Modernizing a Monolith Application

Modernizing a Monolith Application

By Flux7 Labs
May 14, 2020

The benefits of splitting a monolith application into smaller parts that are easier to manage are many. However, the task of breaking up a monolith application can be challenging. Many are fragile and as a result, the job should be handled carefully. As a result, today we’ll share the resources — the ingredients as it were — you’ll need to modernize your monolith.  

For additional reading on the benefits of Monolith modernization, check out our blog,

Talent & Tribal Knowledge 

Many monolith applications are the product of dozens of coders and years of labor. Over time, they grow from an app with a single goal to one with many objectives. In these cases, it’s wise to gain as much tribal knowledge as possible about the app. Locate these resources and marshal them internally before getting started as their knowledge of the application’s subtleties like dependencies will be very helpful.

In addition to in-depth knowledge about the monolith, a team skilled in cloud-native technologies like microservice architectures is also valuable. Consider hiring a consultant who can coach your team along the way if you don’t have these skills in-house.

Before beginning on your journey, it’s helpful to address the following questions: 

  1. What is the overarching goal of the modernization initiative? Are you looking to grow productivity, efficiency, and innovation? Are you hoping to optimize costs?  Or something else? 
  2. Are there developers in the company who are knowledgeable about the application intricacies? If so, can they be made available to help with the modernization initiative?
  3. Do your resources have a deep enough well of information about the app to map its services, dependencies, etc? Do they know the areas where it’s particularly fragile and where its technological limits lie?

Make a Monolith Plan

Starting with a solid plan for monolith app modernization is vital to reaching your stated objectives. Some approaches to monolith modernization offer fuller cost optimization than others which will result in better cloud ROI. E.g., functionality like auto-scaling and CI/CD capabilities can come with containerization while a serverless structure will take full advantage of the cloud’s elasticity and cost efficiencies. 

Monolith Modernization

Keep in mind that greater benefits require greater up-front investments. As such, it’s highly recommended that you conduct a cost-benefit analysis to know which approach is best — for your specific app and the benefits you would like to gain.

Monolith Migration Criteria

Define Requirements

Three common outcomes result from a cost-benefit analysis. Decide your destination based on your requirements and goals. Indeed, this is not an exercise where you move from one square to the next as doing so will likely cost you more in time and resources than if you simply went directly to the desired end state.

Infrastructure Automation

Also known as cloud infrastructure ready, we recommend this approach for apps with low business value. We call these apps Sustain Apps as they serve to sustain the business rather than drive new revenue. (We call revenue-generating apps Invest Apps.)

For these apps, infrastructure automation allows you to reinstall the app in the cloud on new VMs, giving you the opportunity to clear technical debt like configurations that accumulated over time and are no longer relevant. At the same time, infrastructure automation helps you add new best practices like security.

Immutable Infrastructure

Also referred to as cloud services ready, replatforming, or containerization, immutable infrastructure enables monoliths to take benefit from cloud infrastructure, particularly in up-versioning components like an OS or database. When containerizing, application code is altered to use base platform services like Amazon RDS and Amazon Elasticache, and advanced Amazon EC2 services like autoscaling and ELB. Replatforming is a good choice when the original development team is unable to help, and/or when the application is not a fit for advanced technologies like Lambda.

Serverless or Managed Infrastructure

Often referred to as cloud-native or refactoring, serverless is ideal for full monolith modernization because it empowers you to take full advantage of advanced technologies. With serverless and microservice architectures, this approach entails refactoring the services composing the application while retaining the business logic. The app is broken into different tiers and pieces with services, like databases, swapped out for the cloud service equivalent. 

A new cloud-native app benefits from small, composable pieces that enable Dev teams to work autonomously and concurrently, which grows utilization. With advanced automation and code bases split into individual services, Dev can speed time to market with updates quickly pushed to customers. Risk is also reduced as developers no longer need to understand the intricacies of the monolith codebase to avoid a change that could take down the entire app. 

Gathering these resources before you begin a journey to monolith modernization will help ensure success. Collect internal knowledge, gain the appropriate technology and process skills, and determine the best path for your specific monolithic application based on cost-benefit analysis, and you will be ready to start the journey to monolith modernization. 

Would you like a sherpa on your path to monolith modernization?

Written by Derek Magill, Flux7 Labs

Flux7, an NTT DATA Company, is the only Sherpa on the DevOps journey that assesses, designs, and teaches while implementing a holistic solution for its enterprise customers, thus giving its clients the skills needed to manage and expand on the technology moving forward. Not a reseller or an MSP, Flux7 recommendations are 100% focused on customer requirements and creating the most efficient infrastructure possible that automates operations, streamlines and enhances development, and supports specific business goals.