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Legacy System Modernization Approaches And Strategies

Think legacy system modernization is just for big tech giants? Think again: The GAO (Government Accountability Office) found that the Air Force was spending at least $35 billion annually to support a COBOL-based wartime readiness platform. Last year, the Air Force migrated to a cloud environment. The savings: $34 million annually.

Modernization is for all of us.

As technology evolves, once-perfect solutions become obsolete. You notice that your users are less interested in your software. And, the ones who regularly use it complain about bugs and performance issues. You also find it challenging to hire employees with the skillsets to support your application. Worst of all, the manufacturer has sunsetted the product. So, contacting customer service is out of the question.

The new era of AI advances and data-driven business models require a fresh look at legacy systems. If you’re contemplating modernizing your legacy system but aren’t sure where to start, this post is for you. Today, we’ll focus on the most efficient legacy system modernization strategies, their limitations and benefits, and why you need to modernize your old platforms.

What Is a Legacy System and Legacy System Modernization?

Gartner defines a legacy system as “an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.”

Legacy systems typically run on customer-owned and hosted hardware. Although the legacy applications are still functional, they require difficult-to-find IT skills to maintain, which are costly to procure. In addition, they are housed in monolithic and tightly coupled environments, which may hinder innovation. Perfect examples of legacy systems are federal and corporate IT apps from the 90s or early 2000s written in COBOL or Fortran.

Finally, legacy system modernization refers to the process of updating legacy software to enhance its operational efficiencies and address technological constraints.

6 Legacy System Modernization Approaches in 2022

If you’re stuck maintaining older, costly applications that can’t interoperate with new technologies, it’s time to consider modernization. However, you’ll need to do extensive research and assess your current system before choosing the ideal legacy modernization strategy. The most commonly utilized approaches include:


Encapsulation is one of the fundamentals of object-oriented programming (OOP). It involves the bundling of data and methods that work on that data within one unit.

It is a software modernization process of re-using the system’s main components and wrapping them in new access layers via APIs. This legacy modernization approach involves replacing the legacy interface to utilize the new app functionalities. It helps extend the value of the existing infrastructure by making it easily accessible to other software components.

A significant drawback to encapsulation is that it doesn’t solve the typical maintenance issues of legacy systems. It’s, therefore, the best option when you only want to change the interface. Encapsulation is also a great choice when looking to reduce modernization risks and costs.

Migration to the Cloud

Cloud migration involves moving data, applications, and other business digital assets from on-premise infrastructure to a virtual computer server with shared resources.  Migrating your legacy systems to the cloud comes with several benefits, including:

  • Cost savings: On-premise IT operations come with high infrastructure, staffing, and maintenance costs. Legacy system modernization can help decrease rack space, power usage, and IT staffing requirements. Notably, cloud computing can reduce IT labor costs by 50 percent.
  • Scalability: In the cloud, you can add or remove resources from the network at any time.
  • Mobility: Employees can access work-related documents anytime and anywhere. This significantly improves productivity rates.
  • Security: Cloud servers tend to be more secure than on-premise servers. There are stringent requirements in place for monitoring to guarantee enterprise levels protection.

Legacy systems can be migrated using an array of integration tools such as the Astrea Centerprise Data Integrator and Talent Data Integrator. These tools help users extract data from legacy systems and transfer them to a staging area. In the staging area, the data is cleansed and prepared for final migration to the cloud.

Code Refactoring

Refactoring involves making specific improvements to pieces of an existing program’s source code without affecting the hardware or structure of the application as a whole. Refactoring is ideal for making it easier to maintain and extend the codebase.

It can also be used to solve tech issues that would otherwise need an entire system overhaul. For businesses already in the cloud, it’s an ideal option to migrate from containers to Microservices to increase scalability and component isolation.


Rearchitecting is the altering and tweaking of an application’s architecture to solve its shortcomings and improve performance and scalability. It’s generally a complex process that must be undertaken by professionals with advanced technical skills. Rearchitecting helps improve a system’s capabilities while simplifying the process of integrating new features in the future. However, the approach carries the risk of affecting the way the system works in general.


