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The path to successful application modernization

Lilli Salo
Lilli Salo
On Jun 26, 2024 11:39:29 AM

Legacy applications can present serious obstacles to agility and innovation. Application modernization is the way forward, but migrating legacy applications isn't always straightforward. The right strategy and tools make all the difference.

Many customers rely on Vaadin's expertise to modernize their Java apps. We’ve published a range of guides on application modernization. In this article, we outline some of the most common steps organizations take toward successful application modernization and provide links to articles that assist you at every step of the way.

Defining application modernization

Application modernization is the process of transforming legacy applications into their modern equivalents, including both the codebase and user interface. Today, this often involves migrating applications to the cloud.

Through modernization, organizations can enhance application functionality, user experience, and security. Once in the cloud, applications can leverage scalability and cost-efficiency, simplifying architecture and reducing expenses.

Modernization also addresses technical debt, which can be significant; McKinsey suggests it accounts for up to 40% of corporate IT balance sheets. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to embrace open-source solutions, benefiting from long-term cost savings and agility.

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IZUM successfully migrated from Swing to Vaadin, modernizing their library operations from desktop to web. Read full success story ->

The right approach to application modernization

Modernizing legacy applications has many benefits, but there are plenty of pitfalls, too, so choosing the right approach is critical

Cloud technology advancements have broadened the spectrum of modernization strategies beyond simply lifting and shifting an application to the cloud. Gartner outlines seven options, ranging from non-invasive adjustments to full-scale rebuilds.  

For companies using legacy Java apps, Vaadin is a key asset in the modernization toolbox. Its Java foundation, architectural flexibility, and a rich component library make it adaptable to various strategies that help ease the transition and minimize technical debt, resulting in more modern and maintainable applications.

Four strategies and best practices for successful app modernization

What, then, is the best approach to application modernization? You can cut it many different ways, but we suggest that there are four main strategies: 

  • Rehosting: moving applications to the cloud without code changes to realize quick gains
  • Refactoring: modifying source code to improve cloud compatibility and reduce technical debt 
  • Rearchitecting: significant design changes to fully align applications with cloud-native features
  • Rebuilding: completely recreating an application using modern technologies

The right strategy depends on your unique circumstances. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of each option and suggest which option to choose based on your circumstances.

Preparing for modernization

There are a few things to think about before diving in. A solid business case, thorough risk assessment, and a deep understanding of your existing codebase are essential, and so is prioritizing the end-user experience.

Six factors to consider before modernizing your business web app

Start by making sure the business case is clear before embarking on a modernization project. How does the modernization project align with company goals, evolving customer needs, and new market opportunities?

Also, assess the scope of the project and the risks involved, alongside the organization’s appetite for risk. Risk-taking can sometimes pay off in terms of project completion speed or capabilities attained. Part of this assessment should include a close look at the state of your source code.

To maximize success, the modernized app must offer an intuitive, enhanced experience for the end user. Choosing the right technology vendors and framework ensures the modernized app is future-proof. Read more about the six factors here.

How modernizable is your Java application?

For Java apps, it’s always worth evaluating the state of existing source code and considering whether rebuilding may be required during the modernization process.

At Vaadin, we outline seven core traits of highly modernizable Java apps. As a starting point, highly modernizable Java applications are built with a long-term perspective, prioritizing adaptability from the beginning. 

Think about wrapping framework components to insulate your code, choosing architectures like MVP that promote portability, and maintaining a loose coupling between modules to enable phased modernization. 

Consistent naming conventions keep code organized, while a conservative approach to third-party libraries minimizes framework-specific dependencies. Avoiding customizing the framework itself can prevent future compatibility issues. 

The modernization process

Understanding the underlying factors of your application allows you to select the right tools, technologies, and methodologies, ensuring a seamless transition that aligns with your long-term business goals.

How we guide you throughout your modernization journey

Application modernization is a complex process, and in guiding customers through the modernization journey, we start by understanding your modernization needs, project status, and experience level. This helps us provide tailored guidance, demonstrations, and technical support.

For large, complex applications, Vaadin often suggests a Migration Assessment. Through interviews, code analysis, and expert review, we help customers understand their application architecture, potential challenges, and the best migration path. 

This assessment results in a detailed report, enabling customers to make informed decisions about their project while outlining how Vaadin's consulting services could further reduce cost, time, and risk.

Java modernization tools from Vaadin

Companies that rely on legacy Java apps should consider the Vaadin Modernization Toolkit. This toolkit provides a straightforward path for migrating Java desktop applications, such as those built using Java Swing, SWT, or JavaFX, to modern web applications.

The Toolkit automatically converts 80% or more of your legacy code, reducing the cost and effort of modernizing a Java Swing application by up to 80%.

Learn more about the Vaadin Modernization Toolkit in our webinar, where Product Manager Ben Wilson details how you can achieve modern, efficient applications faster.

We also know that many organizations still rely on Java Swing for GUIs in Java apps. The Vaadin Swing Kit allows you to gradually modernize your existing Swing applications using Vaadin, upgrading the application view-by-view. 

Developers migrating Swing applications to Vaadin find that most existing code can be reused, and minor tweaks are required for the rest.

Wrapping up

Application modernization is a must for organizations that want to stay competitive. It unlocks agility, improves the user experience, and delivers cost savings. The linked articles provide a detailed roadmap, exploring strategies, best practices, and the powerful Vaadin Modernization Toolkit for transforming legacy Java applications.

Download our whitepaper "Modernizing Java Swing Applications, Five-Step Blueprint for Decision Makers" for a clear and actionable framework to guide your strategy. This resource also serves as an excellent starting point for further reading.

Lilli Salo
Lilli Salo
Lilli joined Vaadin in 2021 after delivering content for various international SaaS startups. She enjoys the creative challenge of transforming complicated topics into clear and concise written material that provide value to the reader.
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