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Staying Ahead in the Cloud: 4 Modernization Essentials

By: Michael Petito
Published: Tuesday, 24 October 2023

In the digital realm, a momentary pause could mean a significant lag. Imagine a bustling online retail platform that experiences a system outage on a busy shopping day due to an outdated application infrastructure. The loss in revenue, customer trust, and brand reputation can be staggering. It's scenarios like these that underline the critical need for continuous modernization in the cloud technology sphere.  

This post unfolds several pivotal recommendations that are key to fortifying the resilience, security, and operational efficiency of your web applications deployed on AWS. For applications built 5 or more years ago, this is an important read.  

The Imperative of Continuous Review 

Technology is a realm of ceaseless evolution where today's innovations swiftly morph into tomorrow's obsolete practices. Particularly in the domains of security and high availability, a continuous review is indispensable to ensure your web applications stand resilient against evolving threats and business demands. This proactive stance guarantees that your deployed systems are aligned with the latest AWS best practices, thereby boosting confidence among users and stakeholders. 

Embracing Modernization 

The route to modernization of your AWS-deployed applications provides many benefits: 

  • High Availability and Rapid Recovery: Through the implementation of self-healing infrastructure and multi-Availability Zone (AZ) deployments, downtime is minimized, ensuring uninterrupted user access even during AWS outages. 
  • Enhanced Security: Modernized configurations and robust encryption practices significantly lower the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. providing the ability to automatically review, track changes, and remediate gaps in configuration to ensure best practices. 
  • Operational Efficiency: Containerization, serverless technologies and streamlined deployment processes slash operational overhead, simplifying updates and system maintenance. 
  • Scalability: Automatic scalability for global customer reach to cater to a growing user base.  
  • Cost Efficiency: Optimization of compute and database resources, alongside the evaluation of alternative database solutions, paves the way for remarkable reductions in operational costs. 

With an overarching goal to foster a more efficient, secure, and reliable operational atmosphere while also trimming costs, let’s look at some of the recommendations that will get you there.  

Containerization: A Path to Modern Efficiency 

Embarking on the path of containerization creates options for operational efficiency and reliability that are indispensable in today’s fast-paced digital ecosystem. Containerization bundles your application and its runtime dependencies into a standardized 'container' format that can run anywhere. This technique fosters a seamless environment that's indifferent to the underlying hosting environment, ensuring consistency across various deployment scenarios. 

Imagine the scenario where a single server hosts your application. Now, what if this server encounters a hardware failure? The repercussions are immediate and severe - your application goes offline, thereby hampering user experience and potentially leading to revenue loss. Moreover, the operational overhead tied to managing and patching server environments is a burdensome affair, often demanding a dedicated chunk of your IT resources. 

Containerization mitigates these challenges. By bundling your application into containers, you essentially decouple the application from the underlying infrastructure. This decoupling is a gateway to a myriad of benefits: 

  • Enhanced Resilience: In the face of hardware failures, containers can be automatically shifted to other hardware resources without any downtime. This ability to seamlessly move containers across different environments ensures your application remains available, regardless of the underlying hardware health. 
  • Reduced Operational Overhead: The arduous task of patching and securing servers is significantly reduced as containers encapsulate all the necessary dependencies. This encapsulation translates to lesser reliance on the underlying OS, thereby slashing the operational overhead tied to server management. Over the past several years, AWS has expanded its container orchestration offerings, with fully managed services such as AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) and AWS Fargate allowing you to easily run and scale your containers without maintaining any servers. 
  • Scalability at Your Fingertips: Containerized applications are inherently easy to scale. With just a few commands, you can spin up additional instances of your application to handle traffic surges. This scalability isn’t just vertical but horizontal, allowing you to distribute the load across various Availability Zones (AZs) and even across different AWS Regions. 
  • Cost Efficiency: The ability to quickly scale up or down in response to traffic demands ensures you only use the resources you need. This dynamic scalability is a cornerstone for cost-efficiency as you pay only for the resources in use. 
  • Inroads to Modern Development Practices: Containerization isn’t merely an operational upgrade but a cultural shift towards modern application development practices. As your application needs grow, embracing containers facilitates a smoother transition towards microservices architecture, a modern development paradigm known for its agility and scalability. 
  • Right-Sizing Resources: Containers allow for a more precise allocation of resources based on the actual needs of your application, ensuring you're not over-provisioning and thereby, over-spending. 

Databases: Improving Data Availability and Cost Efficiency 

Considering highly redundant database deployments and migration to more cost-effective database engines significantly enhance data availability and reduces licensing costs. This approach is akin to having a sturdy safety net for your data, ensuring its continuous availability even in the face of disruptions, and bringing down operational costs. 

