Flip the </Script> on App Modernization Projects

Application modernization is a well-established concept.  As companies develop software, inevitably, they must modernize it to cope with the expanding complexity of their codebase, which can hinder engineering agility because of technical debt that creeps into the application over time.  This push to modernize legacy applications is reshaping the business landscape, making application modernization not just a maintenance task but a strategic imperative to ensure competitiveness and future growth.  The current rise of app modernization as a top priority for organizations has accelerated due to several significant market trends over the past decade.

Cloud Migration.  Over the last ten years or so, a consortium of industry analysts and Cloud providers has emerged purporting that transitioning applications to the Cloud is not merely beneficial but a critical component of any App Modernization strategy.  At Aspen, we disagree.  Moving an on-premises application to the Cloud will require some degree of re-platforming and possibly significant development work when system integrations and reporting needs must also be considered.  Local and global data privacy and other regulatory compliance considerations are ever-expanding potentially complicating both storage and compute considerations (a principal driver behind why some organizations are converting to hybrid-cloud, private-cloud or, in some cases, going back on-premises).  Data breaches and other cybersecurity concerns continue to produce more robust controls and hardened offerings, yet the domino-effect here often requires more certified professionals and/or third-party vendors to ensure best practices are always kept up with. 

Once moved, old software is still old software leaving end-users, customers and other stakeholders still wondering whether their needs will ever start being addressed.  Don’t get us wrong – we recognize and benefit from the numerous capabilities and advantages afforded by today’s Cloud providers.  However, we believe that overcoming an application’s technical debt quickly and effectively immediately allows for the creation of value-added enhancements and new features and at the same time streamlines a Cloud migration if that’s also the right direction to take.

Re-platform, Refactor, Rearchitect or Rebuild.  The Re-platform, Refactor, Rearchitect or Rebuild (collectively referred to as rebuild) are a spectrum of approaches for app modernization from migrating to a new runtime platform making minimal changes to the code to redesigning and rewriting the application components from scratch.  Plus rebuilding a legacy application can vary greatly among organizations.  It may start with a single technology project or as a broad, enterprise-wide endeavor. 

When it comes to re-platforming, refactoring, rearchitecting or rebuilding a legacy application to modernize it, there is a tendency to rely on the use of the latest technology available to solve one set of constraints of the legacy application.  For example, using the latest user interface development tools to build a new front end on an application that is riddled with technical debt doesn’t help any of the business users.  Redevelop the entire application stack you say, then the project expands exponentially to include data, data access, security, business logic and the interface.  Again, don’t get us wrong.  We think all these components of a legacy application – data, data access, security, business logic and the interface – need to be updated and the incumbent technical debt eliminated, but it’s the way that organizations go about these projects that had us looking for a new way.

Low Code / No Code.  Another rising trend for app modernization is the low code / no code movement.  This approach redevelops the application from the ground up, typically starting with the user interface.  Low code / no code has an important place in application development but not app modernization.  In short, low code / no code solutions are good at creating a modern application but not good at modernizing legacy applications.

Are these modernization options really achieving the needs of the business?  Business users need new innovative solutions in their applications – new features, new functionality, control over their workflows, new look and feel, new integrations – and neither of these modernization trends get them there quickly, easily and without risk.

In a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research they indicated that almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) say a typical application modernization effort can cost on average $1.5 million and take 16 months.  But what’s more alarming is that failure is quite common.  Some four in five (80%) survey respondents said they have experienced at least one app modernization effort failure.  According to Wakefield’s research, companies spend years attempting to untangle complex, monolithic code in a very inefficient, manual process which leads to a 79% failure rate for app modernization projects!

Accelerate App Modernization Through Automation

Aspen’s approach to App Modernization is the result of its leadership team applying a combined seven-decades of experience with multiple, highly successful enterprise software and services organizations directly against this issue.  While technical debt is no one person’s fault, it’s everyone’s problem as all stakeholders are inevitably impacted by the constraints imposed on them.  Aspen’s Warp Drive Development Engine™ was built to resolve technical debt issues and modernize software applications quickly while addressing all cybersecurity needs of the legacy application.  Our Warp Drive Development Engine™ can shorten an app modernization project from months or years to days or weeks and produce a hardened and standardized application ready for innovation.

Using Aspen’s Warp Drive Development Engine™, be completed with your app modernization project months or even years ahead of traditional approaches.  There are four steps in an Aspen app modernization project.

Modernization of the Data Access Layer.  We start our process at the database and work up.  Each of these tasks is completed in an automated manner using the Warp Drive Engine™.

  • We work only atop your database schema.  Data privacy is assured; data integrity is maintained; existing reports and system integrations remain functional reducing scope and risk with minimal disruption.  Plus, we’ll identify all Potentially Sensitive Data fields for you based on guidance as per FERPA, CCPA, GDPR, HIPAA, PCI and PII.
  • New Application Technology Stack.  Industry-standard design patterns and source code from the database up through the UI.  We deliver a consistent, scalable, fully tested stack easy to enhance, maintain, and deploy.
  • APIs, Automated Tests and Code Quality Checks.  Secure REST and GraphQL APIs serve as your application gateway addressing UI and System Integration needs.  Automated Integration Tests validate the entire data access stack while Unit Tests are leveraged by SonarQube™ giving you third-party validation as to the overall quality, cybersecurity included, of the code.

Creation of a Starter User Interface.  You never start from scratch – you’re provided with a complete starter React UI leveraging your newly created secure API which can be fine-tuned by your existing team to meet your unique needs.  The Aspen Designer™ takes this a step further enabling metadata management, bespoke UI development, and workflow orchestration.  With industry-standard design patterns and source code from the database up through the UI, we deliver a consistent, scalable, fully tested stack easy to enhance, maintain, and deploy.

Modernization of Business Logic.  Replicating the business logic that still matters from older software requires a unique approach and that’s what we’re good at.

  • Business Logic ETL.  Business Logic nested inside database constraints, triggers, or procedures can be relocated to the core application layer bringing about consistency, simplifying maintenance and guaranteeing messaging needs out to all API consumers.
  • Application business logic is created using the Aspen Designer™.

CI/CD Deployment Packages.  We can optionally provide you with a complete deployment package for Azure or AWS.  You can also choose to host with us if that’s advantageous as part of your App Modernization needs.

Todd Ingersoll

With over 20 years of experience serving multiple roles inside successful enterprise software and services organizations, Todd has been expressly interested in successfully overcoming app modernization challenges.  His first-hand experience and dissatisfaction with the limitations and business impact of the traditional options of application modernization led him to create Aspen ESS.  Aspen ESS was created to give organizations rapid, reliable, scalable, and extendable solutions to challenges with legacy software products and portfolios.