App Dev | Modernization

When To Modernize: 12 Signs It’s Time For Infrastructure Modernization

Dheeraj Panyam
Dheeraj Panyam

The saying, “don’t fix what isn’t broke” is thrown at a lot of things, including business models. But how exactly do you know when something is broken? For instance, when do you know that your legacy applications and on-premises IT infrastructure needs to be revamped?

Well, there are a few indicators of performance, morale, and overall productivity that can be used as a signal to know when it’s time to modernize. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of those indicators and what that they might mean for your business.

12 Common Signs and Indicators of an Ageing IT Infrastructure

The following signs and indicators are often seen by business owners with a legacy IT infrastructure or applications. We’ll also provide a brief explanation of why these problems occur and how exactly modernization solves them. Let’s start with the most common problem – increasing costs.

High costs
Monolithic applications and on-premises infrastructure follow a capital expenditure (CapEx) model which means there are many fixed and upfront costs. Even on slow days, you still end up paying the same as you would on days with high traffic. This is mostly because you’re maintaining your own hardware and paying for a full-time IT staff.

Other reasons for increasing costs in a legacy IT infrastructure including failing hardware, licensing fees for all types of important (sometimes mandatory) services, and the tendency of legacy applications to get more costly as they grow. Legacy applications have a monolithic architecture which makes them far less scalable than modern applications. This means that it becomes exponentially more difficult and expensive for them to continue scaling up.

How Modernization Helps: One of the first things app modernization does is migrate your application to a far more scalable and cost-effective platform, usually on the cloud. You end up shifting from a CapEx model to an Operating Expenditure (OpEx) model where you have negligible fixed costs and the bulk of your expenditure is made up of operations costs that vary as per your usage, meaning you pay less when your services aren’t being used.

Security issues
Despite popular belief, SMBs are at a huge risk of IT security breaches and more than half (63%) end up victim to different types of attacks including ransomware, data leaks, keylogging, DDoS, spambots, etc. You may be experiencing less severe security issues such as finding security vulnerabilities frequently that expose you to the aforementioned attacks. Additionally, you might be getting reports from your users or web hosting provider about:

  • Email services marking your email accounts as spam
  • Frequent login attempts from another part of the world
  • Web browsers marking your website as “Not secure” or even malicious

How Modernization Helps: Even before the migration begins, your cloud migration officer will perform a comprehensive audit to identify any security vulnerabilities in your infrastructure. During the migration, many of these security issues are either automatically eliminated or significantly mitigated thanks to internal cloud protocols. After all, there is a reason some of the biggest companies and government institutions run their servers on the cloud, including the CIA.

Reliability issues
There can be numerous causes for downtime but when your app or infrastructure goes down frequently and for long periods of time, it could very well be your aging infrastructure. If you’ve already ruled out bad coding (for instance, technical debt) and security issues, then chances are it’s either failing hardware or your app’s backend is simply incapable of handling the number of requests you’re getting. In addition to all of this, monolithic architecture isn’t optimized for modern workloads which means that even if your application was working fine a year ago, a year of updates might have pushed it over its limits.

How Modernization Helps: This is a major problem because downtime not only impacts your internal productivity but also hampers potential customers from reaching you. There are extremely fast and efficient migration strategies available (like lift-and-shift) that move your app to a more stable platform with minimum disruption, giving you more runway to optimize your application and sort out availability issues.

Furthermore, most cloud vendors have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a certain amount of uptime or availability (very close to 100%) which adds to the peace of mind.

Insufficient scaling ability to service users
If your application was going through a growth phase that suddenly slowed or stagnated, you might be facing a bottleneck in your infrastructure. A bottleneck occurs when one of your technical components is incapable of keeping up with the rest. This component can be anything from storage to compute to network capabilities. The problem is, it’s not as simple as just adding more compute or storage in legacy infrastructure.

Legacy applications and platforms support only vertical scaling which means in order to get a faster processor, you need to replace your older one which takes more time, requires recoding, and is overall much more expensive.

How Modernization Helps: Modern, cloud-based applications support automatic horizontal scaling which means you never have to worry about scaling or missing out on business as the cloud adds more storage, compute, disk, etc whenever you need it. For instance, your app could go viral and get millions of visits every hour and your cloud infrastructure wouldn’t miss a beat in scaling up.

Recruitment limitations
A modern cloud architecture like a microservices architecture supports a mixed technology stack. This allows businesses to use different technologies including different languages and libraries in the same project. This has a few obvious advantages including faster time to market and the ability to pivot using modern technologies.

How Modernization Helps: An often overlooked advantage of a mixed technology stack is having more freedom when it comes to recruitment as it’s no longer mandatory to hire developers specializing in a specific technology.

Slow time to market
Market trends and consumer preferences shift all the time and if you’re unable to pivot your business accordingly, you lose out to competitors. If you have been experiencing this more and more often, it’s possible that your application and IT infrastructure, in general, isn’t suitable for quick changes and just isn’t agile enough. Additionally, it’s also possible that your legacy application is struggling with the number of changes being made rather than just the speed.