  • Multi-AZ Deployments: A single-AZ database deployment is a classic case of putting all your eggs in one basket. In such a setup, any hiccup in the Availability Zone, be it a network glitch or a power outage, could render your database inaccessible. This scenario spells downtime, which in turn leads to poor user experience and potential revenue loss. On the flip side, a multi-AZ database deployment replicates your data across different AZs. This architecture is your shield against AZ-specific disruptions. In case of a primary AZ failure, the standby replica in another AZ automatically takes over, ensuring continuous data availability with minimal downtime. Over the last several years, AWS has refined and expanded its database deployment offerings, making it simpler and more cost-effective to implement highly available database architectures. While single-AZ deployments save on monthly costs as solutions are built and proved out, multi-AZ and automatic failover features are a cornerstone for building resilient and reliable database infrastructures in today's dynamic operational landscape. 
  • Reducing Licensing Costs: The journey towards cost-efficiency in database management often leads to exploring alternatives to traditional commercial databases which come with hefty licensing fees. In recent years, AWS has introduced and matured several database solutions that are designed to provide superior performance and reliability at a fraction of the cost of traditional commercial databases. These AWS-managed database services come with built-in features like automatic backups, software patching, and failover to standby instances, reducing the operational overhead and thereby further reducing the total cost of ownership. This transition is especially beneficial as your data and user base grow, ensuring you don't burn a hole in your pocket while scaling your database infrastructure. These technological advancements have significantly lowered the barriers to adopting modern, cost-effective database solutions, making it a prudent move for businesses looking to optimize their operational costs while enhancing data availability and reliability. 

Security: Fortifying Your Deployments 

In the dynamic digital landscape, ensuring robust security protocols to safeguard your application's data is crucial. The ongoing introduction of new controls and configuration rules underscores the importance of regular reviews to align with evolving best practices. 

  • Credential Management: Credentials serve as the gateway to your digital infrastructure, hence managing them meticulously is vital for maintaining a strong security posture. Routine review and rotation of system and application credentials are fundamental practices that curb the risk of unauthorized access. Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all accounts introduces an additional layer of security, significantly thwarting malicious actors' attempts to gain access. Utilizing tools like AWS Trusted Advisor and AWS Config for continuous review helps keep pace with evolving best practices in credential and access management. 
  • Encryption Best Practices: Encryption functions as a robust shield, securing your data both in transit and at rest. Regularly updating the encryption configuration to adhere to the latest standards is a key step towards bolstering your application's security posture. AWS continually enhances its encryption capabilities, making it essential to stay updated with the latest encryption ciphers and configurations as part of ongoing security enhancement. 
  • Defensive Measures: Libraries and application frameworks are often targeted by malicious actors. As new exploits and vulnerabilities continually emerge, proactive measures to protect application endpoints become imperative. Managed services including AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) offer an additional layer of security, countering potential exploits before they are documented and patches made available. Significant updates to AWS WAF over the last several years now enable the utilization of AWS managed rules, which continually evolve to defend against emerging threats. 

Monitoring and Observability: The Pulse of Your Application 

Staying attuned to both performance and cost-effectiveness is paramount for maintaining operational excellence. The goal is to create a setup where potential issues are identified and addressed before they affect users, all while keeping operational costs optimized. This proactive approach ensures a smooth transition through modernization and feature development, keeping your application robust and financially sustainable. 

  • Enhanced Monitoring and Alerting: Transitioning from a reactive to a proactive monitoring approach is an essential stride towards operational efficiency. Implementing key metrics, along with centralizing logs and alerts, facilitates the early identification and rectification of application issues before they ripple out to affect the user experience. Managed services like AWS CloudWatch play a pivotal role in this transition. AWS CloudWatch ingests logs from your application and other services, providing a centralized platform for monitoring system health and gleaning actionable insights. This set-up not only ensures continuous monitoring but also supports continuous improvement, ensuring that your system remains robust and resilient against potential disruptions. 
  • Cost Monitoring and Optimization: As you transition to modern AWS services or optimize existing ones, aligning with the broader goal of reducing operational costs is crucial. The emphasis is on achieving cost-efficiency without a trade-off on performance and availability. By configuring budget alarms and delving into usage patterns, you unlock avenues for cost-saving opportunities. These might include right-sizing resources or leveraging savings plans. This practice of continuous review and optimization of costs is critical to ensuring that your deployments remain financially sustainable while delivering optimal performance. 

Staying Ahead of the Curve 

Technology is constantly evolving, and the competitive advantage lies in staying ahead of the curve. Adopting a well-structured approach by addressing the recommendations above, ensures a systematic evaluation and continuous improvement of your cloud infrastructure. It facilitates not only meeting the existing operational demands but also prepares your business for adapting to future technological advancements with ease. 

Modernizing your applications, enhancing deployment processes, designing for high availability, and strengthening security are essential steps to ensure your software remains robust and responsive to changing business needs. Whether you're a technical enthusiast or a non-technical decision-maker, embracing these recommendations can elevate your software and your business to new heights. 

At Envative, we excel in harnessing the prowess of AWS solutions to not only build robust and reliable cloud infrastructures but to continually refine them in tune with the advancing technological frontier.  

Engage with us to determine how a meticulous review and adoption of these modern best practices can elevate your software to help your business achieve operational excellence in the cloud. 

Tagged as: Custom Software, Cloud Hosting, AWS Solutions, Software Optimization, Software Security, Software Best Practices

Michael Petito

About the Author:

Michael Petito

Michael has more than 20 years of experience in software engineering and enterprise solution architecture. As Sr. VP of Engineering at Envative, he oversees all large-scale web development 
and is responsible for overseeing the engineering efforts of multidisciplinary software teams.

Michael has been the principal architect for complete system redesigns and cloud-based solutions that include containerized and serverless technologies, database architecture, web, mobile and IoT applications, and a variety of API integrations.

As an AWS-certified Solutions Architect Professional, Michael has demonstrated his advanced knowledge and skills in providing complex solutions to complex problems, optimizing security, cost, and performance, and automating manual processes.