Empowers SMBs

By adopting modern development practices and tools, organizations can also streamline their processes, leading to faster development cycles and reduced operational costs. For example, embracing serverless computing allows teams to focus on code development rather than infrastructure management, resulting in quicker time to market and greater efficiency.

Challenges on the Cloud Migration Journey

There are several challenges that organizations face when migrating to the cloud. According to a recent survey, 80 percent of enterprises run at least 25 percent of their business workloads and applications on-premises. This dependence on legacy applications is hindering their digital transformation initiatives.

While the benefits are substantial, the road to cloud adoption is not without its bumps. These common challenges may include the following: 

  • Legacy Systems

Organizations often grapple with legacy systems that are not inherently compatible with the cloud. It’s important to assess existing infrastructure and applications and devise strategies to modernize or migrate them effectively.

  • Data Security and Compliance

Data security and compliance remain paramount concerns. As organizations transition sensitive data to the cloud, ensuring it remains secure and compliant with regulations is an ongoing challenge that requires robust solutions and practices.

  • Skills Gap

The shortage of cloud expertise within organizations can prevent effective modernization. As the cloud landscape evolves, so do the required skills. Bridging the skills gap through training and recruitment is crucial for successful cloud adoption.

  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis

In addition to the challenges around skills gaps and anti-patterns, a thorough understanding through SWOT analysis is required ahead of an application modernization journey. Leadership from business, development, security, and operations areas are advised to work together toward a thorough analysis. This effort can provide valuable insight into an organization’s readiness, potential challenges, and the strategic benefits of application modernization. 

  • Cloud Hosting (not the same as Cloud-Native)

Leverage the cloud’s scalability, resilience, and flexibility by moving to microservices, containers, and serverless computing. The real benefit to the business comes with re-architecting the applications, breaking the monolithic apps into microservices, adding an API layer, etc.

  • Anti-patterns

The anti-patterns to cloud-native include common practices or approaches that lead to unfavorable business and technical outcomes. It could include monolithic architecture, failure to automate, or not designing for failure. Understanding these anti-patterns allows an organization to effectively navigate its cloud-native journey. 

  • Culture and Mindset

As the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A powerful and empowering culture, with full support from leadership, addresses challenges around organizational culture and helps ensure a successful application modernization effort.

Aligning Modernization with Business Goals and Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

Before embarking on the journey of application modernization, it’s important to align all strategies with business objectives. 

In the past, organizations often rushed to adopt cloud technologies without a clear understanding of why they were doing so. However, modernization is no longer just about moving to the cloud for its own sake—it’s about asking the right questions: What is the business outcome we want to achieve? How will modernization help us reach our goals? 

Without a well-defined business justification, modernization efforts can crash and burn. When you’re ready to move forward with application modernization, use your business goals to shape your strategies. 

Cloud service providers can also play a pivotal role in your application modernization. They can be strategic and trusted partners with expertise that extends beyond technical support. When you select the cloud service provider that’s right for your organization, the partnership will involve comprehensive guidance to ensure your modernization journey aligns with your goals.

A strategic cloud service provider should offer a holistic approach, from cloud architecture and design to ongoing monitoring and management. They can assist in the build and implementation phases and even help prototype solutions tailored to your unique needs. In essence, they become an extension of your team, sharing their expertise and experience to ensure your success.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Managed Service Providers and Cloud Service Providers?

The Critical Role of Security

As businesses evolve their applications to meet modern demands, they must also strengthen their security posture to protect against ever-evolving threats.

Before embarking on your modernization journey, it’s imperative to conduct a comprehensive security assessment. This assessment should encompass both your existing applications and the new architecture you plan to adopt. Understanding your current security vulnerabilities and compliance requirements is essential.

Security should be considered an integral part of your modernization strategy. Design your applications and infrastructure with security in mind from the outset. Incorporate encryption, access controls, and authentication mechanisms to safeguard your data and assets.

Security is not a one-time effort: It’s an ongoing process. Implement continuous monitoring to detect and respond to threats promptly. Ensure that your modernized applications comply with industry regulations and standards, particularly if you handle sensitive data.

For example, if you are in a healthcare and life sciences vertical, it is best to ensure your security team or CISO is engaged early on in the process as you are building the foundation. This way, you get early participation from the security side of the house toward identifying ways to secure your landing zone and address compliance items. As you start to leverage various cloud services to benefit your application modernization journey, ensure that each service has been adequately addressed from a compliance perspective.

Related: How Cloud Migration Leads to Greater Compliance, Security, and Privacy

Your Modernization Journey Awaits

Application modernization is no longer an option for businesses hoping to stay competitive: It’s a necessity. Aligning modernization efforts with your business goals, engaging with cloud service providers as strategic partners, and focusing on security are all essential components of a successful modernization strategy.

Modernization is not a one-size-fits-all process. Every organization is unique, and your modernization journey should reflect that. Whether you’re a large enterprise or a smaller business, the principles of alignment, action, and adaptation will guide you toward a successful modernization outcome.

As you embark on your modernization journey, remember that you’re not alone. Trusted partners and credentialed experts are readily available to assist you. By leveraging their knowledge and adhering to best practices, you can navigate the complexities of modernization with confidence.

About nClouds

nClouds is an award-winning Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Tier Services Partner focused on helping organizations accelerate innovation. We partner with our customers to migrate, modernize, and manage cloud operations initiatives to support their digital transformation journeys. We provide high-performance consulting and support solutions for every stage of the cloud journey, enabling our customers to improve business agility and innovation velocity, reduce operational costs, and improve workforce efficiencies.

nClouds’ core practices include cloud migration, application modernization, cloud optimization, managed services, and DevOps. Learn more at


nClouds is a cloud-native services company that helps organizations maximize site uptime, performance, stability, and support, bringing out the best of their people and technology using AWS