The ultimate drag on condensing into a cloud

Perspectives

The ultimate drag on condensing into a cloud

Part 5: Cloud and infrastructure article series

In enabling new business and preserving existing value, IT executives are more challenged than ever to balance the agility companies want with the stability they need. Legacy data centers are increasingly removed from the cloud and mobile end users. Delivering data to a variety of devices and taking advantage of new platforms typically requires giving up some control over IT infrastructure. Our new series, The cloud and infrastructure, covers these trends and ways IT executives can make the most of emerging technologies. The fifth and final article in the series addresses legacy systems: how to be cloud ready, integrate emerging technologies and end user devices into legacy infrastructure, and how data services can replace legacy solutions.

More than one IT executive has looked at aging legacy systems, thought about how to move them to x86 virtualized platforms and concluded: Too difficult to think about, on to the next problem. In this article we discuss how not confronting legacy systems can be an existential threat to the enterprise. We also offer some practical approaches for taking on the legacy of legacy systems: how to be cloud ready, take advantage of emerging technologies and end-user devices, and trade legacy infrastructure for data services.

The digital dark age

As technology advances apace, the gap between legacy and emergent technologies grows. Data over time becomes unreadable, then indecipherable, as storage and archive media change or become unstable, software and operating systems evolve, and skills become extinct. Aging hardware and software ultimately become over-challenged with the size and performance needs of modern data and interfaces; can no longer be compiled, patched or supported; and eventually hit the set of conditions from which they are unable to recover—and they fail. Some archived data is for all intents and purposes lost, as there is no ability to restore it and no software that can use it.

Existential threats: Opportunity costs, data damage, and information security

Attempts to postpone obsolescence for data, end-user devices, and legacy systems can lead to serious opportunity costs: As support and maintenance increase in complexity, and as costs rise to keep things running safely and securely with the right skills, focus is drawn from other opportunities. When IT Executives and their teams are spending too much time and money on legacy, they likely are not spending enough on other opportunities to add value to the business. Lack of business enhancements may also drive business lines and employees to form their own shadow IT.

In addition to opportunity costs, businesses risk catastrophic data loss with legacy systems since legacy infrastructure and data centers were often built without considering threats such as electromagnetic phenomena, solar activity, and electromagnetic pulses. Information security can also be an issue for legacy as much as for emerging technology. Legacy technology may not be front of mind on this issue, but when aging mainframes share data or access to other systems, they can be the most vulnerable point of access for bad actors or an unintentional security breach.

In short, doing nothing about legacy systems is ultimately not an option.

Building a new landing platform

Confronting the legacy of legacy will not be easy or quick, but a good first step is to develop a target portfolio mix of technologies and platforms, based on business requirements such as:

  • Do you need high or low levels of standardization?
  • Do you require a mix of technologies and platforms that are each optimally suited to their business value and competitive advantage?
  • Do you have workloads best suited to a highly customized solution, optimal on mainframe, or not suited to virtualization?

For each business function or application, the basic options are: 

Refresh: Through changes to interfaces, configuration parameters, and database and storage migration, refresh your legacy system on the same architecture, either in house or through cloud services that support it.

Transform: Take the application logic largely as it stands, but enable it to function on a different technology stack. Transformation can involve lengthy changes to application logic, interfaces, data management and system configuration, usually followed by intensive testing. Transformation should result in an architecture that creates maximum flexibility for the future. Abstract the application from the infrastructure, automate, and even if an external cloud is not the landing platform, get it cloud ready.

Replace: Commercially available software or SaaS packages might suit your legacy function. In some cases it can make sense to start from scratch, and design and develop replacement business logic using current languages and platforms to create something flexible enough to take advantage of emerging techniques and technologies.

What now?

Download the full article to explore the legacy of legacy more fully, including ways your organization can build momentum behind a legacy program and strategic approaches to mitigating legacy risk.

The legacy of legacy is that systems can get more difficult to deal with as time passes, and the business opportunity costs and data and information security risks of aging and unsupported technologies can’t be ignored. Legacy technology must be confronted, and in so doing the gap between the older and emerging in the technology can be shortened, allowing the enterprise to be more agile and flexible, and to focus more time and effort on revenue generating business value.

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