Business applications—like businesses themselves—must constantly change and improve in response to new challenges and opportunities. In today’s world, that evolution typically involves moving some or all of your IT environment into the cloud.

While the benefits can be tremendous, it’s important to remember that cloud adoption and optimization is not a one-time, one-size-fits-all proposition. It’s an ongoing process that demands a continuous commitment—as well as complete, full-stack observability to cope with the increasing complexity of your cloud systems and to make sure you’re getting the results you expect.

The meaning of cloud modernization

Most organizations rely on one or more of three cloud-adoption approaches:

  1. Rehosting (“lift-and-shift”)—moving your on-premise applications to the cloud with as little change as possible
  2. Replatforming—changing one or more components of your applications to achieve a higher level of optimization in the cloud
  3. Refactoring—making significant code and architecture modifications to achieve maximum cloud-native benefits

Rehosting, replatforming, and refactoring are all part of what Amazon Web Services (AWS)—and New Relic—call modernization: the process of continually upgrading and optimizing your applications and their underlying infrastructure and services. Modernization is the key to reaping the full long-term value and benefits of running your applications and IT infrastructure in the cloud. These longer-term transformational benefits range from boosting team and IT agility in development, operations, and change management; to accelerating technology-driven business opportunities, including new business models, new revenue opportunities, increasing customer engagement and delight, and cost optimization.

Taking full advantage of all that the cloud offers requires you to adopt a culture of, and commitment to, continual cloud modernization. That means continuing to evaluate your cloud applications, infrastructure, and services to ensure they are optimized to achieve your business and IT goals. Applications may go through a variety of modernization projects over time, based on technical opportunities, business needs, customer requests, and so on.

Why embrace continual cloud modernization?

Modernization is all about transforming your legacy, monolithic applications into something more agile, more elastic, and with higher availability. Our customers find that as they modernize their applications, they often find themselves modernizing the business itself in similar ways.

Continual modernization is worth the effort—as you can see from some results our customers have shared with us:

Modernization is a powerful transformation of both technology and culture. Yet many customers tell us they struggle to derive the full benefits of the cloud as quickly as they would like.

It’s important to understand that moving to the cloud is only the first step on a modernization journey. Even if your application is performing just as well—or even better—in the cloud as it was on-premise, you’re likely still not deriving the cloud’s full benefit.

If your organization recognizes any of the following key triggers, it may be time to take steps toward modernization:

  • You’re spending just as much in the cloud as you were on premise
  • Your applications aren’t scaling when needed to meet demand on your biggest days
  • Your competitors are growing faster than you are or are nipping at your market share
  • You customers are looking for more features than you can quickly add
  • You still haven’t been able to create a successful DevOps culture
  • Reliability, performance, availability, security, etc. continue to be a challenge

Track application and overall cloud spend as well as look for ways to optimize your cloud usage.

Cloud migration vs. cloud modernization

Cloud migration and cloud modernization are related concepts but serve different purposes and involve distinct approaches:

Cloud migration involves moving applications, data, and workloads from on-premises infrastructure to a cloud environment.

  • Purpose: The primary goal of cloud migration is often to achieve benefits such as cost savings, scalability, and agility by leveraging cloud infrastructure and services.
  • Approach: Cloud migration typically involves transferring existing applications and systems to the cloud with minimal changes to their architecture or functionality.
  • Focus: Cloud migration focuses on moving existing resources to the cloud, often without making significant changes to the underlying applications or processes.

Cloud modernization involves updating and optimizing applications, processes, and infrastructure to leverage cloud-native technologies and best practices.

  • Purpose: The primary goal of cloud modernization is to take advantage of the capabilities offered by cloud environments, such as scalability, resilience, and innovation, to drive business transformation and achieve competitive advantages.
  • Approach: Cloud modernization goes beyond simple migration and often requires redesigning or rearchitecting applications to take advantage of cloud-native services like serverless computing, containers, microservices architecture, and managed databases.
  • Focus: Cloud modernization focuses on transforming applications and processes to better align with cloud principles and harness the full potential of cloud technologies.

In summary, while cloud migration involves moving existing resources to the cloud, cloud modernization focuses on transforming those resources to leverage cloud-native capabilities and best practices. While migration is often a precursor to modernization, organizations may choose to modernize their applications and infrastructure even if they are already in the cloud to realize additional benefits and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving technology landscape.

Observability is key to successful cloud modernization

The majority of New Relic’s more than 15,400 customers are now running their applications entirely in the cloud or in a hybrid cloud environment combining cloud and on-premise implementations.

Track the KPIs that are most important to your business.

