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Understanding application modernization

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What is application modernization?

Application modernization is a process that improves software delivery performance for a business by updating—rather than replacing—older legacy software systems. For many organizations, this involves replatforming existing legacy workloads onto a modern cloud platform based on Kubernetes, and breaking monolithic applications into smaller pieces like microservices. It’s also common to adopt new ways of working, like DevOps, site reliability engineering (SRE) and CI/CD, as part of application modernization.

Why modernize legacy applications?

Many organizations find that a large share of legacy workloads, underlying platforms, technologies, and traditional development practices are holding back business agility and innovation. This is because many legacy systems were developed before the rise of cloud computing, cloud-native development practices, Linux containers, and other recent advancements. However, many of these workloads are still business-critical and represent significant long-term investments which cannot be easily replaced or retired.

This leaves organizations in a difficult position, needing to balance the necessity of maintaining these systems with the desire to innovate, meet new customer expectations, and address new opportunities. These legacy applications can require so much time, budget, and resources to maintain that they become a significant obstacle to innovation.
Additionally, maintaining applications written across languages and deployed across various platforms poses a challenge to resources as one department may be maintaining monolithic Java applications or services on platforms such as .Net or Cloud Foundry. While these applications and platforms can be unified and standardized, an organization must adopt an open hybrid cloud approach to succeed. 
The purpose of application modernization is to bring agility back to legacy applications by migrating them to a modern platform, breaking up monoliths into smaller easier to maintain components like microservices, applying modern software development and deployment practices, and integrating old with new.

What’s your challenge?

Application modernization can pose various challenges based on the language, platform, or existing infrastructure. Some of the most common challenges are these:

Java application modernization

Java™ has been one of the most popular programming languages for enterprise software development for over 27 years. While it is known as a dependable language, modernizing apps built in Java can be a challenge.

.NET application modernization

Before Microsoft embraced Linux as a key platform, .NET was originally closed source and for Windows only. Several choices are available when you’re ready to modernize .NET apps.

Cloud Foundry modernization

Cloud Foundry presents several challenges and limitations, including heavy costs to refactor and modernize legacy applications to fit its platform and a lack of support for newer technologies.


Many organizations have an investment in applications that run as virtual machines. OpenShift® Virtualization is a feature of Red Hat OpenShift that allows you to run and manage virtual machine (VM) and container workloads side by side.

Ongoing app dev and maintenance

Legacy applications can pose a challenge to ongoing application development and maintenance. To reduce this burden, many enterprises are choosing to migrate their apps to an open hybrid cloud. Red Hat ISV partners can help make this approach work for you.

What are the key technologies for application modernization?

Many application modernization strategies revolve around replatforming legacy applications onto the container orchestration platform Kubernetes. Kubernetes can help organizations deliver and manage containerized, legacy, and cloud-native applications, as well as those being refactored into microservices.

A Kubernetes platform can unlock new value and innovation even in existing business-critical legacy applications. Breaking down monoliths into smaller pieces, moving towards continuous integration and delivery, A/B testing, and canary deployment capabilities foster shorter release cycles, experimentation of new ideas, and short feedback loops. Modernizing and moving workloads to Kubernetes lays the foundation for continuous delivery and improved software delivery performance.

A Kubernetes platform is the foundational technology that enables many of these intersecting tools, processes, and technologies that are associated with application modernization:


At its core, Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool, meaning that it automates many of the manual processes involved in deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications. Automation is also key to new ways of working, like DevOps, and processes for faster release cycles, like CI/CD.


Microservices are both an architecture and an approach to writing software. With microservices, applications are broken down into their smallest components, independent from each other. Instead of a traditional, monolithic approach to apps, where everything is built into a single piece, microservices are all separated and work together to accomplish the same tasks.


Application programming interfaces (APIs) are about integration—the connection of data, applications, and devices across your IT organization so that all of your technologies can better communicate and work together. You lose time and money when your technologies can’t talk to one another or anyone else’s.

Cloud services

Cloud services are infrastructure, platforms, or software that are hosted by third-party providers and made available to users through the internet. They facilitate the flow of user data from front-end clients (e.g. users’ servers, tablets, desktops, laptops—anything on the users’ ends), through the internet, to the provider’s systems, and back.

What is Red Hat’s approach to application modernization?

Red Hat is well suited to help organizations with their journey to Kubernetes. With a comprehensive portfolio of products and services for hybrid cloud computing, including Red Hat® OpenShift®, the industry leading Kubernetes application platform, and a wide range of runtimes for developing and running cloud-native applications, Red Hat can help organizations migrate and evolve aging applications and workloads applications onto agile, cloud-native architectures ensuring they can respond to ever-changing business climates for years to come.

Modernizing workloads to a leading Kubernetes platform enables a secure software supply chain with a modern, scalable approach to securing the entire application platform stack—from operating system to container to application. Security becomes an integrated part of the application lifecycle, as part of the process, not as an afterthought. As a result, you can realize an increase in application availability, scalability, and performance. Red Hat OpenShift helps guarantee a high performing user experience of your applications at all times—with services for load balancing, auto-scaling, and self-healing.

Thousands of organizations rely on Red Hat’s software solutions and consulting services for future proofing their applications and IT infrastructure—building on Red Hat’s leading platform technology, modernization and migration tools, and a proven methodology, services to speed adoption success, and a wide ecosystem of partners.

Keep reading


What's a Linux container?

A Linux container is a set of processes isolated from the system, running from a distinct image that provides all the files necessary to support the processes.


Containers vs VMs

Linux containers and virtual machines (VMs) are packaged computing environments that combine various IT components and isolate them from the rest of the system.


What is container orchestration?

Container orchestration automates the deployment, management, scaling, and networking of containers.

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