As defined by Gartner, a legacy application is “an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.”
However, a legacy system is not always defined by its age. It might be due to the lack of support or its inability to meet the needs of a business or organization that a system is considered to be legacy. Such software is usually difficult (or impossible) to maintain, support, improve, or integrate with the new systems due to its architecture, underlying technology, or design.
With respect to organizational applications, “legacy” refers to products, applications, and software that run on little or no support. As contradictory as that statement sounds, legacy applications are archaic in nature and remain in-use because of the hurdles in adopting and implementing new technologies. Legacy apps need not necessarily be old, but, they are generally cumbersome, hard to adapt and non-modular in nature. One might think that legacy systems refer to systems that have been put in place many years ago that the duration of time in itself leads to redundancy. However, the age of a legacy system has little to do with its inefficiency. Any system that lacks the ability to meet the needs of a business or organization is considered to be legacy. Such software is usually difficult or exhausting to maneuver in the face of the changing needs of the business and poses challenges in integration with other new systems due to its architecture, underlying technology, or design.

In the context of services we're offering relating to application modernisation, we refer predominantly to windows based applications developed pre-2010, where your application platform may simply be an old version of Windows NT, older development environments, and / or database systems that are not longer as well supported or that have a growth path. So many technology idioms have changed over just the past 10 years, that the challenge often appears to be the need to re-generate every 10 years. What's certain is that if you have business applications which were developed prior to 2010, then you should certainly be evaluating your options for the future prospects of those same applications.

Legacy application modernisation may commence with the simple migration to a new database, moving self-hosted services onto cloud based hosting, followed by a re-design of some aspects of your application to meet the needs of going forward.

You may choose to migrate and modernise due to the need to enhance your application's security profile in this modern always on, in the cloud, open to the world paradigm. Most often though we see clients modernising due to the evolving profile of their existing and future customer base. The world has evolved into a more remote, itinerant approach to service delivery. Customers are expecting to see into your service delivery stream to intimately know how their services are being delivered, it's simply the current new norm.

When we say migrate and modernise, we clearly do not infer re-write, that is a totally different path. Migrate may imply to re-host where the services run and/or changes to the platform your application runs. Modernise means to take small, measurable steps to advance your application such that it is able to deliver on modern demands, that is may be enhaned with possibly web and mobile applications, ...

We analyse the software ng and scheduling of regular, quick wins, particularly those that show immediate returns in value to your customers and to your business.


Why Legacy Application Modernisation?

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Reasons organizations undertake modernizations instead of buying or building a completely new application include:

  • There is no application on the market that fits all of an organization’s needs.
  • The application is a key part of an organization’s product portfolio.
  • There are security regulations that are best adhered to with the current application.

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The Cost of Maintaining Legacy Applications

Maintaining legacy applications can take up a lot of time, labor, and money. And since these applications are harder to update, security issues can arise as new threats quickly evolve.

So, what do we need to learn?

Things to Consider When Updating a Legacy Application

An organization shouldn’t start adapting an old application into a modern one without a well-thought-out plan on how to do so and what budget to assign to it. Formulating the plan isn’t a simple task, however. IT department budgets aren’t always deep wells that permit the department to comfortably fund both the maintenance of legacy applications at the same time as the development of a modern application. An organization should determine what its goals are for going through legacy application modernization. One goal could be to move to the cloud and leverage all of the cloud’s functions — requiring a full modernization. Another goal could be to simply move the application to the cloud as quickly as possible. By lifting-and-shifting, as this is called, money can be saved on data center operation and maintenance, to minimize disruption of services, and have some form of relatively greater scalability. Lifting-and-shifting requires minimal changes to the application, if any. With those goals in mind, an organization should then define the issues it needs to address with its legacy application. Some parts of the legacy application could be more essential than others. Some parts of the legacy application are degrading the customer experience and will need improvement alongside modernization. Organizations don’t want to go through all of this trouble just to have the same issue in the future. That’s why they should research modern technologies and approaches that can be easily updated. Using virtualized infrastructure along with open source code can be one way to do this. Virtualized infrastructures, such as microservices, are separated from the hardware they reside on and can be updated more easily than hardware-based infrastructures. An organization’s developers and dedicated open source developers together are continuously working open source code. This ensures the code being used in the application is being maintained and fixed on a constant basis from a diverse group of people with different perspectives. To keep the modern application’s code up to date, simply download new versions from an open source library, integrate it with the application, and publish an update. Any changes done to the application should be documented in detail. Having detailed documentation means when issues in the modern application’s code arise later, they can more easily be addressed because the DevOps teams can investigate the documentation and find the exact source of the problem. Poor documentation may be one reason reworking a legacy application can be so difficult, especially when the developers who made the legacy application no longer work for the organization. It is particularly important for organizations to ensure they have the skill base in their IT departments to perform legacy application modernization. Again, this is especially the case when the original developers aren’t around. Options available to organizations include upskilling existing employees, hiring new employees, or partnering with a cloud migration organization. Upskilling existing employees may be the most cost-effective approach but requires the employees to go through training processes, which take time. It is up to the organization to research the amount of time this takes and if the organization would rather hire new employees or work with a third party.

So, what do we need to learn?

Legacy Application Modernization and the Cloud

Running applications in the cloud has increasingly become the norm. Legacy applications do not run well in the cloud without being changed. One example of an approach for legacy application modernization that does not prepare the application for the cloud is lifting and shifting. This is where minor changes or APIs are applied to the application before it is sent to a cloud environment. There are benefits that come with moving legacy applications to the cloud from on-premises data centers. Primarily, the cloud is less difficult for organizations to work with and maintain, because of services from the cloud provider. Operating costs are also much lower because an organization can only pay for the resources it uses and doesn’t have to conduct maintenance on the physical infrastructure. Customer experience also improves when an organization fully modernizes its legacy application and makes it cloud-native. This is because any issues with the application that would otherwise disrupt service can be fixed faster and with more granularity. Another reason to move from legacy to cloud-native applications is to keep up with changing infrastructures and new technologies. An organization’s IT team can make APIs that allow the application to communicate with a new infrastructure. There is a mitigated risk of changes to the application itself containing bugs; however, there is a risk the APIs will be faulty. This is a particular risk if the personnel working with the legacy application were not the original developers and don’t have quality documentation to understand the complexities of the legacy application. Additionally, by simply placing the legacy application in the cloud, the application cannot utilize all of the cloud’s features. This results in organizations spending more on the cloud than they otherwise would. There are different degrees in which to work with legacy applications to transform them into something that can run in a cloud. The names for these different approaches are refactoring, revise, rebuilding, retirement, and replacement. Read this SDxCentral article for some brief summaries of these different approaches. Rebuilding a legacy application is the approach that most fits true legacy application modernization. It is when an application is rewritten or re-architected from the ground up, sometimes by using a cloud provider’s platform-as-a-service coding tools.

So, what do we need to learn?

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