Modernizing Legacy Systems: Embracing Microservices for Business Growth

Zoltan Fehervari

July 9, 2023

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Shed the weight of outdated IT infrastructure by modernizing legacy systems. We talk about the process of transitioning to a microservices architecture, detailing stages, strategies, and benefits.

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Legacy systems—the outdated software, technologies, and applications that once underpinned their operations—often pose significant hurdles. Modernization of these legacy systems, particularly through the adoption of a microservices architecture, is paramount for ensuring continued business growth and success.


The Legacy System Challenge

Legacy systems encompass outdated computing software, hardware, or applications still in use, often due to their ongoing capacity to meet an organization's needs despite the availability of newer, more efficient systems. These systems, though functional, often present compatibility issues, security vulnerabilities, and functional limitations due to their monolithic nature—implying the entire application operates as one inseparable unit.

Such monolithic applications can become increasingly complex due to iterative updates, potentially leading to decreased performance and increased system failures. Moreover, the interconnectedness of monolithic systems implies that updating or adding a feature could trigger a ripple effect necessitating changes in other parts of the system.


The Microservices Solution

Unlike the limitations of monolithic designs, the microservices architecture offers a compelling solution to modernizing legacy systems. Microservices architecture structures an application as a collection of small, loosely coupled, and independently deployable services, each offering specific business functionality.

from monolithic to microservices - bluebird

Microservices in Practice

An e-commerce platform such as Amazon has broken down its functionalities—user management, product catalog, shopping cart, payment processing, order management, shipping, and recommendation system—into independent microservices. Each can be developed, updated, and scaled separately, ensuring a cohesive yet flexible system.


Here are specific examples of these microservices:

  • User Management Service: Handles user registration, authentication, and profile management.

  • Inventory Management Service: Manages product stocks and availability.

  • Shopping Cart Service: Maintains and retrieves user's shopping cart data.

  • Payment Service: Processes payments and transactions.

  • Recommendation Service: Provides personalized product recommendations to users.


The Path to Microservices: A Roadmap

Switching to a microservices architecture is not a trivial task. It requires a skilled team proficient in cloud computing, distributed systems, DevOps practices, and various programming languages, depending on the chosen technology stack. These developers and IT experts also need to be well-versed in implementing service discovery, load balancing, end-to-end security, and automated deployment, all of which are vital for the successful operation of a microservices architecture. 

Fortunately there is a structured, four-stage process. This process allows companies to gradually transition to a microservices architecture while reducing the risk of system-wide failures and considering important organizational, operational, and technical aspects.

  1. 1
    Initiation: This stage involves recognizing the need for change and the potential benefits of adopting a microservices architecture. It often involves high-level discussions among decision-makers within the organization, where the need for transformation is acknowledged.
  2. 2
    Planning: Once the need for transformation is identified, the planning stage begins. In this stage, the organization outlines the strategy for the transition, identifies the required resources, and defines the steps to execute the plan.
  3. 3
    Execution: The execution stage involves the actual transformation of the legacy system into a microservices architecture. This stage requires a team of skilled professionals proficient in cloud computing, distributed systems, DevOps practices, and various programming languages. They need to ensure the successful operation of the microservices architecture, including implementing service discovery, load balancing, end-to-end security, and automated deployment.
  4. 4
    Monitoring: After the successful transformation, the monitoring stage begins. This is an ongoing process where the functioning of the new system is closely observed. Performance metrics are tracked, issues are identified and rectified, and updates and improvements are implemented as needed.

In this manner, businesses can effectively and efficiently transition to a microservices architecture, achieving enhanced operations.

modernizing legacy systems with devops - bluebird

Security Concerns with Legacy Systems

Legacy systems often pose a multitude of security risks. These systems often lack the ability to integrate with newer, more secure technologies, leaving them prone to cyberattacks that can exploit known vulnerabilities. Given that these systems frequently contain business-critical data and operations, a security breach could have devastating consequences.


Enhanced Security with Microservices

In contrast to monolithic architectures, microservices enable a higher level of security by isolating different system components. If one microservice is compromised, the impact is limited to that service, preventing a system-wide breach. Furthermore, with the implementation of robust access controls and authentication protocols, each microservice can be secured individually, further reducing the potential attack surface.

However, it's crucial to note that while microservices can enhance security, they also introduce new security considerations. The number of microservices increases the amount of inter-service communication, potentially creating new opportunities for unauthorized data access. Therefore, careful design of security protocols is essential when transitioning to a microservices architecture.


Legacy System Modernization: A Real-World Example

The modernization journey of a large multinational organization, as detailed in a Deloitte case study, provides an example of the successful implementation of this approach. The organization used Deloitte's Application Modernization and Migration services to establish a future-state roadmap and an application modernization center. This central hub helped manage modernization across the enterprise, resulting in enhanced user experiences, improved security protocols, streamlined development integration, and systematic information sharing among teams.


Embracing the Future: A Microservices-Driven Business Transformation

Embracing microservices is more than an architectural shift—it's a mindset shift. It involves stepping away from traditional monolithic structures into an era of greater agility, scalability, and security. By transforming their legacy systems into a network of interconnected microservices, businesses can enhance their operations and better equip themselves to adapt.


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