One of the key challenges facing tech teams today is how to transform their legacy systems to make them both more energy-efficient and better able to handle increasingly complex requirements. Refactoring legacy software systems can be an intricate, nuanced process involving various stakeholders: engineers, product owners, architects, executives, and other personnel with specialized knowledge. It requires an informed approach that considers technical complexities and tangible benefits like boosting efficiency while leading to cost savings and improved user experience.

By leveraging modern technologies and strategies such as architecture modernization and refactoring legacy systems, you can save time & money spent on maintenance & enabling scalability to satisfy ever-changing user demands from applications. For example, McKinsey identifies a $2 billion margin expansion opportunity through modernization initiatives. In this blog post, we'll discuss why it's important to prioritize legacy system refactoring and explain the steps involved when doing so in order to achieve improved energy efficiency and performance outcomes.

Understanding Legacy Systems

Legacy systems refer to outdated software and hardware solutions that no longer receive updates or support from their respective manufacturers due to their complexity, age, or lack of proper documentation. Often, they have been used in organizations for an extended period and have accumulated numerous functionalities and data structures. Yet, they suffer from numerous weaknesses that contribute to energy inefficiency and performance problems that make them unsuitable for modern business environments.

One of the primary characteristics of legacy systems that contribute to energy inefficiency is their inability to optimize resource usage. Most legacy systems were developed in an era when energy efficiency was not a primary concern, so they often consume far more resources than needed. Additionally, they may have inefficient algorithms and outdated programming methods that are not designed to use less energy.

Interested in increasing energy efficiency and sustainability? Check out How to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability in cloud-based solutions.

Another characteristic of legacy systems that contributes to performance issues is their architectural constraints. Most legacy systems use monolithic architectures, which are cumbersome to scale up or down or adapt to modern ecosystems. They are often dependent on outdated OS, libraries, packages, dependencies, and hardware that may no longer be available or supported, making them increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

Maintaining legacy systems without addressing these issues inevitably exposes organizations to significant risks. For example, these systems may have security vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches or other cyberattacks. Also, legacy systems may fail to comply with regulatory standards such as GDPR, CCPA, or HIPAA, making companies susceptible to penalties and legal suits. In addition, these systems are difficult to maintain and require technical expertise that is often difficult to source.

Reasons why legacy systems still exist

There are several reasons why these aging applications continue to hold their ground:

  • Long Lifecycle: Some applications were built many years ago and have remained in use due to their reliability and the high cost and risks associated with replacing them.
  • Evolving Technology Landscape: As technology advances, older systems may struggle to integrate with newer technologies, leading to their classification as legacy.
  • Vendor Lock-in: Organizations may have invested heavily in proprietary software solutions, making it challenging to transition away from them.
  • Business Continuity: Some legacy systems are deeply ingrained in business processes, and the fear of disrupting operations during migration prevents replacement.

So, What Is Code Refactoring, and Why Do You Need It?

Code refactoring is a software development practice that involves revising the structure, design, and overall quality of existing source code while keeping its functionality intact. It is an iterative process that aims to enhance the readability, maintainability, scalability, and performance optimization of the software system.

By carefully examining and improving the code, we can optimize efficiency, reduce technical debt, and improve the long-term viability of the software. Through refactoring, any issues or areas that may need optimization/ simplification can be easily identified, resulting in a more robust and reliable codebase. This iterative approach allows for continuous improvement, making the software easier to understand, modify, and extend over time.

There are several reasons why code refactoring is essential for software development:

  • Improving readability: Refactoring can make the code easier to understand and modify, thus improving the productivity and collaboration of developers. By breaking down complex logic into simpler components, refactoring makes the code easier to understand. This optimized codebase not only improves the productivity of developers, but also fosters better collaboration within the team, enabling efficient code reviews and seamless integration of new features.
  • Reducing complexity: Refactoring can simplify the code by eliminating redundancy, improving naming conventions, and separating concerns. Refactoring involves renaming variables and functions to be more descriptive, making the code self-explanatory and easier to follow. This clarity helps developers understand the purpose and functionality of different code sections, reducing the cognitive load while working on the codebase. This can help reduce the maintenance cost and improve the flexibility of the system.
  • Enhancing performance: Refactoring can optimize the code by improving algorithms, reducing the number of database queries, and removing unnecessary code. Refactoring allows developers to analyze existing algorithms and replace them with more efficient alternatives. By selecting algorithms with better time and space complexity, the code's execution time can be significantly reduced, leading to faster and more responsive software. This can speed up the execution, response time, and overall scalability of the system.

