In a perfect world, every application would run like Netflix—meaning every application would be cloud-native, microservices-based, containerized, and, in all other senses of the word, modern.
Unfortunately, not every application can be transformed in these ways. Some of the most important enterprise applications don't lend themselves to architectural transformations simply because the vendors don't support that strategy. As much as organizations might wish that they could re-architect legacy apps from the ground up, the reality is that they just can't.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost if you have an enterprise app you can't containerize or "microservices-ize." Even if you can't "break down your monolith"—to quote the standard advice about how to modernize legacy apps—there are many practical steps you can take to make legacy, monolithic applications look and feel (in most respects) like modern, cloud-native apps.
[ Learn how IT modernization can help alleviate technical debt. ]
This article offers 4 steps to help enterprise apps become cloud-friendly, even if they're not technically cloud-native.
1. Use cloud automation to modernize legacy application management
Most enterprise apps are compatible with the cloud in the sense that you can host them on cloud-based virtual machine (VM) instances using services from different cloud providers.
By taking advantage of cloud hosting for enterprise apps, organizations can also leverage cloud automation tools, such as autoscaling policies and rules that automatically start or stop VMs. Deploying enterprise apps in a highly scalable, automated manner becomes possible. The result resembles Kubernetes-based orchestration, except your apps don't actually run in containers on top of Kubernetes. They're just monoliths that benefit from cloud automation tools.
[ Learn best practices for implementing automation across your organization. Download The automation architect's handbook. ]
2. Deploy load balancers to optimize performance
Load balancers, which automatically manage network traffic flowing to and from applications, are another critical tool organizations can easily leverage when migrating legacy applications to the cloud.
Although configuring load balancers for enterprise apps hosted in the cloud is not a strict requirement, doing so can substantially improve application performance and reliability. Load balancers help direct requests at application instances best able to handle them. They prevent situations where one instance of your application is overwhelmed with traffic while another sits idle.
This is also something that platforms like Kubernetes do for microservices apps. But as I've explained, you don't actually need your apps to run as microservices to take advantage of load balancing. You can do it with monolithic legacy apps, too.
3. Adopt an everything-as-code strategy
When your app lives in the cloud and you manage it with cloud automation tools, it becomes possible to control most application operations using code. Specifically, you can:
- Use Infrastructure-as-Code tools to automate infrastructure provisioning and setup.
- Automate application configuration management using code rather than applying configuration changes manually.
- Codify operational processes, such as application updates and backups, instead of relying on manual operations.
Practices like these, which enable a strategy known as everything-as-code, significantly reduce the time and manual effort engineers spend managing applications. They also provide consistency and minimize the risk of errors due to human oversight. And there's no reason why you can't leverage these practices for legacy and modern apps.
4. Integrate legacy apps with modern toolchains
If you host your enterprise app on premises, you probably manage it using tools and processes designed solely for it. Moving an enterprise app to the cloud makes it possible to administer it using the integrated toolchain you deploy for other applications and processes.
For example, you can use cloud-based monitoring tools to continuously collect data about application performance and generate automated alerts when something is wrong. Likewise, you can create image-based backups of your application regularly.
This toolchain-based operational strategy is another way to streamline enterprise application management, even when you can't rewrite or containerize the application itself.
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Get more from legacy apps
Just because you have a legacy enterprise app that you can't transform into microservices doesn't mean you have to settle for legacy management and operations. Modern automation tools, combined with current operational strategies like everything-as-code, make it possible to achieve an enterprise application management experience that closely parallels that of fully modern, cloud-native apps, regardless of your app's architecture.