As a senior tech-person with coordination experience involving customers, management and the technology team I often come across requirement to upgrade a legacy applications technology stack. The reasons may include reducing technology debt, improving performance, reducing total cost of ownership and improving developer experience.
The techstack upgrade journey can be a challenge, but with a sense of exploration and teamwork, it can lead to improved performance and better alignment with business objectives. This blog post is my exploration of my approach on how to connect with your development team, support their learning, gain buy-in from stakeholders, and explore the world of application scaling and infrastructure orchestration options.
To make the migration as smooth as possible, it’s important to have the support of all stakeholders, including upper management, clients, and other teams within the organization. Share the benefits of the migration, such as better performance, scalability, and maintainability, and explore the potential cost savings and increased competitiveness that the new tech stack can bring. By presenting a well-reasoned case, you can secure the resources and support needed for the migration.
The buy-in is the most important step, as by nature there is going to be no new features (mostly) as do the migration and the cost and effort invested into the migration has to be understood by everyone.
Migrating a legacy application is a big step, and development team might have concerns. It’s important to understand their perspective and address any worries they might have, such as attachment to the old stack, learning new technologies, or job security. Connecting with your team and acknowledging their concerns can create a supportive environment for the migration process.
Present feasible options, explore additional suggestions and address any technological challenges that may arise with the shortlisted new stack. Most of the time the friction to change can be from moving from familiar way of development to the unease of new way of thinking that would require for the introduced technology stack. It is in best interest of the everyone to take small steps, allow for small and easy wins for the team to ease into the future stack by attacking low hanging fruits. It will help having one on ones with everyone to assess their comfort level and workout a migration path to onboard them.
Once you’ve connected with your team, it’s time to support them in learning the new tech stack. Invest in their development by providing training in the new technologies. Encourage experienced developers to collaborate with those who are less familiar with the new stack, fostering a culture of learning and growth.
When migrating a legacy application, it’s crucial to consider how the application will scale as it grows. Initially, you might focus on optimizing the application’s performance and resource usage without infrastructure orchestration. This can involve refining code, optimizing database queries, and implementing caching strategies, but it is always a good idea to have a high level plan to address the scaling needs in order to steer the migration towards the goal.
As your application continues to grow, you may want to explore infrastructure orchestration options to manage the increasing complexity. There are several choices available, such as Docker, Docker Compose, Docker Swarm, and Kubernetes. Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s essential to evaluate them based on your organization’s needs and resources.
Normally, I have found that just containerizing the application as the first step to orchestration nirvana. I usually go Simple Docker -> Docker Compose -> Kubernetes. This allows the teams also to have proper exposure to the technologies and not overwhelm them too much.
As you explore infrastructure orchestration solutions, it’s important to support your development team in learning the associated DevOps requirements. DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development and IT operations, aiming to shorten the development life cycle and provide continuous delivery with high software quality.
Focus on these key areas when training your team:
Version control systems: Ensure your team is comfortable using version control systems like Git, as they are essential for maintaining code quality and fostering collaboration.
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD): Help your team learn how to set up and use CI/CD pipelines, which can automate the process of building, testing, and deploying applications.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Introduce your developers to IaC, which involves managing and provisioning infrastructure through code. This approach makes it easier to maintain and scale.
Monitoring and Logging: Support your team in developing the skills to monitor application performance and troubleshoot issues using logging and monitoring tools.
Security Best Practices: Emphasize the importance of security in the DevOps process and guide your team in implementing secure coding practices, vulnerability scanning, and regular security audits.
Embarking on the journey of modernizing a legacy application can be challenging, but by connecting with your development team, supporting their learning, and gaining buy-in from stakeholders, you’re setting the stage for success. As you explore application scaling and investigate infrastructure orchestration options, ensure your team is well-versed in the essential DevOps practices. This exploratory and supportive approach will not only help you modernize your legacy application effectively but also create a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your organization. Let the adventure begin!