Code refactoring is an iterative process that should be performed continuously throughout the development lifecycle. It involves breaking down large modules into smaller ones, eliminating redundant code, improving variable and function names, and optimizing algorithms.

Process of performance optimization through code refactoring

Benefits You Get with Code Refactoring

By restructuring and optimizing the code, developers can unlock various advantages that positively impact the software and its development process. Let's explore some of these benefits:

• Improved maintainability: Refactoring involves restructuring code into more modular and organized components. By breaking down complex functions or classes, developers can easily understand and modify specific parts of the code without affecting the entire system. This leads to reduced technical debt as the codebase becomes cleaner and easier to navigate. With improved maintainability, developers can quickly identify and fix bugs, implement new features, and adapt to changing requirements, resulting in a more agile and responsive development process.

• Enhanced user satisfaction: Refactoring can improve the user experience by improving the load speed and execution time of the software system. By meticulously trimming load times and streamlining execution delays, users are presented with an incomparably responsive and efficient application. The surge in user satisfaction fosters elevated engagement and unwavering customer loyalty, thereby elevating the software's standing and propelling its competitiveness within the market.

• Parallel development: Refactoring promotes parallel development by creating clear and well-defined interfaces between components. Different developers or teams can work concurrently on separate modules without interfering with each other's code. This parallel development approach speeds up the development process, allowing the team to deliver features faster and reduce time-to-market for new releases.

• Optimal resource utilization: Refactoring improves code performance, leading to more efficient resource utilization. Applications with optimized code require fewer hardware resources, such as CPU and memory, to perform tasks. As a result, the need for additional investment in hardware is reduced, leading to cost savings for the organization. Moreover, applications that use resources more efficiently are better suited for deployment in cloud environments, where resource utilization directly impacts operational costs.

• Maintainable and sustainable codebase: Refactoring fosters a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring that the codebase remains maintainable and sustainable in the long run. By regularly reviewing and enhancing the code, developers can proactively address potential issues and keep the codebase aligned with industry best practices. This proactive approach prevents the accumulation of technical debt and ensures that the software remains adaptable to future technological advancements.

• Reduced error rate: As code is refactored, potential issues and bugs are often identified and addressed. By simplifying and clarifying the code, the likelihood of introducing errors during development decreases. Additionally, improved code readability and separation of concerns help developers detect and resolve issues more effectively during testing and code reviews, reducing the number of defects in the final product.

• Continuous delivery and DevOps integration: Refactoring aligns well with continuous delivery and DevOps practices. By making the codebase more modular and maintainable, developers can more easily integrate changes and automate the testing and deployment processes. This integration accelerates the feedback loop, allowing for quicker iterations and faster delivery of new features to end users.

• Future-proofing the codebase: As software evolves, new requirements and technologies emerge. Refactoring ensures that the codebase is ready to accommodate future changes. By making the codebase more flexible, developers can adapt the software to new business needs and advancements without requiring major rewrites or system overhauls.

Embracing refactoring as an integral part of the development process ensures that the codebase remains healthy, facilitates faster delivery, and drives continuous improvement, leading to long-term success in the dynamic and competitive software industry.

The Importance of Refactoring: When Does Your Business Need It?

As software applications grow, their codebase can deteriorate, leading to maintainability, performance, and scalability issues. To address this, code refactoring becomes crucial.

8 indicators for code refactoring for cost savings and sustainability

Key signs indicating the need for code refactoring in your software application

1. Performance bottlenecks

If an application experiences slow load times, high latency, or frequent crashes, it might be a sign of performance bottlenecks. Refactoring can identify and optimize inefficient algorithms, database queries, or resource usage, leading to improved performance.

2.  Complex and convoluted code

As software evolves, code can become complex, tangled, and difficult to follow. If developers find it challenging to understand or modify the code, it may be a signal for refactoring. Simplifying code through refactoring enhances readability and maintainability.

3. Difficulties in implementing changes

When adding new features or making changes to the codebase becomes increasingly cumbersome and time-consuming, it indicates that the code may need refactoring. A well-refactored codebase allows for the seamless implementation of changes without introducing unintended side effects.

4. Accumulation of technical debt

Over time, development teams might introduce quick fixes or workarounds to meet deadlines, leading to technical debt. If technical debt hinders the codebase's quality and progress, refactoring is necessary to manage and reduce it effectively.

