Way Forward to Modernizing Legacy Applications

By CIOReview | Wednesday, September 6, 2017
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For numerous business requirements, large and small organizations heavily rely on legacy systems for various and obvious reasons. Though in the eyes of the world these antiquated systems serve no purpose, enterprises run these legacy applications and try to find means that would make them oriented towards modern day business environment. By these measures, businesses save capital expenditure on development, deployment, and training their resources for running new applications and systems. However, their efforts fall short of the mark and it becomes necessary to develop and incorporate new functionalities.

Limitations to Incorporating New Functionalities

Conventionally, the legacy systems are built using a monolithic architecture that hinders the changes or additions in the few of functionalities. This necessitates building new applications from the scratch. Though it is easier to manage the legacy applications due to their simple build logic, changes cannot be made quite easily in the backend code. A single alteration orchestrates a chain of changes that lead to rewriting the complete source code. If the legacy system supports thousands of systems and people, making drastic changes in the source code is not the right path. Again, hiring a new talent to build a product drastically increases development cost whereas they do not want to work on the old technology that supports the legacy system.  This necessitates the discovery of new options that would rescue legacy system users from the predicament.

Here, micro services emerge as the best option for the businesses that rely on legacy systems. Using micro services, enterprises can retain the data and processes independent and out of the boundary walls of the age old software. Might a question perplex a reader about the middleman? As communication between the legacy system and the micro service takes place via JSON. This solves a use case that could have never been thought of before. For example, legacy software built in C and the data processing application are written in Python. A microservice can easily facilitate communication and processing while maintaining zero contact between the two. Independence of using any language not only liberates the business from hiring a new talent that has mastered old and new technology but also allows deploying new applications and functionalities at the marginal cost. This also helps developers to work independently and without the collaboration with the legacy application development team. Scalability is an added benefit as using new APIs more compute power and functionalities can be harnessed. Businesses can also choose to eliminate their reliance on legacy software with the phased implementation. 

Overcoming hurdles in modernization

There are few obstacles to overcome while leveraging micro services. For example, communication between different services may increase the process run time and conflicts due to mismatched API versions. Again, testing micro services is a herculean task as every micro service needs to be tested separately.

Businesses can ponder over the below-mentioned strategies while building a micro service. Prior to building micro services for various functionalities, the developers must create a modular view, comprising of all applications, of the existing legacy systems. The view will guide them to deploy new functionality as a micro service appropriately.

Businesses can make a transition from legacy software to micro services and finally leverage the power of containerization as it provides the secluded environment for building tools without direct interaction with the other parts of the legacy software. Organizations can use distributed computing and launch the applications on the cloud.

It is better to have the words of caution before choosing to build micro service and new functionalities. If the legacy software is poorly designed and built then it becomes difficult to tie them with containers and micro services. In this scenario, the prudence lies in building a new product. If the applications are heavy data consumers then cloud migration no longer remains an easy task. It is better to give up an idea of modernizing parts of a system.

With all above-stated pros and cons of software modernization, business leadership can easily decide whether software modernization is a smooth ride or not.