ModOps: DevOps for Legacy Application Modernizations

DevOps has revolutionized software engineering methodology by unifying development and operations to accelerate software delivery. The older-style waterfall approaches to greenfield application development are being put aside as DevOps principles of agility, iteration, continuous delivery, and automation take center stage.

Modernization must deal with the challenge of transforming millions of lines of existing legacy code, built over decades by dozens, if not hundreds, of engineers, most of whom have moved on or retired altogether. Yet outdated approaches such as “rip and replace” are still the default modernization methodology, employing manual rewrites and disjointed automation tools. This approach is costly, takes an enormous amount of time and resources, and introduces significant risk to the business.

At Synchrony Systems, we believe it’s time to apply the DevOps principles, adopted for greenfield development, to software modernization—or ModOps—to keep pace with the rapid digital transformation.

Accelerating Modernization Delivery

Modernization focuses on transforming existing legacy systems and applications to the latest platforms and architectures. Unlike greenfield development, where very frequent and incremental changes are made to small bodies of code, modernization requires making wholesale transformations of the entire body of code at once and en masse. Therefore, the traditional manual approaches to modernizations can no longer be justified in today’s rapidly moving digital economy.

As the chart illustrates, ModOps accelerates modernization delivery and does so at a fraction of the cost and with faster time-to-value. It balances the overall speed, cost, quality, and risk while creating a unified experience that addresses a complex modernization process in a predictable way.

Continuous Modernization

Continuous Development (CD), along with Continuous Integration (CI), have become the cornerstones of DevOps— the way applications are being developed and released into production. By replacing CD with Continuous Modernization (CM), ModOps will achieve the same—the way existing applications are to be modernized. Continuous Modernization will bring a high degree of automation and a systematic approach to managing the entire modernization lifecycle.

The three main pillars of ModOps are:

  1. automation-driven modernization and transformation of legacy applications to modern programming languages and platforms;
  2. coexistence of modernization activities with ongoing development activities, without any code freezes; and
  3. functional and UX equivalency with no hidden costs or operational disruptions to the business.

ModOps is the answer for any company whose objective is to preserve its IP and its original investment in mission-critical legacy applications by adapting to and effectively competing in a rapidly moving digital economy.

As in DevOps, ModOps promotes agility, collaboration, and complete transparency. Project managers, migration engineers, testers, and other business stakeholders have full visibility into the overall status and progress of an ongoing modernization at every stage. With built-in planning, tracking, monitoring and dashboards, extensible workflows, automated testing and real-time feedback, a modernization is guaranteed to run smoothly and to be completed on time and on budget.

Tools for ModOps

The evolution of DevOps has spurred the development of tools to help teams more easily apply DevOps principles to the application development process. Modernization Lifecycle Platform (MLP) is doing the same for the application modernization process. It is a DevOps-driven, integrated, Modernization-as-a-Service platform that creates a unified approach to modernizing legacy applications. Whether it’s a modernization of COBOL to Java, PowerBuilder to C# or Smalltalk to Java, the underlying process, methodology, and user experience are uniform, no matter the chosen source and target platform combination. As a result, organizations are just months—not years—away from having their legacy applications transformed to the digital economy of web, mobile, and cloud.

No More Legacy Applications

We see a future where the application software is never “left behind” or lost to obsolescence. The major business challenges created by legacy applications—growing technical debt and shrinking technical talent—would themselves become obsolete.

Adding Continuous Modernization (CM) alongside CI/CD would give developers the ability to systematically and incrementally apply new software updates, adapt new APIs, or any other software components to in-house applications, thus doing away with any future wholesale modernization initiatives. By embracing ModOps and adopting a platform like MLP, businesses will become more agile, competitive, efficient, and responsive in addressing the demands of today’s digital economy.