Why might you need to modernize a monolithic application?


Monolithic applications are designed to handle many related tasks that perform several closely related functions. Monolithic applications are self-sufficient and independent organisms from other computer applications, but are severely limited by size and complexity. Working on scaling/upgrading a monolithic application is more complicated. Such an application must be treated as a whole; approaches and strategies may be similar to those in creating a new application from scratch.

Why should you opt for scaling apps?

A monolithic app has all or most of its functionality within a single process and consists of internal layers or libraries. The downside of this approach is whether the app evolves quickly, requiring it to scale. If the entire application scales, this is not a problem. However, in most cases, a few parts of the app are choke points that require scaling, while other components are used less frequently.

You should upgrade your app if:

  • New technology is available that will improve or change your app.
  • User needs and desires have changed.
  • Maintenance costs are rising as your technology stack becomes more disparate and complex.

Any of these reasons can apply to any application. However, for a monolithic application, the need to upgrade is often more acute – the process is rarely a “quick fix” because, due to the integrated, monolithic nature of the application, there is usually a need to review the underlying principles on which the application was originally built .

3 strategies and approaches for modernizing monolithic applications

First and foremost, feature flagging – during the redesign process, toggles can be used to effectively enable or disable particular features or make them selectively available to certain user groups and not others. You can release a partially completed product (with unfinished features “disabled”) or activate features that are in progress to test them with specific users and gather necessary feedback. The second strategy is the domain-driven design (DDD) approach. As you may have already noticed, monolithic applications are inherently complex, and DDD is an approach that engages domain experts to tailor the coding design and product architecture to the goals and business needs that the product is intended to meet. The last point is lift and shift, which means nothing more than moving the platform to the cloud. It involves making a change in the infrastructure without first making changes to the features of the application. Then, once the monolithic application starts working seamlessly in the new main cloud, you can turn your attention to redesigning features to take full advantage of the newly available cloud services.

Advantages of scaling a monolithic application

The cost of component communication is close to zero when the code is in the same application stack. This means that developers don’t have to think about or code things like networking and availability. Additionally, we have reusability because if the problem is similar, code from existing applications can be reused with little effort. Monolithic applications provide teams with a single source code tree to work from. All changes available from any part of the application, allowing single teams to work closely on the application.

The final element that should underpin any work to scale or modernize your application is the ROI you are aiming for. A measurable ROI is an indicator of a successful modernization.We can also get what is called soft ROI, such as improved user experience, productivity, teamwork and employee morale or retention.User needs and wants must be at the heart of the process to create the necessary application that your fans won’t want to live without. While there are many techniques (system stories, user story mapping, etc.), the foundation of any modernization should be Agile, ensuring continuous delivery and continuous learning and improvement along the way.


Monolithic applications are a natural way to develop applications. Most applications start with a single goal or a small number of related goals. Over time, features are added to the application to support business needs. The monolithic approach is common and many organizations develop using this architectural method. Many enjoy good enough results, while others face limitations.