The modernization of legacy systems has always been an economic debate. Organizations have to weigh their options carefully and choose the lesser of two evils, so to speak.
As things stand, you have a fully functioning legacy IT system that enables you to perform critical business functions. The problem is, it’s become increasingly complex over the years, and, as the technology advances, it’s quickly going out-of-date and lacks the ability to integrate with newer systems and innovations. There’s also the fact that maintenance of legacy systems can be quite costly and time-consuming.
When you put it that way, modernizing your legacy systems seems like a no-brainer. Still, transitioning to a new system is also an arduous, time-consuming task, with its inherent risks and mind-numbing costs and complexity. You also have to include downtime, retraining, and customer resistance to change into the equation.
With the advent of the cloud, a new variable was introduced — Hybrid IT. This work-centric management approach aims to abstract the choice of deployment environment. It enables organizations to utilize multiple public clouds, private clouds, and cloud-based environments in conjunction with on-premise, legacy systems.
The research conducted by CITO and Commvault, back in 2017, shows that 81% of business leaders made the decision to move to the cloud out of fear of missing out. While the cloud inherently speeds up application development and deployment, applying the same monolithic architecture to the cloud perpetuates the same problems organizations experience with their legacy systems, rather than solving them.
Although Hybrid IT has become an overarching paradigm for modern IT operations, a large number of organizations are utilizing it in a way that perpetuates legacy, rather than modernizing it.
Download our free book “Legacy Technology Got You Down? Try Microservices and Cloud-Native Architecture” to learn how to take full advantage of the cloud with microservices and a cloud-native approach and modernize your legacy systems.
Why monoliths aren’t the right approach to the cloud
Transitioning to the cloud came with multiple inherent benefits. Companies no longer had to worry about hardware and software solutions, but could instead leverage new technology to speed up the development process.
The transition to the cloud has enabled organizations to:
- Cut down on development costs
- Increase agility in managing their computing infrastructure
- Speed up the deployment of new applications
Over time, the speed of development has proven to be a necessity, rather than a benefit of the cloud. With the rapid advancement of technology, customers’ needs are continuously changing, and companies need to be quick to respond and make the necessary adjustments to their systems.
This is where the grave error most organizations made came into light. Despite transitioning to the cloud or moving certain processes to the cloud environment, most organizations underwent their digital transformation relying on the same monolithic architectural approach to application building.
As the need to modify, scale, update, and optimize systems at an increasing pace become vital, monoliths once again stood in the way of the digital transformation of these organizations.
The main reasons why monoliths aren’t the optimal approach to the cloud are:
- Monolithic systems are difficult to scale
- It’s impossible to contain fault isolation
- Deployment is still extremely time-consuming
- Monoliths require a commitment to a specific technology stack
Monolithic systems are difficult to scale
Despite being deployed in the cloud, scaling monoliths is equally as cumbersome and time-consuming as with on-premise infrastructure. The main issue is that scaling a single function or feature within a monolithic application requires making changes to the system as a whole, due to strong interdependencies within the monolithic architecture.
What this means is that the only viable way to scale a monolithic system is to deploy multiple instances of the monolithic application. This typically leads to a drastic increase in the overall memory and computing resource usage. Despite deploying multiple instances of the application, the problem may persist, given the database-locking issues that may arise since monoliths still access the same database.
With microservices, it’s possible to independently deploy and scale different functionalities. Since microservices are self-contained, each having separate data stores and application logic, developers can quickly update one functionality without having to worry about how the changes will affect the application as a whole.
That’s why microservices represent the intersection between DevOps and legacy IT and enable organizations to adopt an agile approach to application development.
It’s impossible to contain fault isolation
Monolithic applications are constructed and deployed as single units, with complex interdependencies between different features and functionalities. When a single feature fails, for whatever reason, it may cause the application as a whole to malfunction. Similarly, introducing a new feature or making changes to an existing one might affect the application in unforeseen ways, despite a full regression test.
Contrary to this complex interdependence, in a microservice architecture, each microservice functions as a separate entity. Microservices typically rely on asynchronous communication to request information from one another, when necessary.
This means that, when a microservice fails, the developers can simply take it out and apply fixes or deploy a new microservice in its place. In the meantime, the application maintains all of its other functions, and only the functionality tied to that particular microservice is temporarily unavailable.
This makes microservices extremely fault resistant and greatly speeds up the time necessary to deploy the fixes, upgrade specific functionalities, or implement new features within the application.
