The Urgency of Modernizing in the Age of Application Capital

Norbert Kiss Thumbnail
Norbert Kiss
Published October 21, 2021

We’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution. In today’s digital economy, the vital role of applications makes every company a technology company. Just one poor experience with an app can cause a customer to abandon that app and switch to a competitor. With cyberattacks on the rise, it’s crucial for every team member and stakeholder, in each stage of the application development process, to embrace agility and maintain a security‑first mindset.

With this mindset comes modernization. Customers and stakeholders expect certain digital experiences and, without a modern application strategy, losses are inevitable. Therefore, the call to modernize is urgent.

Enterprises are required to continuously shift, innovate, and sharpen their competitive edge in this modern age of application capital. Gartner Inc. predicts that global enterprise spending on cloud‑based software deployments will hit $557 billion in 2022. To keep pace with user and competitive demands, the development-to-testing cycles of modern apps have been significantly shortened. What initially took months now requires just weeks, days, or even hours. If the monolith-to-microservices journey isn’t fully embraced by an enterprise, the potential to lose competitive advantage – or worse, to fade into obsolescence – is evident.

Fast app development cycles are the new normal. NGINX is in the right position to simplify modernization efforts and make the journey into this new age secure and risk‑free.

The Path to Modernization

The continuous growth in application diversity is a double‑edged sword for CIOs: while it’s added necessary capabilities and helped increase productivity, fast growth has also added unexpected complexity. CIOs of larger companies are commonly struggling to keep track of hundreds to thousands of applications run by the IT organization, and a McKinsey study found that approximately 80% of CIOs have yet to achieve the agility or business outcomes they hoped would come from application modernization.

Even with initial complexity, the monolith-to-microservices shift is worth making. Its adoption by CIOs can build a more solid foundation for future app development. And by giving developers autonomy over how apps are built and deployed, the time to market is significantly faster – ensuring a competitive advantage.

Modernization builds a concrete path to new platforms, tools, architectures, libraries, and frameworks without the fear of losing everything and rebuilding from scratch. A good first step is to modernize some customer‑facing applications. Then, these applications can be optimized by software teams for distributed computing paradigms, such as multi‑cloud and hybrid cloud (this process has driven the rise of containerized apps, as they’re more portable).

Three common approaches to app modernization are:

  1. “Lift and shift” – Moves apps from on‑premises legacy servers to a cloud platform, which requires minimal code rewriting
  2. Rewriting chunks of code – Allows developers to benefit from containers and other modern infrastructures and tools
  3. Replatforming – Leverages complementary updates, replacing or modifying the app backend to focus on a cloud platform, as a middle ground between the other two approaches

Not every application must be run as a microservice. Sometimes rewriting the code is a better solution – especially if the app is tightly coupled with existing systems. It’s important to define your business’s objectives and long‑term roadmap, and then integrate a sensible approach to application modernization. Working piece by piece helps build a solid foundation for the future, along with minimizing risks.

The faster time to market must not be achieved at the expense of application security, visibility, or control, however.

  • Security. Usage of monitoring tools for traffic visibility can provide insight into application performance, giving necessary information on how to respond speedily and mitigate risks.
  • Visibility. Improving visibility in open source systems, such as Kubernetes, can also provide organizations with deployment insight. This strengthens security by detecting vulnerabilities and advances troubleshooting.
  • Control. Using F5 NGINX Controller and F5 NGINX Instance Manager [now combined as NGINX Management Suite] can help manage an entire infrastructure with a single management layer.

Adopting these modernization techniques gives CIOs a strategic advantage over competitors, by empowering them to address disruptive trends before their business is negatively impacted. While the undertaking of modernizing legacy applications might be complex and costly, NGINX tools provide CIOs with security, visibility, and control.

The New Territory of APIs

Underlying every modern application, engineers have implemented an entire world of APIs. These APIs are in constant communication with each other to make the app function for the user – whether it be for payments, voice calling, images, geolocation, or a multitude of other functions. APIs have always played a vital role in application delivery and, more recently, APIs have moved from being part of the application to becoming its entirety.

With the rise of containers, microservices, and Kubernetes, the orientation of application architectures has shifted. Design and management of APIs has become just as important as that of data, privacy, computing resources, and networking. For example, in Kubernetes and microservices, decoupled functions communicate via API.

Just as we have UX, DX, and CX, we have a new term for this API Experience: APIX 2.0. Now and in the future, how APIs are experienced will become a key criteria for DevOps and GitOps teams. APIX directly impacts users – internally and externally.

In designing the crucial APIX, there are four principles:

  • Principle 1: Design a uniform experience based on explicit guidelines. Now that teams are distributed, it’s important to create an API evaluation checklist with a goal of standardizing adoption and use. Simplifying principles can alleviate the previous complexity of API lifecycle management.
  • Principle 2: Formalize service ownership. To enable adequate central management and automation of API controls, it’s crucial to inventory which APIs are in use. Without establishing which team or owner is responsible for each service or group of services, the API lifecycle becomes unmanageable. Integrating the service catalogue gives a full overview of who is managing services and how those services are actively performing.
  • Principle 3: Design for economies of scale, economies of scope, or both. When designing to optimize and deliver a premium APIX, organizations must identify whether their goal is an economy of scale or an economy of scope. The choice informs the design of the API.
  • Principle 4: Make it easy to manage. API gateways are designed to disentangle the complexity of modern application environments. Traditional solutions aren’t prepared to handle containerized, cloud‑native, and multi‑cloud environments. This is why the NGINX Controller API Management Module [now API Connectivity Manager, part of NGINX Management Suite] focuses on reducing complexity with its innovative architecture. By decoupling F5 NGINX Plus on the data plane from the API Management Module on the control plane, runtime traffic and APIM traffic are individually isolated to enable more efficient processing.

Every time a customer accesses an app, they expect API excellence. Delivering that experience is a key part of success in modernization.

The effort towards modernization must be a conscious one. With these four principles, along with the path to modernization above, NGINX can help you modernize your application architectures with our simple and effective solutions.


To read more about app modernization, see these related articles at The Register:

No matter where you are in your app modernization journey, you can get started with free 30-day trials of all our commercial solutions:

Or get started with free and open source offerings:

"This blog post may reference products that are no longer available and/or no longer supported. For the most current information about available F5 NGINX products and solutions, explore our NGINX product family. NGINX is now part of F5. All previous links will redirect to similar NGINX content on"