How to accelerate the application modernization process with Azure

There are several companies that undertake a digital transformation process centered on the public cloud with the aim of increasing innovation, agility and operational efficiency. As part of this path, application modernization is fast becoming a milestone that allows important benefits to be achieved. This article explores how it is possible to undertake and accelerate the modernization process of applications with the solutions available in Microsoft Azure and which opportunities can be seized.

Microsoft Azure offers the flexibility to choose from a wide range of options to host your applications, covering the spectrum of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) and serverless.

The tendency to develop modern applications, that need microservices-based architectures, make containers the ideal solution for efficiently deploying software and operating on a large scale. In addition to the ability to make consistent deployments, reliable and repeatable in all environments, it is possible to obtain a better use of the infrastructure and a standardization of management practices.

Furthermore, customers can increasingly use containers even for applications that are not specifically designed to use microservices-based architectures. In these cases, it is possible to implement a migration strategy for existing applications that only involves minimal changes to the application code or changes to configurations. These are strictly necessary changes to optimize the application in order to be hosted on PaaS and CaaS solutions.

This migration technique is usually used when:

  • You want to leverage an existing code base
  • Code portability is important
  • The application can be easily packaged to run in an Azure environment
  • The application must be more scalable and there must be the ability to be deployed faster
  • We want to promote business agility through continuous innovation by adopting DevOps techniques

Repackage application with Azure Migrate: App Containerization

To facilitate this migration process you can use the Azure Migrate solution which includes many tools and features, including the tool App Containerization. This tool offers a "point-and-containerize" approach to "repackage" applications using containers and making, only if necessary, minimal changes to the code. The tool currently supports containerization of ASP.NET applications and Java web applications running on Apache Tomcat.

Figure 1 – Application modernization capabilities by adopting Azure Migrate: App Containerization

The tool App Containerization allows you to perform the following activities:

  • Remotely connect to application servers to discover applications and their configurations.
  • Parameterize configurations and application dependencies, such as database connection strings, to enable consistent and repeatable deployments.
  • Outsource any static content and states stored on the file system, moving them to persistent storage.
  • Create and publish container images using Azure Container Registry.
  • Customize and reuse artifacts generated by tools like Dockerfile, container images and Kubernetes resource definition files. This allows you to integrate them directly into the continuous integration and continuous delivery pipeline (CI / CD).

Furthermore, in Azure Migrate: App Containerization is expected to use Azure Key Vault to manage secrets and automatic integration to monitor Java applications with Azure Application Insights.

Azure App Service vs Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS): which one to choose?

App Containerization allows you to migrate containerized applications using Azure App Service or Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). The following paragraphs contain some considerations for evaluating which service is best suited to host your applications.

Azure App Service: Azure Web App for Containers

For web-based workloads, there is the ability to run containers from Azure App Service, the Azure web hosting platform, using the serviceAzure Web App for Containers, with the advantage of being able to exploit the distribution methodologies, scalability and monitors inherent in the solution.

The automation and management tasks of a large number of containers and the ways in which they interact with each other is known as orchestration. In case therefore there is a need to orchestrate more containers it is necessary to adopt more sophisticated solutions such asAzure Kubernetes Service (AKS).

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is the fully managed Azure service that allows the activation of a Kubernetes cluster.

Kubernetes, also known as "k8s", provides automated orchestration of containers, improving its reliability and reducing the time and resources required in the DevOps field. Kubernetes tends to simplify deployments, allowing you to automatically perform implementations and rollbacks. Furthermore, it allows to improve the management of applications and to monitor the status of services to avoid errors in the implementation phase. Among the various functions there are services integrity checks, with the ability to restart containers that are not running or that are blocked, allowing to advertise to clients only the services that have started correctly. Kubernetes also allows you to automatically scale based on usage and exactly like containers, allows you to manage the cluster environment in a declarative way, allowing version-controlled and easily replicable configuration.

Figure 2 - Example of microservices architecture based on Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Next step: innovate using modern application solutions

The migration technique described in the previous paragraphs is often also the first step to undertake further modernization of the application which involves a redesign. Indeed, the next step is to modify or extend the architecture and code base of the existing application, optimizing it for the cloud platform. When integrating modern application platforms into your cloud adoption strategy, innovation is not limited to containers. This integration offers an important innovation that also involves the adoption of hybrid and multicloud strategies.

Figure 3 – Innovation given by modern application platforms

Conclusions

There is a clear and growing trend that sees a modernization of applications aimed at ensuring greater flexibility, a reduction in the footprint of the infrastructure and the possibility of benefiting from the innovation given by the cloud. This modernization does not necessarily have to pass immediately from a strategy of rebuilding the application from scratch by providing for the use of cloud-native technologies, but it can happen gradually. Thanks to the tool App Containerization of Azure Migrate it is possible to undertake the path of modernization with a simple approach that allows you to quickly benefit from the potential offered by cloud solutions. Furthermore, the awareness that Azure provides different infrastructure solutions to host modern applications facilitates the journey of application modernization.

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