Deployment is still extremely time-consuming
Making any changes to a monolithic system increases its complexity exponentially. As the monolithic system expands, the development and QA cycles become lengthier, reciprocally.
As we’ve mentioned, frequent technological innovations and ever-changing customer needs in the digital era practically force organizations to consistently make new changes to their systems to implement new or upgrade existing digital services. Those who fail to keep pace with the innovations risk losing customers to their more tech-savvy competitors.
Monolithic architecture doesn’t support frequent changes. Introducing the smallest of changes in a monolithic system requires rebuilding, full regression testing, and redeploying the entire monolith.
This makes updating or making changes to a monolithic application is extremely time-consuming. On top of that, every team involved in the project must coordinate to ensure the changes are implemented correctly, which is another reason why monolithic systems drastically prolong the length of release cycles.
Monoliths require a commitment to a specific technology stack
With a monolithic system, you essentially have to commit to a specific technology stack. Given that layers within a monolith are tightly coupled and heavily dependent on one another, they are built using the same technology to ensure interoperability.
By adding more code, you’re furthering your commitment to the technology stack you chose in the early stages of development. This makes it impossible for developers to experiment with technologies that may be more suitable for particular services and prevents them from utilizing new technologies as they become available.
This isn’t an issue in a microservice architecture. Since they’re self-sufficient, each microservice can be built on different technology. You can leverage different data stores and use the appropriate programming language, depending on the function the specific microservice needs to perform. This makes it easy for developers and software architects to switch between different technologies, when necessary, and enables them to utilize the right tool for the job.
Microservices as an architecture optimized for the cloud
Microservices are small, self-contained pieces of code that execute a single, specific business function. They have their own data stores and application logic and can expose a specific Application Programming Interface (API).
Microservices are also an architectural style — an approach to application development that perfectly aligns with DevOps and agile. Given that each microservice can be independently developed, tested, and deployed, multiple teams can simultaneously work on different functionalities of the system. The QA teams can then independently test and deploy each microservice, drastically cutting down the time of deployment cycles.
What makes microservices and cloud such a good fit? Developing applications in the cloud enables developers to implement innovations and update existing features easier and faster, as well as maneuver around failures and improve the application’s resilience.
This doesn’t happen automatically when transitioning to the cloud. It’s vital to implement an architectural approach that would allow for independent deployment and scaling of particular features, as well as enable developers to integrate new technology as it becomes available.
That’s why deploying microservices on the cloud is the best way to take full advantage of everything the cloud can offer you. The essence of microservices lies in the fact that they enable you to break down the application into smaller services that provide strictly defined functionalities.
Coupled with the cost reduction benefits of the cloud — due to the fact that you don’t have to worry about on-premise hardware — the modularity of microservices allows the speed of developing new services to match the pace of your business’ needs and ever-changing customer expectations.
That said, one of the major benefits of a cloud-native microservice architecture is the fact that, with microservice-based APIs, you can deploy new digital services ten times faster than with monolithic architecture, all without making any changes to your legacy IT system.
See how microservices can help you digitize your legacy system and drastically reduce your time to market
How cloud-native architecture and microservices can help you modernize your legacy systems
Given their complexity and high dependency between different functionalities, applications built on legacy and on-premise monolithic systems directly oppose DevOps. That’s why you may have gotten the wrong impression that adopting a cloud-native architecture and embracing microservices implies creating an entirely new system on the cloud.
That couldn’t be further from the truth — microservices aren’t here to “pull the plug” on your legacy system. Instead, they allow you to utilize the assets from your existing monolithic architecture and leverage them to quickly create and deploy digital services based on new technology.
How do microservices do this? In the past, deploying microservices required navigating through multiple complex layers of the existing architecture. With modern microservice architectures, that is no longer the case. Microservices can now bypass these layers and connect directly to mainframes, midrange systems, and databases within your legacy systems.
What this means is that you can create microservices leveraging the latest technology, while pulling all the data directly from your existing monolithic architecture. The microservice will in no way impact the functioning of your legacy system, and you can deploy advanced digital services in weeks instead of months since you don’t have to migrate the existing system or create a new one.
In other words, microservices provide direct access to legacy assets and are easy to deploy in hybrid cloud environments by putting them in containers.
Microservices can also help your organization eventually migrate off the legacy system. That said, you would have to understand the intricacies of the complex monolithic systems and build microservices for each data store or process in the legacy system.
