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IT leaders spend on cutting-edge to refactor legacy tech

Organisations carry around a huge amount of technical debt, which holds back innovation and limits application architectural decisions

The TechTarget and Enterprise Strategy Group’s Technology spending intentions survey has found IT decision-makers are speeding ahead with application modernisation initiatives.

Almost a quarter (23%) of the 1,432 IT decision-makers surveyed said they are refactoring existing applications.

While it’s relatively easy to start a “greenfield” application and build it with a cloud-native architecture, most organisations have a huge quantity of older applications that can’t take advantage of a cloud-native architecture.

Rehosting an older application on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is often referred to as “lift and shift”. Such an approach is unable to make the most of the cloud characteristic. According to analyst Gartner, organisations that follow this rehosting approach often discover that the migration team took shortcuts and came up with workarounds just to get the applications running.

Beyond tackling the technical debt that has accumulated over years of supporting more and more enterprise software, the survey shows that many organisations are targeting cutting-edge development technologies and methodologies.
Digital transformation has continued to be a top business driver of tech investment. However, the IT decision-makers who work in larger and more digitally mature organisations said they are prioritising customer experience initiatives.

Looking at the key areas of investment in application development, IT decision-makers appear to be putting more emphasis this year on cloud-native development and data-driven decisions, such as data orchestration and secure communication.

Read more about application development strategies

  • Application modernisation is not something that just happens, nor is it just driven by digitisation and cloud-first strategies.
  • Most businesses are not lucky enough to be able to build a new cloud native architecture. We look at how to take legacy applications forward.

The IT decision-makers were polled about their planned investments in integration technologies. The survey shows there’s a continued shift towards cloud-based and automation-driven application integration approaches. There’s also a strong focus on automating tasks and streamlining workflows through application programming interfaces (APIs) and integrated systems.

The top area of software development investment in 2024 is DevOps (35%), which continues to be a big area of focus in enterprises. IT decision-makers are increasingly using DevOps methodologies to automate the continuous integration and deployment of code and application infrastructure.

Compared with data from 2023, technology areas seeing a bigger focus in 2024 include API management, serverless/functions-as-a-service and service mesh.

When asked which application development or integration technologies their organisation plans to make the most significant investments in over the next 12 months, the survey found the majority of large enterprises are planning to invest in API management. However, mid-sized organisations are making business process automation their top priority.

Overall, 43% of IT decision-makers said API management is their biggest application development priority in 2024, followed by business process automation (37%). The third-largest area of application development investment is API gateways (31%), fourth is cloud integration such as investing in integration platform-as-a-service offerings (23%), and robotic process automation is fifth with 22%.

Generative AI is also set to shake up the application development landscape. Through its ability to streamline code generation and expedite development processes, IT decision-makers regard it a promising technology for workflow optimisation.

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