5 Essential AWS Services for Successful Application Modernization

Written by Chad LaVigne
On September 26, 2023

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, organizations are under constant pressure to modernize their applications to stay competitive, improve efficiency, and meet evolving customer demands. The first step in any successful application modernization journey is to take stock of your application inventory and identify transformation opportunities. There has been a great deal written about this process and AWS provides excellent tools such as the Cloud Adoption Framework and the “6 R’s” to help guide your transformation strategy.

However, once all the stakeholders have been interviewed and you’ve identified some modernization candidates, it can be a little daunting to start building out your architecture. After all, AWS offers over 200 services which can be used in nearly infinite combinations to solve problems. Where do you start? What are the best services for the job? How should they work together? When it comes to migrating custom software to the cloud, the answers to those types of questions are often unique to the application. However, in our experience at SDG, there are a set of core services that seem to crop up time and time again. In this blog, we’ll explore five AWS services that are the bread and butter of our application modernization efforts.

      1. Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service)

      It all starts with the data. Modernizing your application often involves upgrading your database infrastructure to improve performance, scalability, and resilience. Amazon RDS is a fully managed database service that supports multiple database engines, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, Oracle, and MariaDB. We do a lot of work on custom, web-based business software where relational data still dominates the landscape. So unless there’s a very compelling reason to move away from relational data, we turn to RDS first for our rehosting and replatforming needs.

      1. AWS Lambda

      Serverless computing has emerged as a key technology for modern application development. Although there are higher costs and complexity associated with refactoring an application, the scalability and cost-efficiency benefits of moving to a serverless solution can justify the effort. In these situations, AWS Lambda is our cloud-native Swiss army knife. The flexibility provided by Lambda’s language support and endless integration options make it the ideal tool to serve as the nexus for modernizing on-prem monoliths. The ability to run code without provisioning or managing servers allows us to provide enterprise grade, cloud-scale serverless solutions to customers large and small.

      1. Amazon API Gateway

      We do a lot of integration work. A lot. We have only seen the need for integration work increase as systems become more distributed. Modern integration work typically means creating microservice applications that communicate via APIs. So it’s fairly typical for us to encounter a customer that wants to refactor a monolith or service-based application to a microservice architecture to expose data for other applications and take advantage of things like faster deployment cycles, fault isolation and technology independence. An API gateway is an essential part of any modern microservice application. For our AWS modernization efforts that expose APIs, it’s hard to imagine using something other than Amazon API Gateway. It simplifies the creation, deployment, and management of APIs. It provides a single choke point for authentication and authorization. There’s no infrastructure to manage. It scales globally.

      1. AWS Fargate

      Containerization is arguably the most useful technology in our toolkit when it comes to helping our customers with cloud migrations and application modernization. From a cost-benefit perspective, you can’t do much better than containerizing an application and replatforming to AWS’s serverless compute engine, Fargate. Obviously, simply containerizing an existing application doesn’t deliver the same benefits as refactoring it into microservices running on Lambda. However, it’s roughly a million times easier and provides huge value for the required effort. It removes the need for infrastructure management and unlocks capabilities like auto-scaling and blue/green deployments. Not to mention, it nearly eliminates issues where you find yourself asking “what’s different between Prod and QA”.

      1. AWS Step Functions & EventBridge

      In modern AWS applications, event-driven components play a pivotal role. As we migrate customers to the cloud and gradually refactor monolith applications into nimble, event driven architectures composed of cloud-native services, Step Functions and EventBridge are the glue that we most commonly use to hold all the components together. I couldn’t decide which service was more crucial to designing event-driven components, so I cheated a little and listed both for this last item. AWS Step Functions is a low-code workflow service that streamlines the coordination of distributed applications and microservices, offering features like built-in error handling, retries and parallelization. It integrates with AWS services like Lambda and Fargate, allowing you to orchestrate application components efficiently. EventBridge is an event bus service that acts as the central nervous system for event-driven applications, enabling seamless connections across AWS services and third-party applications. These two services allow us to take advantage of the resilience and flexibility provided by event-driven architecture, while also providing features that reduce the complexities inherent in distributed, asynchronous systems.

      In conclusion, AWS offers a robust set of services that simplify the process of modernizing applications but navigating that ever-growing pool of services can be challenging. Whether you’re upgrading your database infrastructure, adopting serverless computing, building APIs, deploying containers, or orchestrating complex, event-driven workflows, using the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world. While this short list certainly doesn’t contain all the services required to complete your modernization journey, hopefully, it provides some foundational pillars to build upon and will allow you to embark on your path to modernization with confidence and agility.