OpenLegacy is here to offer a helping hand. With over a decade of experience in the industry, we will follow the logic of your legacy system to determine the best way to integrate microservices with your existing architecture and develop outstanding microservice-based APIs that you can deploy lightning-fast.
Microservices vs. cloud computing
Although cloud computing and modern microservices go hand-in-hand and support DevOps and an agile approach to application development, it’s still important to make the distinction between these terms.
Cloud computing refers to running workloads remotely over the internet, rather than having to build on-premise servers. Cloud computing enables developers to leverage a virtualized pool of resources, including:
- Raw computing power
- Application functionality
- Data stores
Public clouds enable organizations to leverage innovations and acquire new business capabilities without having to invest in any hardware or software. The most popular public cloud services today are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, both of which enable you to utilize their vast resources in exchange for paying a subscription fee.
Organizations can also create and leverage private clouds, which serve as ultimate data centers and enable you to provision your own virtual resources to develop, test, and deploy microservices and microservice-based applications.
In the context of developing and deploying microservices that rely on the data from your legacy systems, the cloud is simply a server where the microservices are deployed. If you adopt a microservice architecture and build an entire system using this approach, the cloud will function both as a resource center as well as the environment in which you can deploy the microservices.
Therefore, there isn’t a list of microservices used in cloud computing or cloud-specific microservices. The fact of the matter is that microservices don’t have to be deployed in the cloud, although doing so is advisable due to cost reduction benefits of cloud solutions vs. on-premise servers.
In other words, you can deploy microservices of various functionality into the cloud, completely independently, and have them perform specific functions by relying on the data from your legacy systems.
You can also create a cloud-native microservice architecture in the cloud and have the entire application, as well as all the necessary resources, in the cloud environment.
Which option you choose should depend on your business needs and the goal of your digital transformation strategy.
Download our free eBook — “Accelerating the Digital Journey from Legacy Systems to Modern Microservices.” — and learn how to fast-track your digital journey from legacy systems to modern microservices.
Five reasons to implement cloud-based microservices
Now that we’ve covered the basic concepts of cloud-based microservices, let’s take a look at the five main reasons why you should consider implementing microservices.
The main benefits of microservices are:
- Applications are easier to scale
- Microservices are developer-friendly
- They enable DevOps and facilitate collaboration
- You can choose the right tool for the job
- You’ll reduce development cost and deploy services ten times faster
Applications are easier to scale
Monolithic applications can only be scaled by creating multiple instances of the application and setting up load balancers. And even then, you might encounter various issues.
Microservices allow you to scale each feature or specific function of the application independently, without influencing the app as a whole in any way. Scalability is at the core of the microservice architecture and the ability to make changes to existing microservices, replace them, or add new ones, quickly and efficiently, is the major benefit of microservices.
Microservices are developer-friendly
Given their independence from one another, microservices enable developers to easily adapt to new developments in the IT industry and implement new technology to improve the functionality of each individual microservice.
Developers don’t have to recode the entire application and redeploy it. Instead, they can simply add new code or replace an existing microservice with a new one. Plus, they have peace of mind, knowing they can work on the new code without having to worry that the changes they make might break the application elsewhere, which might be the case with monolithic applications.
Microservices enable DevOps and facilitate collaboration
The general rule of thumb when creating microservices is to have dedicated teams for specific microservices. Cross-functioning teams with varied skill sets — such as developers and testing teams — are assigned to work on the same project simultaneously. This way, testing teams don’t have to wait for the developers to finish the entire application before taking over.
Teams can develop, test, and deploy each microservice independently and continuously deliver value. This makes managing the microservice architecture as a whole a lot easier and more efficient since every team is responsible for the microservices they create. Continuous delivery enables teams to consistently deploy updates without causing inconvenience to the users or application downtime.
You can choose the right tool for the job
Depending on the functionality the microservice needs to provide, different tools — data stores and programming languages — make the most sense in different situations. Since microservices are completely self-sufficient, each running on its own data store and application logic, you can always choose the right tool for the job, which best aligns with your business needs.
You’ll reduce development cost and deploy services ten times faster
With a cloud-based microservices, multiple teams can work on various features, or even specific services, at the same time. As we’ve mentioned, each microservices is tested and deployed independently. This cuts down on time necessary to implement changes to your application, reduces the costs of development, and enables you to introduce new digital services to your customers 10x faster than with monolithic applications.
Partner up with OpenLegacy to leverage your legacy system to embrace digital innovations and deliver outstanding services to your customers 10x faster.