A common real-world example of this is being able to run only a small number of campaigns at a time (such as different landing pages), not being able to monitor/manage traffic from multiple sources, limited data visualization and business intelligence (BI) capabilities, that is, not being able to use the data collected from your application to its full extent.

How Modernization Helps: Modernizing your application adds additional capabilities to your app and infrastructure that help you overcome many of the limitations mentioned above with minimal effort. For instance, Google Cloud Platform has hundreds of services included in its ecosystem, many of which are dedicated to data visualization, monitoring, and BI.

Loss of competitive edge
Despite what many naysayers believe, technology has revolutionized businesses in more than one way. It has also been critical in businesses either gaining a competitive edge or losing it (even the biggest businesses weren’t immune from this). And although there can be many reasons for losing or gaining an edge over competitors, your technology plays a big role.

For instance, an application or website plays a big role in how new customers find you, how existing customers contact you, and how you maintain a communication channel with your customers. It can be used for advertising, loyalty programs, and even customer (or internal) support. Customer service has never been more important and technology is a big part of how accessible you (and your competitors) are. Without taking the first step in modernization, harnessing emerging technologies is at worse, nearly impossible, and at best, a complicated and grueling process.

How Modernization Helps: Simply having a website or application isn’t enough. If it’s slow or buggy, customers won’t use it – unfortunately, monolithic applications often turn out to be both. Modern applications are architected to be fast, scalable, and feature-rich and require far less effort to keep it that way. They also enable innovation by encouraging implementation of new tools and features as they roll out.

Slower application updates
Here’s a scenario: you’ve just told your development team to make a (relatively) simple change to your application or website like switching the banner images or taglines but it’s taking longer than you would’ve imagined. Likewise, larger updates such as introducing new functionality may take even longer and end up causing scheduling issues with other departments of your business such as advertising.

How Modernization Helps: Modern applications have a microservice architecture instead of a monolithic architecture, and the former is vastly superior to the latter. It supports and encourages software engineering methodologies such as DevOps and remote development, which in turn reduce time-to-market.

Difficulty in remote working and collaboration
Among the numerous corporate shortcomings that 2020 has brought to light is the inability of many businesses to operate remotely. This includes traditional development teams who are unable to develop and deliver with independent development teams. Modern IT architectures, on the other hand, provide in-depth remote working support and collaboration solutions. Developers are free to develop and test builds on their own without risking incompatibility and are no longer forced to work in huge teams.

Increased maintenance costs
On the other side of the spectrum, you may be able to get out updates quickly but they usually end up in failure and/or are riddled with bugs. This is a relatively common problem with monolithic architectures and isn’t 100% down to developer skill. As monoliths grow, they become exponentially more complex, like a web, making debugging more difficult.

How Modernization Helps: The microservice architecture is fundamentally different from monolithic, in that, the code is far more isolated, which means when an update fails or has bugs, it doesn’t affect the rest of the application and can be quickly removed without making changes to the rest of the application. Furthermore, modern software development incorporates technologies such as the CI/CD pipeline and feedback loops, making testing and debugging significantly easier.

Insufficient on-premises hardware
Legacy infrastructure is almost always on-premises which means the business buys and maintains all of the computer hardware it requires. However, if your business is growing quickly, you may find yourself upgrading on-premises hardware fairly often and since legacy applications aren’t horizontally scalable, most of the time, you would have no other option but to discard older but perfectly fine hardware. Needless to say, there are numerous problems with this approach.

How Modernization Helps: One of the main benefits of modernization is cloud migration, which involves using cloud servers instead of your own. The cloud offers virtually limitless scalability, horizontal scalability, and pay-as-you-go pricing schemes all of which together means that you pay less, worry less, and waste less.

Single point of failure
Single point of failure (SPOF) is a well-known characteristic of many traditional (monolithic) IT infrastructure that, as the name suggests, are prone to complete failure even if a single part of the system fails. Consequently, applications running on such an infrastructure are also prone to SPOF. For instance, if compute fails, then the database fails too and vice versa.

How Modernization Helps: Modern IT infrastructures have a key feature called fault isolation which enables businesses to isolate the failed component and substitute it with another copy of that component to ensure your application stays online and performs as it should. In some cases, when entire data centers go down (major power outage, for instance), the infrastructure can host the failed part of your application in a geographically different data center – something that isn’t possible on traditional on-premises IT infrastructures.

Wrapping up…

The core limitations of legacy applications summarize these problems very well. A legacy application is slow to update, inflexible, prone to failures, and has limited scalability. It also happens that modern cloud-based applications (and by extension, modern architectures) are the exact opposite. In fact, modern software engineering patterns completely revolve around a few key tenets that make them agile, resilient, and scalable.

As a result, modernization is often the best solution to the problems mentioned above and numerous other problems found in growing legacy systems, all of which we couldn’t discuss in this article (although most of them are a variation of the signs mentioned in this article).

If you’d like to learn more about the cloud-native application and how modernization will apply to your exact IT infrastructure, reach out to one of our cloud migration experts today for a free consultation.

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