Rebuilding is a massive undertaking, but it’s also the only option that provides exceptional custom solutions. In a complete rebuild, legacy components are removed entirely, and processes are renormalized to match the current needs of the business.

A full rebuild allows you to customize the system to meet modern requirements. If some legacy systems components are still useful, you can opt for a partial rebuilding and save on project costs. Some of the main advantages that come with rebuilding legacy systems include:

  • Improved user experience: Rebuilding allows you to add features to enhance user experience. Before any project is undertaken, it’s important to analyze how your users navigate your software and how you want it to perform. Once you’ve understood the behavior of your users, you can rebuild the system to enable more engagement.
  • Better infrastructure: After gaining knowledge of what worked well (and what didn’t) with your legacy systems, your project team has opportunities to create cleaner and better codes. Ideally, rebuilding allows you to start from the beginning and avoid old tech pitfalls.
  • Optimized internal processes: With rebuilding, you get opportunities to adjust your business processes to meet current market demands. Rebuilding software allows you to modernize all aspects of your internal processes. It allows you to adapt to a new business environment and innovate to gain a competitive advantage.


There are instances when it makes more sense to entirely replace the system rather than invest in its modernization. Replacing involves a level of reengineering or customization of packages to build a system that meets current business needs.

How to Prepare For Legacy System Modernization

Modernization may not require a complete transformation of your entire IT stack. However, it needs an honest assessment of the parts that need transformation the most. Before you implement any modernization approach discussed above, be sure to do the following:

1. Define Your Goals

Your modernization efforts should be informed by specific business goals. Some of the goals for software modernization include enhancing scalability and platform security. You should also identify how legacy system modernization will impact your revenues, market share, and the customer experience.

2. Assess the Current System

You should also measure where your current system is underperforming. Understanding the state of your current system, its strengths and weaknesses, is crucial when creating your ideal roadmap for modernization. It helps you prioritize the changes and integrations you need to modernize your systems.

3. Choose an Excellent Legacy Modernization Strategy

The data that you collect in step 2 above will help you define your ideal modernization process. It’s also essential to work with a professional custom app development company to perform a technical assessment of your system and identify the best legacy system modernization approach for your unique business situation.

Why Do You Need Legacy System Modernization?

High Legacy Maintenance Costs 

Legacy systems require significant investments for their maintenance. A recent Government report reveals a staggering $337 million is being spent annually to maintain just 10 of the federal government’s legacy platforms.

Generally, legacy systems feature a large codebase and complex functionalities that require substantial time and financial commitments.

Lack of IT Support

There is an acute shortage of professionals who can support legacy systems. The systems require specific skills and expertise, which most developers lack. Finding people to operate and run the systems is not only challenging but expensive.

Platform Inflexibility

Legacy software is relatively inflexible and can’t adapt to modern business requirements, thereby slowing revenue growth. Companies running on old technologies lose business opportunities to competitors who have modernized their systems.

High-Security Risks

Perhaps, the most critical reason for legacy system modernization is that unsupported software is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Rogue actors know exactly which malware can penetrate these platforms. A recent alert released by CERT warned about a surge in hacker interest in legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.

Compliance Issues

Legacy systems were developed before current regulations such as CCPA, GLBA, and HIPAA. You, therefore, need to update the systems to adhere to all regulatory requirements.

Our Consulting Team Can Help With Legacy System Modernization

There’s no doubt your legacy software applications helped fueled your growth in the past. However, as they advance past the maturity stage, these systems quickly pose a huge liability to your business. As you adopt new business tools such as social media marketing, SMS messaging, analytics, and cloud strategies, you need application modernization services that help you optimize efficiency and improve the customer experience.

Our IT experts at Entrance are ready to unlock the data and intelligence held in your legacy systems and include them in your digital transformation journey. Our modernization goal is to improve system performance, enhance the structure of front-end components, and create a flexible and secure system that works to meet the current needs of your business. Contact us today to learn more about our exceptional application modernization services.

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