Nothing really beats old friends or old wine. Unfortunately, unlike old friends and old wine, software doesn’t get better with age. Isn’t that laptop you’re using now better and more powerful than the one that you used a decade ago? Would you use a Windows XP to power yourZenBook Flip S? In the world of smartphones would you use a Blackberry?
However, change, in any form, is hard to handle. It’s quite the same with legacy products. A number of organizations have built their reputation and business on legacy products. But with the phenomenal advances in technology, maintaining these old applications can be time-consuming and expensive. It can be an even bigger challenge to find resources familiar with the technology used to build these legacy products. And given that we are in a software-defined world, there is no place for software products that are slow, bug-prone, and hard to maintain. It’s the end of the line for products thatcan’t be improved or integrated with new systems owing to their architecture, design or technology or products that are resistant to evolution. Additionally, investing in the support and maintenance of legacy applications leaves organizations with less room for innovation and impedes organizational agility.
Transforming a legacy product is only in the natural order of things. In this blog, we take a look at 5 steps to transform a legacy product.
- Assess the current IT landscape
A thorough appraisal of the existing IT landscape is the most important part of any modernization exercise. With this step, organizations can identify the existing pain points, map the current health of their application, and assess the application and the code performance. Along with this comes the task of mapping the resource requirements and technology considerations to factor into the modernizationstrategy. Organizations also have to map the current role of the legacy application, identify how its features contribute to the business, its usability, and thedesired performance,before reviewing the technology options and making the right technology choices.
- Evaluate the modernization options
After a thorough assessment of the IT landscape, the assets and resources at hand, we need to evaluate the modernization options. A legacy product can be modernized after considering the complexity, business need, timeframe, risk, and costs involved. On the assessment of these factors, the product modernization options that emerge will likely include refactoring, re-engineering, or new development.
Refactoring involves improving the internal code while making sure that the external behavior of the product remains unchanged. The focus here is mainly on code simplification and improving product maintainability.
Re-engineering involves reusing some parts of the existing product while adding other parts, and/or modifying the product substantially to create a more robust and more maintainable product.
New development is the more radical approach for product modernization. New development is done when the effort and complexity involved in transforming a legacy application are very high. Considering this is a more expensive proposition, new development is usually opted for when the potential rewards outweigh the costs and risks involved.
- Abstraction of dependencies
When transforming legacy applications, it is imperative to abstract and separate the application dependency on the underlying infrastructure. Security configurations, data sources, network configurations etc. all have to be abstracted from the infrastructure. The aim of doing this is to abstract the product functions into components that are capable of running anywhere. This makes it possible to move the application to different infrastructure combinations without having to change code.
The BDNA State of the Enterprise Report states that “Every piece of hardware and version of software that is not maintained regularly could be a gateway for unauthorized access.”
When transforming legacy applications, it is imperative to bake security into the product itself. During the transformation, security must be considered as an essential component of the entire application environment and it has to be integrated into the application right from the start.
This approach makes it easy to keep the application safe as soon as it is deployed, irrespective of the infrastructure. Transforming legacy applications in industries such as banking and the financial sector needs special care. Paying close attention to possible vulnerabilities, the products’ resistance levels towards cyber-attacks, harmful programs, and malware has to be assessed, identified, and rectified to ensure that the product is compliant with the latest security norms.
- Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment
When transforming legacy applications, it also makes sense to integrate it tightly with DevOps processes of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. This needs to be done in incrementally to ensure that a robust version control system, build system and all the associated essential tools are in place to automate builds. This helps ensure that source code quality management is enabled, and the deployment process is standardized.The aim is to prevent outages during deployment and also to ascertain that the product lendsitself well to instant deployment.
Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”. The main aim of legacy product transformation is to ensure that the value of the product on new platforms can be retained and that the product continues to meet the business needs of the future. Clearly, the transformation has its share of risks and rewards. However, in most cases, the rewards outweigh the risks substantially.