There is no friend like an old friend. Only this cannot be applied to the IT industry. Your laptop in 2020 with a 100% guarantee is more powerful than your PC from 2005.
Almost everyone has ever got a project with code written by someone else years ago. This code is often so terrible that it is completely unclear how to work with it. And if we speak in terms of a legacy system, additionally you have:
All these points require a solution and resources input. Perhaps, one cannot do without a good sense of humor — those who take life too seriously usually run away as soon as they see the real legacy system.
The legacy system is not so scary. Here are a couple of reasons why.
Gartner Glossary provides the following definition: “Legacy system is an information system that may be based on outdated technologies but is critical to day-to-day operations.”
In 2019, the U.S. federal government spent 80 percent of its IT budget on operations and maintenance. These costs mainly included legacy systems that posed issues of efficiency, cybersecurity, and mission risks. To put this in context, only 20 percent of IT funding was allocated for development, modernization, and improvement.
We found out at least 5 reasons for businesses to upgrade the system and reach a new level of efficiency.
Updates and changes. Typically, the legacy system takes up a large amount of memory and functionality. When interfering with the existing code, there is a high probability of code conflict. In addition to a large amount of documentation, some features remained undocumented.
Infrastructure. Every year, the infrastructure is becoming more complex and, therefore, pricey to maintain. Large amounts of data are difficult to reorganize or optimize. In addition to being a laborious process, it is also expensive.
Training. The less popular the technology becomes, the fewer specialists with the necessary skills and experience are present on the market. A significant part of the budget can be spent on staff training.
All modern technologies are ready for integration by default. After all, numerous programs use third-party APIs to expand their functionality. For example, Lyft says it uses Google Maps as its default navigation tool for drivers. However, rare or outdated technologies cannot boast such compatibility. Or they can do only with large resource investments.
Another aspect is compliance with political and legal norms. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in 2018. The legacy system is one of the main problems if it is necessary to comply with such laws.
Due to age, the legacy system is less resistant to cyberattacks. On the one hand, scammers had years to crack the system. On the other hand, the supplier may stop releasing updates or fixing bugs and will cease all support for its product.
If you can fix your system yourself, then this may become like a leaking bucket. You patch one hole, and a new one appears nearby.
When channeling the budget for the maintenance of the legacy system, fewer funds are left to the innovations. This allows competitors to be ahead of you or even occupy your market share.
The success of a business largely depends on whether it can respond quickly to changes in the business environment. Can you scale or vice versa to slightly reduce your business if necessary? How fast can you innovate?
Meanwhile, IT modernization is based on flexibility, along with digital mergers and acquisitions and collaboration with digital startups, which was revealed in a Harvard Business Review study. Agile methodologies can accelerate the delivery of IT services by 30-50%, and they are especially suitable for transformations with a high degree of uncertainty.
There are specific techniques to update obsolete technologies. They are arranged in order of increasing complexity.
The choice of upgrade method depends on your goals and system condition.
Encapsulation, rehosting, and replatforming affect the technology platform. Refactoring and rearchitecting can solve problems in technology and architecture. Rebuilding and replacing allow you to change and add features and functions.
Whatever technique you choose, modernization is a complex and resource-intensive process with a certain risk. Yet, this risk is fully justified.