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Legacy Application Development

What is a legacy system?

A legacy system is outdated computing software and/or hardware that is still in use. The system still meets the needs it was originally designed for, but doesn’t allow for growth. What a legacy system does now for the company is all it will ever do. A legacy system’s older technology won’t allow it to interact with newer systems. As technology advances, most companies find themselves dealing with the issues caused by an existing legacy system. Instead of offering companies the latest capabilities and services — such as cloud computing and better data integration — a legacy system keeps a company in a business rut.

The reasons are varied as to why a company would continue to use a legacy system.
  • Investment: Although maintaining a legacy system is expensive over time, upgrading to a new system requires an up-front investment, both in dollars and manpower.
  • Fear: Change is hard, and moving a whole company —or even a single department — to a new system can inspire some internal resistance.
  • Difficulty: The legacy software may be built with an obsolete programming language that makes it hard to find personnel with the skills to make the migration. There may be little documentation about the system and the original developers have left the company. Sometimes simply planning the migration of data from a legacy system and defining the scope of requirements for a new system are overwhelming.

Many companies continue using outdated systems, regardless of the age or quality of the underlying technologies. The software has been working just fine for decades and is still able to cope with most of its tasks, they argue. Indeed, why fix it if it ain’t broke? Actually, there are quite a lot of reasons to “fix” your legacy systems. The real cost of running such software is the major one among them. In 2019, the US Federal government spent 80 percent of the IT budget on Operations and Maintenance. This spending mainly included aging legacy systems, which posed efficiency, cybersecurity, and mission risk issues. To put that into context, only 20 percent of the IT funding was assigned to Development, Modernization, and Enhancement. Yet, these numbers represent just the tip of the iceberg. The hidden costs are even bigger. Namely, there are several sources of legacy software expenditure:

The costs of legacy system maintenance operations include the following:

Updates and changes:

Legacy systems are typically quite large in terms of the codebase as well as functionality. Taking into account their monolithic nature, you cannot just change or replace one system module. A small update might result in multiple conflicts across the system. Thus, any change or update to the legacy system requires time and effort, neither of which come cheap. Additionally, legacy systems usually have vast amounts of documentation as well as a number of undocumented features. So, there is always a certain risk involved when interfering with the source code.

Infrastructure:

Just like the software itself, the underlying infrastructure becomes harder and more expensive to maintain as it ages. Legacy systems often require a specific technical environment, including hardware. Thus, infrastructure maintenance spending remains high, as compared to modern cloud-based solutions. Legacy data represents another significant infrastructure issue. Being scattered across several databases and storage resources, it is hard to reorganize for increased storage space optimization. Gathering and systematizing legacy data manually to further transfer it to a new database is a time- and cost-intensive task.

Staff training:

Depending on obsolete technologies, the legacy system support and maintenance requires a specific set of skills and expertise. While the developers who have built the software might retire or switch to other technologies, it becomes increasingly harder to find and retain the right talent. Dedicated staff training might be an even bigger source of expense.


Legacy System Assessment: Evolving Legacy System

A legacy system is one that has been in service for a significant amount of time. Because the system was developed so long ago, some of the technology it uses may now be obsolete. My wife would liken legacy systems to my sense of fashion "outdated". This raises the question; how should you evolve your legacy system? There are four different pathways you can take;

  • you can modify business practice so that the legacy software is no longer needed,
  • continue maintaining the old system,
  • re-engineer the old system or,
  • migrate to a new system, such as the cloud.

Legacy System Modernization

In the simplest of terms, legacy modernization means updating all or some of your IT stack to better support your business goals and processes. Business leaders drive innovation at their companies, but they need new technologies to enable and support this innovation in a real-world environment. They need fast applications, systems that support connectivity, and platforms that bring everything together. Most older IT stacks fail to meet those modern needs. Enter legacy system modernization.

Consider the following reasons to look legacy modernization:

  • Maintain (or create) a competitive advantage by building out a lightweight solution when compared to your competitors.
  • Experience better performance, more reliable processes and reduced risks with a better functioning system and containerized applications.
  • See more satisfied customers and happier employees by meeting UX and performance standards.
  • Get ready to scale in the future by transforming your IT stack into an agile and innovative platform for future change.
  • Keep your IT infrastructure secure from external threats (and internal security breaches).
  • Introduce simpler integration with the host of new enterprise software, from accounting software to CRMs used by thousands of businesses.
  • Improve your bottom line by addressing the financial inefficiencies of legacy software.
  • Realize growth opportunities, exceed customer expectations and reach new customers by staying ahead of the enterprise software curve.