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How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security

By Contributor
Wed 18 May 2022

Article by Radware APJ vice president and managing director, Yaniv Hoffman.

At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date. Left unchecked, legacy code inside these applications can become a hindrance over time, limiting DevOps teams whose job it is to innovate.

Monolithic legacy on-premises applications rely on older and more limited frameworks, software libraries and operating systems. This creates knock-on problems when deploying these applications with newer software architectures and forces DevOps to expend resources attempting to integrate and understand legacy code.

Legacy applications are also more likely to suffer the sort of security issues that can be difficult to mitigate.

Application modernisation is an approach that yields clear benefits by allowing organisations to overcome these problems without simply abandoning applications altogether, updating enough code to bind the old and the new together.   

Through application modernisation, organisations can enhance existing applications, integrating them with newer frameworks and infrastructure platforms. This makes it possible to protect existing investments while refreshing their software portfolios throughout the business environment.

Since everything from initial software development to the customer experience relies on data integrity and efficiency, modernising legacy applications helps improve data quality across workflows. Organisations can mitigate the bottlenecks that arise from legacy systems, which nearly always compromise new projects.

Some advantages of application modernisation include:

#  Business agility – makes it possible to add new features, services and support cloud infrastructure.

#  Cost reduction – eliminates unused or redundant functions to save on costs, allowing more investment in innovation rather than legacy management. 

#  Improved security – integrates new security features that reduce the chance of data or system compromise.

#  Improved performance – speeds up legacy applications across the business. 

#  User experience – enhances applications with more advanced features that improve the customer experience.

#  Maintenance – Reduces the burden of looking after legacy applications, which become more costly over time.

Certain technologies are key to success in application modernisation, so pre embarking on application modernisation, organisations must first consider how best to integrate this with a range of cloud infrastructures. The options include:

Cloud computing (public, private, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud). Despite more applications morphing from the traditional data centre into a public, private, or multi-cloud environment, not all organisations can go straight to the cloud. A hybrid approach may be required as part of this journey.

Containers are a cloud-centric method for packaging, deploying and operating applications and workloads, providing greater scalability, portability, and operational efficiency that is well-suited for cloud infrastructure. They are especially useful in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. 

Microservices are less a technology than an architectural choice. Instead of building and operating an application as a single, complete codebase – usually called a monolith or monolithic development – components are decoupled into smaller pieces that are deployed, updated, and operated independently. 

Orchestration and automation in software development cover the automation of many of the operational tasks associated with containers, including deployment, scaling, and networking. Automation is an important principle and is increasingly necessary to ensure that development, operations, and security teams can manage their modern apps at scale. 

Any technology overhaul comes with security risks. And while cloud adoption has many advantages, it also creates uncertainties that are top of mind for seasoned CISOs. These include:

The growing threat landscape: Attackers are becoming more active across all threat types, with more DDoS attacks against infrastructure, applications and layers of business. As organisations migrate their applications to the public cloud, hackers increasingly focus their attacks against the public cloud infrastructure. In this threat landscape, it’s clear that only state-of-the-art security will protect critical business infrastructure.

Accelerated digital transformation: As more applications are deployed online, the speed at which organisations develop and introduce new applications becomes a source of competitive advantage. To keep up, organisations must ensure their DevOps efforts are faster and more agile to maintain the business transformation demanded by management. To avoid added cyber risks, security must be tightly integrated with the development process.

New application infrastructure: Modernising applications using containers and microservices requires new tools that must be secured. In addition, accelerating the pace of development requires security that meshes with existing processes and DevOps structures.

The solution — frictionless security

The gradual aging of legacy software applications is a problem that must eventually be tackled in every organisation. But the risks this entails in terms of cloud migration and service availability remain a huge barrier.

While legacy applications have limitations, they are predictable and a known quantity. Re-engineering them to work in cloud environments opens organisations to unknown levels of exposure and risk in terms of security and availability.

Leading providers of cyber security and application delivery solutions address these challenges on several fronts. State-of-the-art DDoS protection will safeguard an organisation’s infrastructure from the most advanced threats, while application delivery controllers (ADCs) keep applications available and secure. Advanced web application firewalls and bot management solutions protect applications and data from attack and compromise. 

Transition to the cloud can be protected with a cloud-native protector for workloads and a flexible licensing model. Seek a licenCE that enables organisations to decide how best to use a single capacity license to shift and scale workloads and capacity across any private data centre, or public and private cloud, regardless of location or type.

Through frictionless security, critical applications can be protected without security getting in the way or generating management overhead. 

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