5. Increasing bug count

A high number of recurring bugs and issues could indicate underlying design flaws or code inefficiencies. Refactoring can help uncover and address the root causes, reducing the occurrence of bugs and improving software reliability.

6. Lack of code testability

If writing automated tests for the code becomes challenging due to tightly coupled or poorly structured code, refactoring can improve testability, enabling more comprehensive and reliable test suites.

7. Emerging business requirements

As business requirements evolve, the software must adapt accordingly. Refactoring ensures that the codebase remains flexible and agile, enabling it to accommodate changing needs without compromising stability.

8. Outdated technologies

Using outdated frameworks, libraries, or programming languages can introduce security vulnerabilities, hinder compatibility with modern systems, and limit the software's performance potential. Moreover, the scarcity of developers skilled in these outdated technologies can impede maintenance efforts and hinder the software's ability to adapt to future innovations and market demands.

By breaking down this process into manageable chunks and prioritizing testing, developers can enhance the quality of their applications and elevate their entire development journey. This approach guarantees a unique experience that delivers outstanding results.

Code Refactoring Practices We Follow at Techstack

Code refactoring is not just a good practice, it is a crucial step in ensuring optimal performance and maintainability. At Techstack, we embrace the Agile methodology and iterative approach—developers can tackle this process systematically, taking one step at a time and conducting thorough testing at every stage. Code refactoring also receives strong support from many Agile advocates. Here’s how we carry out code refactoring of legacy systems:

1. Initial assessment

The refactoring process begins with a thorough assessment of the legacy system. Techstack's software engineers and architects review the codebase, identify areas of concern, and assess the system's overall performance and energy consumption. Metrics and tools are used to measure key performance indicators, detect bottlenecks, and understand the system's current state.

2. Run performance and QA tests

Running performance and QA tests at the beginning of the refactoring journey is a crucial step to ensure that the legacy system's current state is well-understood and to establish a baseline for future improvements. While some legacy systems might lack comprehensive test scripts, conducting these tests is essential to identify potential bottlenecks, vulnerabilities, and areas of concern that need to be addressed during the refactoring process.

3. Analyze the market

When dealing with legacy systems, evaluating whether they align with your users' evolving needs is essential. We conduct a thorough analysis to understand your users' expectations and preferences to ensure that your software product remains relevant and responsive to ever-changing market demands. When your product lacks recent strategy initiatives, simply refactoring may not be enough. It may be time to consider starting fresh with a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for a new product.

4. Revamp the architecture

As we optimize your codebase, we consider the impact on your system's architecture. Our expert team ensures that the new architecture is custom-tailored to suit your specific business requirements. We focus on simplicity and efficiency, eliminating unnecessary complexities and bottlenecks, resulting in a streamlined and high-performing system.

5. Run code refactoring

At Techstack, we recognize the critical role of a well-optimized system architecture in driving efficiency, scalability, and future readiness. Our code refactoring services pave the way for a new, tailor-made architecture that effortlessly processes data, meets user needs today, and anticipates their demands for years to come. Following the iterative approach, we run tests for every refactored module to ensure its bug-free performance and identify bottlenecks as soon as possible.

Techstack’s Case

We collaborated with our partner on a critical project: refactoring the code of their outdated CRM system. Its inefficient code consumed excessive resources, impacting performance. Our approach began with rigorous performance testing to identify bottlenecks. Armed with insights, we optimized the codebase, eliminating redundancies and adhering to best coding practices. A breakthrough was discovering the ideal moment for critical tasks, minimizing execution time and resource usage. The results were remarkable: improved system performance and substantial cost savings. The enhanced codebase led to easier maintenance and sustainability. Our proactive and strategic refactoring approach delivered a more responsive, efficient, and cost-effective CRM system, ensuring our partner's software would remain competitive and adaptable in the evolving tech landscape.

Summing Up

Achieving success with code refactoring is a complex process and requires a well-structured roadmap that takes the unique requirements of each organization into consideration. As demonstrated in the above example, leveraging modern technologies, adopting best practices, and collaborating are all essential components for success in refactoring.

At Techstack, we understand the challenges associated with legacy systems, outdated technologies, and inefficient code. We’ll work together to refine your existing architecture, identify areas for improvement, and recommend necessary modifications and applications of appropriate strategies or toolsets, all to ensure maximum efficiency for your system. Contact us today—let's embark on this journey together!