Many of them rely on New Relic to help them migrate to the cloud, but that’s only the beginning of the modernization process. Once their applications are running in the cloud, businesses find continuous value in the observability New Relic provides as they continue to modernize and optimize their applications to achieve the cloud’s maximum benefits. Those benefits typically include technology-driven business agility, accelerated time-to-market for new features and revenue opportunities, near-instant scalability for both planned and unplanned demand spikes, and constant monitoring and tuning for improving customer experience

Observability: the antidote to complexity

Teams modernize by breaking up their monolithic applications into smaller services that can be independently owned and deployed; these microservices are easier to maintain and can be reused to help speed development. Teams also make their applications more portable and scalable by adopting modern technologies such as containers (Docker) and container orchestration (Kubernetes) using Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS); AWS Lambda; Amazon EC2; elastic Relational Database Services (RDS) and elastic databases like Amazon Aurora; as well as application load balancers such as Amazon’s Elastic Load Balancing (ELB). Teams also embrace self-healing technology by implementing autoscaling groups to quickly scale up instances when something fails or demand increases (or to scale down when demand decreases); and by using multiple availability zones in multiple regions to allow for redundant architectures that are more resilient against vendor-system outages.

While these modern approaches to agile application development and operations can help companies compete better and build new and improved revenue streams, they come with their own complexity that makes your monitoring strategy even more critical. Applications now have many independent connected parts, and you may not be able to tell how the entire system will behave until it’s in production.

In this scenario, simply reacting to an alert is not enough. To track application and infrastructure performance and stability in real time, you must continuously evaluate application behavior—especially during change events like deployments. And you must constantly optimize for speed, scale, and stability.

How to create a cloud modernization strategy

Developing a cloud modernization strategy involves several key steps to ensure a smooth transition from traditional on-premises infrastructure to cloud-based solutions. Here's a structured approach to developing such a strategy:

Assessment and analysis: Evaluate your current IT infrastructure, applications, and systems. Understand their dependencies, performance, and utilization. Identify areas where modernization can bring significant benefits. This could include outdated hardware, legacy applications, scalability issues, or high maintenance costs.

Define objectives: Clearly define the objectives you aim to achieve through cloud modernization. These could include cost reduction, scalability, agility, improved security, or better performance. Ensure alignment with broader business goals and objectives to gain support and resources for the modernization efforts.

Select the right cloud model: Choose the appropriate cloud deployment model(s) based on your requirements. Options include public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud. Consider factors such as data sensitivity, compliance requirements, performance needs, and existing investments.

Migration planning: Develop a comprehensive migration plan outlining their priority, timeline, and the migration approach. Additionally:

  • Prioritize applications based on their business criticality, complexity, and compatibility with cloud environments.
  • Plan for data migration, ensuring data integrity, security, and minimal downtime.
  • Establish a rollback plan in case of unexpected issues during migration.

Security and compliance: Evaluate cloud service provider's security features and compliance certifications to ensure they meet your organization's requirements. Implement security best practices such as data encryption, identity and access management, network security, and compliance controls. Develop policies and procedures to maintain security and compliance in the cloud environment.

Optimization and cost management: Continuously monitor and optimize cloud resources to ensure cost-effectiveness. Implement automation and scaling mechanisms to adjust resource allocation based on demand. Utilize cloud-native services and features to optimize performance and reduce costs.

Continuous improvement: Establish metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of cloud modernization initiatives. Gather feedback from users and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement and iterate on the strategy accordingly. Stay updated on emerging cloud technologies and trends to continuously enhance your cloud environment.

Monitoring and maintenance: Implement robust monitoring and alerting systems to proactively identify and address issues in the cloud environment. Establish regular maintenance schedules for updating software, patching vulnerabilities, and optimizing performance.

Successful cloud modernization never ends

AWS and New Relic both view modernization as essential to business success. Observability, while critical for cloud adoption, is even more important to optimize your business in the cloud. Continuous application modernization requires a robust DevOps strategy and practice—which, in turn, requires deep, real-time, full-stack observability. Observability enables the constant measurement and analytics to drive agility within your development and operations practices.

AWS and New Relic have deep experience working together to solve today’s complex cloud migration and modernization challenges. Using the New Relic platform to instrument your environment delivers the observability needed to speed your modernization journey.

We present this approach to ongoing success and optimization in the cloud in a new ebook, The Enterprise Guide to Continuous Application Modernization, that introduces and explains the concepts, triggers, considerations, and approaches to this high-stakes, high-priority transformation.

Read the ebook now to learn how to achieve the value of moving to and optimizing in the cloud!