Making the most of Legacy Systems through Modernization

Over time, newer generations of software and hardware have replaced the older ones. While some things may improve or gain value with age, IT systems differ. As business processes have become more complex and expectations have grown, legacy modernization has become an increasingly important issue.

In the past, businesses had to choose between completely replacing old technology or working with outdated systems by adding new technology to extend their lifespan. However, the decision of adding a new layer resulted from the fear of the risks involved in the first option. As systems age, they become more expensive and challenging to support and maintain, making platform and application modernization a critical concern for organizations worldwide. As the business world evolves, legacy systems need help to keep up with the changes. Therefore, businesses must decide when to initiate modernization and what steps to take.

Opting for the “Out with the old and in with the new” approach can be challenging because the current system is deeply ingrained, and implementing a change could disrupt business operations. Legacy systems, deeply integrated into an organization’s value chain, contain valuable data and support critical business functions necessary for digital initiatives. Recent technological advancements have expanded the options available to IT executives, creating a significant shift in the dichotomy of complete shift or adding a new layer. Additionally, digital transformation priorities have increased the importance of legacy modernization.

Application modernization refers to updating an outdated legacy system with a modern platform architecture to derive new business value. This involves bringing the system up to date with the latest features and capabilities, which can vary depending on the specific legacy system and organizational challenges. The migration process involves transitioning legacy applications and adopting recent functionalities that align with business requirements, which digital transformation goals can drive. However, modernization is more than just replacing legacy systems, as various strategies exist to update and optimize existing systems to modern architecture. Legacy technology is often used because it still fulfills a need, regardless of age. The approach to modernization depends on the component’s health, as determined by its business fit, value, and agility.

When evaluating the overall health of an application, several significant variables must be considered. These include application modernization, which determines whether the application requires new functionality; process modernization, which involves updating the methods of application access and security; and infrastructure modernization, which consists in changing the deployment environment where the application runs. There are various reasons why modernizing legacy systems is necessary, including creating more efficient, scalable, and modern solutions; leveraging digital technologies; optimizing performance; enhancing the user experience; improving security; and building a flexible foundation for innovation.

Legacy systems can present a range of challenges that make modernization necessary:

  1. Systems may lack proper data insights and reporting metrics, hindering decision-making.
  2. Legacy systems can be extremely costly, as they often require highly skilled developers and are prone to application incidents.
  3. Security risks can be a concern with legacy systems, as they need to be regularly updated or patched and may need more support from manufacturers and vendors.

Legacy systems can impede agility and hinder a business’s ability to create new features and services. They may fail to keep up with technological advancements that can improve productivity and results. Cloud-based solutions, such as microservices and containerization, can help to alleviate these issues by providing a more flexible and efficient platform. By embracing modernization, businesses can enjoy cost savings, enhanced security, increased agility, and improved productivity.

Several technologies can assist in modernizing applications, including containers, the cloud, orchestration and automation, and microservices.

Containers are used for deployment and operation in the cloud, providing lightweight and consistent applications which can be effective in various architectures.

DevOps is a culture that emphasizes collaboration and automation between development and operations teams. Migrating legacy applications to the cloud is a common step in modernization, offering a range of options such as private, hybrid, and public clouds to improve scalability, lower costs, and increase agility.

Orchestration and automation are crucial for reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks. Automation allows for the set-up of repetitive processes to function on their own, while orchestration automates various tasks and creates workflows.

Legacy platforms are often built on monolithic, self-contained single-tier platforms, whereas microservices prioritize API-linked services. This enables companies to select customized solutions, providing scalability and meeting changing expectations from employees and customers.

The modernization process can be broken down into several steps, which include:

  • Conducting an assessment of the existing legacy system
  • Identifying new features, functionalities, technologies, and industry standards that need to be incorporated into the modernized system
  • Selecting a modernization approach such as migrating to the cloud, containerization, microservices, or serverless architecture
  • Executing the modernization plan using Agile methodologies
  • Testing and validating the modernized system to ensure it meets the new requirements. Organizations can reap significant benefits upon deciding to proceed with legacy application modernization. These benefits can be viewed through operational improvement or competitive differentiation lenses.

Conclusion

The outdated software or hardware system still in use is called a legacy system. Although it may be functional, it lacks scalability, preventing from connecting to new applications or solutions. Modernizing applications helps you stay up-to-date and make the most of digitalization. Although this transition has risks, it can improve your business processes and increase efficiency. Since each organization has distinct operations and processes, a unique modernization approach must ensure that the transition is valuable and worthwhile. As a result, the key is to understand your business objectives and make changes that can meet them.