All aspects of human life are susceptible to some degree of change but nothing comes close to the unpredictability and volatility of technological change. This change is evident in the disruption caused by emerging technologies in recent years.
These emerging technologies such as big data, cloud computing, mobile, and social media are forcing businesses to adopt agile approaches to meet evolving user expectations. As these new trends integrate themselves into the folds of technology and the business landscape changes drastically, it is no longer practical to rely on old legacy systems to keep businesses afloat.
For almost three decades there has been a growing need to modernize legacy systems, the transition to PCs from traditional mainframes, then to Client Server, to Web and finally the Cloud. Now, this exponential growth of technology has yet again caused a wave of disruption that calls for quick and complete modernization of legacy systems to accommodate newer technologies. Application modernization and migration is the practice of re-purposing and upgrading old legacy systems to make them competent and at par with new technology.
Legacy applications can negatively affect the operations of a business as maintaining them often requires excessive resources, time and management. The situation worsens when this legacy software becomes incompatible with the underlying system software or hardware. This makes it more feasible for businesses to modernize and migrate their applications to harvest the many benefits that it provides. With mature Cloud Services, cheaper technological solutions, and growing user interest, today's world is the perfect stage for such a change.
The principle of the exponential growth of technology dictates that the cutting edge technology of today might be the legacy systems of tomorrow. Legacy systems might have been effectively deployed in companies for decades, for example, mainframes that are still important for banking, pharmaceuticals and other applications. Then why is there a need to go through the tedious process of modernization?
Apart from the incompetence of legacy systems, there are some major trends that are behind the recent wave of modernization and migration of applications.
Open-source software has changed the game and given way to a host of free, customizable and reliable options for businesses. Open-source operating system's such as Linux have proved their mantle in the market and are widely used all over the industry. Furthermore, highly effective, and user-friendly programming languages have also made their presence known. This unique blend of low-cost amenities including applications, software, languages, and cloud services has drastically reduced the required capital for a modernization project.
Cloud technology is rapidly maturing and that can be seen by comparing the number of cloud-focused enterprises of today to that of a few years ago. Once there was a shortage of cloud experts but today we see that the number of experts on legacy technologies is dwindling whereas experts on new technologies such as cloud computing are on the rise. Cloud services such as Amazon and Azure are now generating high revenues and have gained the trust of large enterprises. This suggests that it is exactly the right time to migrate to a cloud-based service to reap the benefits that many huge enterprises are gravitating towards.
The users of today demand fast and highly interactive applications to assist them in their daily lives. They expect these applications to be updated regularly, with almost no downtime. This change in user requirements is encouraged through disruptive business models such as Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb. The customer of today is highly empowered, and to keep them the businesses need to grow accordingly. A user which requires services 24 hours a day, puts considerable pressure on technology providers. Furthermore, the market demands might also increase due to competitors upgrading to newer technologies. The solution, however, is not to build applications from scratch but to modernize or revitalize them so they can fit in the fast-paced world of today.
Diving headfirst into application modernization and migration can lead to unsatisfactory results and challenges. Usually, it is much more effective to take a well-structured and iterative approach. A good measure of risk assessment and evaluation is also necessary for a successful end-result.
This is an imperative step that involves evaluating the software and server to see which legacy systems can be modernized. Also estimate the overall plan, cost, and technology that will be required to achieve this transformation.
There are obvious risks and threats attached to modernization. These potential risks need to be accounted for and assessed before going forth with the process. There is a significant threat of data loss, which needs to be identified for appropriate elimination measures to be taken. Security breaches are also an issue, especially in high-risk systems. This calls for the identification of vulnerabilities in the system so additional security can be implemented in those areas.
Without necessary measures, data loss could be a potential side effect of modernization and migration. Strong protection can be implemented to reduce or eliminate data loss including better encryption strategies.
There are many approaches that can be taken for the modernization and migration of applications. The most traditional might include rewriting of code written in obsolete languages like COBOL in a more modern programming language or attaching an interface to an outdated application to extract its remaining value. However, various challenges are faced for applications that were never envisioned to be used in modern settings such as smartphones or tablets. For such applications, a complete and thorough modernization might be in order.
Depending on your legacy system and its flexibility, application modernization can be achieved through a number of different approaches.
Total transformation involves going all-in. Such a transformation includes rebuilding or rewriting the new technology from scratch. This approach is sometimes the only option when the existing system is not adaptable and flexible enough to incorporate new technologies. Since it has a high-risk factor attached to it, it should only be done when the cost of maintaining the legacy system surpasses the cost of complete transformation. Even then, there are potential threats such as failure of business operations and high investment loss if the modernization fails. So, even though a complete transformation could change the entire IT infrastructure, it should mostly be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
This approach involves the replacement of pieces of the legacy system with modern technology one at a time. This results in an overall less risky, piece-wise transformation that may not have a huge effect on business operations. The overall cost associated with the gradual replacement of legacy systems is quite less than a complete transformation. The replacement also provides the benefit of viewing the system as a set of components and making decisions to replace them with newer technologies accordingly. However, it is not completely foolproof as there can be integration issues due to components not being able to function well together. So, even though replacement does not entirely mitigate the risk, it still has a high success rate as compared to other approaches.
The reuse approach is also known as the duct tape approach is the agilest and small-scale approach to modernization. It involves addressing issues by making small changes in the system which can then be tested. This avoids any monumental changes in the core architecture of the system making it a low-cost and low-risk alternative to other approaches. With reuse, a series of small changes can make the entire system perform much better without costing a fortune. Reuse is arguably the most cost-efficient and effective approach to modernization especially for businesses with a low budget.
The overhead of managing outdated legacy systems and the inability to keep up with newer technologies makes it imperative for businesses to opt for modernization and migration. With meticulous planning, the right tools, and the appropriate consulting partner, application modernization and migration can yield results that surpass expectations.
So, despite all the challenges associated with it, modernization presents an exciting opportunity for growth and promises a new era of modern systems that can meet the ever-changing requirements of today. All this makes modernization and migration an essential practice to remain in the race to the future, and any business that fails to recognize its importance of risks being left behind.