A Guide to Refactoring your Applications on AWS

Application refactoring is one of the seven strategies included in the AWS portfolio assessment guide. It is an advanced method to migrate from your on-premises architecture to a cloud-native architecture. With refactoring, you can create high-performing cloud-native apps that fully exploit the cloud’s capabilities, responsiveness, and agility.

Refactoring is a particularly effective strategy if you’re looking to migrate to Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this article, we explore why you should consider refactoring your on-premises applications for AWS. We also discuss some strategies and best practices to help you make the most of this approach to cloud migration.

What is Refactoring?

Refactoring means rewriting applications to improve the internal structure of their code and ensure that they can support the specific cloud environment. From this, you may think that application refactoring is the same as code debugging. It’s not. Refactoring is not meant to repair bugs. Rather, it’s meant to repair serious design or implementation problems and make the application cloud-native and AWS-ready.

Refactoring applications is an effective way to improve their business logic in order to maximize their efficiency, performance, and security. It can also ease code maintenance and help you scale applications per changing business needs or customer demands.

When you refactor, you can add new functionalities periodically, which is a great way to continually modernize applications. Moreover, you can more effectively leverage the features and functionalities offered by a cloud vendor and their cloud platform. This includes AWS.

The Benefits of Refactoring Applications for AWS

AWS is the world’s most popular cloud computing platform. In fact, together with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba Cloud; AWS accounts for 67% of the world’s cloud infrastructure. Considering its reach and ubiquity, you already have a good reason to move your applications to AWS.

But why should you refactor these applications for AWS? Why not simply “lift-and-shift” them and move them without any code or architecture changes? Here’s why.

AWS offers 200+ fully-featured services and functionalities so you can build nearly any kind of application to meet your business’ and customers’ needs. Refactoring your apps is the best way to take advantage of these features and speed up app time-to-market.

Refactoring also allows you to offload many undifferentiated tasks to AWS. You can choose from a range of fully managed services such as Amazon ECS or Amazon EKS to offload activities related to hardware maintenance, operating system patch management, database updates, etc. This allows your team to focus on other higher-value tasks that can benefit your business, increase its competitiveness, and boost its revenues.

Refactoring for AWS is also a good way to fix problems related to the application’s design, database, or coding techniques. You can also find and resolve logic errors that have become codified, simplify code, and improve its quality and readability.

Finally, refactoring is one of the best ways to modernize your applications and infrastructure. On AWS, you can refactor your monolithic applications into modular microservices. Such modularity will allow you to rapidly add new features to applications and easily modify their existing functionality.

Modernizing Applications by Decomposing Monoliths into AWS Microservices

Many applications start life as monoliths, especially if they don’t have well-established domain knowledge or are built for a specific business use case. The key characteristic of a monolithic architecture is a single unit of deployment. While this can help mitigate design flaws, the approach can also create a lot of problems.

A monolithic application’s components are tightly-coupled. Practically, this means that if you need to update just one component, you will have to update, compile, and test the entire application. Only then can you deploy the new changes. If you have to follow this entire process repeatedly, you will waste a lot of time that’s better used for other beneficial activities, such as to fix logic errors or improve the app’s security or scalability.

With monoliths, it can also be very time-consuming to add new features, build new user experiences, or scale individual components based on traffic patterns or increasing user numbers. All these issues can limit the agility of your development team and increase app time-to-market and time-to-value.

Monoliths also tend to have a poor internal structure, so it’s difficult to maintain code, or improve its performance, quality, or predictability. It also creates a steep learning curve for new developers and adds to application support costs.

You can avoid all these challenges by decomposing and refactoring monoliths into microservices on AWS. Doing so can help you modernize your applications, and make them more available, secure, fault-tolerant, and manageable.

With a microservices architecture, you can build, test, and deploy each service independently. You can also optimize resources and improve collaboration to reduce costs, and speed up development and delivery.

The monolith to microservices decomposition process in AWS consists of three steps:

  1. Use AWS’ decomposition patterns to break down monolithic applications into microservices.
  2. Integrate the new microservices into a microservices architecture with AWS serverless services.
  3. Decentralize data stores to enable data persistence for microservices.

It’s also important to do some prior preparation before starting the decomposition process. First, evaluate which monoliths to decompose. Understand each application’s business use case, technology, and interdependencies.

For decomposition, include monoliths that are strategic/business-critical, have reliability or performance issues, or have multiple tightly-coupled components. Also select monoliths if you want to improve their code’s readability, functionality, or extensibility.

Why You Should Adopt Minimum Viable Refactoring

Throughout this paper, we have focused on the benefits of refactoring to modernize your applications and make them AWS-ready. That said, many companies choose a lift-and-shift migration strategy, especially if they need to move hundreds or thousands of applications to AWS. Lift-and-shift allows them to migrate quickly, get additional reliability and scalability from the cloud, and then slowly modernize apps over time.

But what if your workloads require some adjustment to meet governance, security and compliance requirements in the cloud? And what if you want to improve your applications’ performance now with cloud-scale database services, intelligent monitoring, or a microservices architecture?

In such cases, wholesale lift-and-shift may not be suitable while wholesale refactoring may be too complex for your team to handle. Fortunately, there is a middle path – minimum viable refactoring.

Minimum viable refactoring means that you make only high-value, low-cost, low-risk changes to apps before migrating them to AWS. By doing the minimum amount of workload modernization, you can speed up migration while also taking advantage of innovative AWS toolsets and cloud services to improve your apps.

You can also spin up dev and test environments in the AWS cloud before migrating production apps. Leverage these environments for experimentation and incremental improvements both before and after you migrate to AWS.

The minimum viable refactoring approach enables you to upgrade your development framework and update your operating system. And since all of this happens in the AWS cloud, you can avoid the cost of buying new licenses and avoid the need to provision capacity – both of which are required in on-premises setups.

These traditional environments also create a false sense of security with firewalls and other tools. With minimum viable refactoring, you can find and fix security gaps before moving apps to AWS. You can also clean up access rights using role-based policies to further protect your apps – and your organization.

Refactor Your Applications to AWS with Axcess.io

With modern, cloud-native applications, you can build faster, experiment more often, and innovate better. By migrating to AWS, you no longer have to buy expensive licenses. You can also save up to 70% of your infrastructure rental costs. Axcess.io can help you modernize your applications quickly and at low cost with AWS and app refactoring. Talk to us about application refactoring and how it can help you create market-ready apps and a more agile organization. Click here to get started.