Today, organizations must continuously evolve to stay competitive and meet customer needs. Because legacy systems can’t meet the requirements of new applications, organizations are turning to application modernization for improved speed, flexibility, and scale. In this article, we’ll explore the definition of application modernization, the benefits and challenges of application modernization, and the steps you can take to transition from legacy systems to the cloud. 

What is Application Modernization?

Application modernization is when an organization migrates its legacy systems and infrastructure to a modernized platform to improve flexibility, scalability, and security and reduce operational costs. 

In this case, migration refers to:

    • Migrating from SQL to NoSQL databases
    • Migrating from on-premises data centers to the cloud
    • Switching from standard software delivery procedures to newer practices like CI/CD

Why Modernize Legacy Applications?

Similar to the decline in physical strength experienced by humans as they age, legacy systems also exhibit degradation over time. For systems to maintain optimal performance, engaging in ongoing software refactoring and occasionally introducing new technologies to meet the evolving demands imposed upon the system is imperative.

For instance, all applications start as a monolith, but with time the needs of your system, the size of your engineering team, and the number of users change. These changes call for migrating from a monolithic to a microservice architecture where engineering teams can own individual small services so that your organization can scale to accommodate additional users.

Modernization also involves addressing the tech debt you incur. Tech debt happens as you amass legacy systems and prioritize speedy software development over quality. Although some tech debt is unavoidable, it results in much slower applications and increases operational costs over time. 

Benefits of Application Modernization

Although modernization can involve a lot of time, planning, and money, it’s crucial for improving applications and the systems surrounding them. We’ll go over some of the main benefits of modernizing applications below:

Accelerates the delivery of new features: Modernization facilitates the swift implementation of new features, allowing your organization to respond promptly to market demands and stay ahead of the competition.

Enables seamless integration with third-party services: By leveraging web APIs, modernization empowers your systems to effortlessly share and consume resources with third-party services, fostering collaboration and expanding the capabilities of your applications.

Enhances scalability to accommodate growing user base: Modernization prompts a reconsideration of platform requirements, ensuring scalability to support increasing users. This scalability paves the way for future growth and accommodates evolving business needs.

Increased team productivity: Working with legacy systems is always a battle for developers. With the adoption of better tools and techniques, the challenges associated with legacy systems will be easier to overcome, leading to smoother workflows and improved efficiency in development and maintenance tasks.

Application Modernization Challenges

Although modernization has many benefits, the process also comes with its challenges. The two most crucial challenges you’ll encounter are cost and complexity. We’ll explain more below:


The cost of migrating a system can be huge. In addition to cloud migration costs, your effort could also involve hiring tech support specialists. For context, a survey of around 200+ US software architects on why app modernization projects fail revealed that 74% of respondents said their application modernization efforts cost $1M+. 

If you’re planning on rehosting or replatforming, you should take extra care to ensure you’re choosing the right cloud computing platform for your business because if you decide hastily, it can significantly increase infrastructure costs. On the hiring side, it’s worth pointing out that your organization may need to build new teams focused explicitly on modernization efforts. Building new teams could necessitate hiring specialists, adding up to the total cost of modernization.


The complexity of application modernization attributes to many factors. It involves assessing existing legacy applications and dependencies, which can be challenging. The process also requires your team to determine your modernization goals, whether they be enhancing functionality, improving performance, or cutting costs in the long run. 

Additionally, the modernization process often involves making difficult decisions regarding which cloud migration approach you should take, as some require higher involvement levels. Ensuring compatibility and compliance with security best practices adds another layer of complexity. It’s safe to say that you should not take application modernization lightly.

Technologies for Application Modernization

Luckily there are technological solutions to make your modernization journey easier. These include containerization tools like Kubernetes and cloud database platforms like Couchbase Capella. Let’s visit these technologies briefly.

Cloud Migration

Moving applications to the cloud is a big part of improving your infrastructure. Because every organization’s requirements differ, working with your team to decide on a migration strategy and having clear modernization goals in mind is essential. You should review the five R’s (coined by Gartner) before you finalize your approach. 

Containerization tools like Docker, Kubernetes, and Red Hat® OpenShift® are central to the cloud movement. They allow developers to package an application’s code and dependencies and deploy them on any infrastructure. Containerization tools are a viable alternative to Virtual Machines (VMs), which usually take longer to set up and operate.

Database Migration

Moving from traditional SQL solutions to modern NoSQL platforms could be for you if you’re seeking increased scalability, flexible data modeling, and the ability to handle large volumes of unstructured or semi-structured data efficiently. Couchbase, a NoSQL database platform, allows you to offload piecemeal legacy workloads or migrate as a whole in just three steps. You can even accelerate your modernization journey using one of our partners. Learn more about what that process looks like here.

Application Modernization Steps

Adopting a methodical approach to revitalizing legacy systems increases your project’s likelihood of success. If your organization still needs to get a modernization process in place, it will be helpful to read this next section to give you a general idea of what it should look like.


The discovery phase involves planning current business requirements and identifying areas where you can improve systems. It typically involves selecting team members to carry out your modernization efforts, doing competitor research, and setting up interviews with customers to identify pain points.


Once we’ve analyzed the areas we want to improve, the next step involves planning out the scope of your modernization efforts and creating a detailed plan, including a business case and design for the target architecture. The design phase is a good time to work on proofs of concept (POC) for new systems you may introduce down the line. 


Once scope planning is complete, developers can begin executing the migration strategy and introducing new practices and tools discovered during the initial phases. The engineering team will restructure the existing codebase, break down monolithic systems into modular components, optimize algorithms and data structures, and improve code quality through code reviews and automated testing.

Deployment and Support

Monitoring the new system is crucial once you’ve deployed the new strategy and migrations are completed. This stage is important because it helps catch loopholes and issues in the system before your customers do. You can use tools like Grafana, New Relic, and NetApp Cloud Insights for this task. During this stage, you could also set up improved software delivery processes like continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment (CI/CD). 


Innovation is vital for organizations to maintain competitiveness. Through innovative processes like application modernization, organizations can leverage new technologies to enhance productivity, improve speed, reduce operational costs, and better scale. Although legacy modernization can be costly and involves careful planning and coordination, it could greatly benefit your customers and organization in the future, as well as ensure you stay ahead in the competitive landscape.

We hope you learned something about the application modernization process and the benefits and challenges that come with it. You can review the following resources to learn more.



Posted by Couchbase Product Marketing

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