Today’s Shiny New Innovation will be Tomorrow’s Legacy

by Sue Dunnell.

A new car’s value depreciates 10% as it’s being driven off the dealer’s lot -and up to 20% by the end of the first year.

And it’s worse if you are investing in or trying to upgrade technology to keep pace with your company’s digital transformation.

Although IT has adopted agile development methodologies to speed up solutions, today’s microservices will be tomorrow’s legacy before we know it.

The days of delivering software in 18 months are long gone; in fact, IT is often currently using software that they were unaware of just 18 months earlier. In trying to evolve how they build software, many organizations have focused on open and extensible solutions.

In theory, that’s great.

But legacy systems still run critical business functions, and most were not built to be extensible. Gartner projects that in five years 90% of current applications will still be in use and technical debt will be consuming more than 40% of the IT budget. And IT still needs to extract or interact with the core value from these systems. Containers help accelerate development and interaction with some legacy systems by encapsulating software so it’s easier to move and automate interactions. And microservices help accelerate IT’s ability to deliver new functionality without having to make a major enhancement to existing apps.

But as one of the co-creators of Kubernetes said, the next legacy infrastructure is going to be a spaghetti ball of interconnected microservices where nobody really understands how they are connected together.

Rip and replace of legacy applications isn’t always the answer either. “Rip and replace is in many cases too costly, risky and time-consuming, and has a high impact on the business,” according to Gartner.

Business and IT are always in search of the next best thing, that elusive framework or technology that will be easy to adopt, implement, and maintain. And in the process, they’re tempted by new cool technology, but the lifespan of cool is shorter than it ever has been.

So what is IT to do?

Business outcomes should always take priority, not just the latest modern system or maintenance of legacy. And this should be the lens through which all investment decisions are made. Large software upgrades that introduce blackout periods where functionality can’t be introduced are not helpful to anyone. Instead, we can expose the business logic hidden away in our legacy systems, and simultaneously retire the most problem-ridden systems over time. This evolutionary approach to legacy modernization will ensure that technology spends are distributed wisely.

What IT really needs is INSIGHT—a deep dive across hybrid environments to understand how applications and assets are hosted, what their dependencies are, and how business policies, constraints, and requirements impact IT assets.

With a good view of current, actionable data, this insight reveals not only the relationships between legacy and new applications but the information gaps. This is the critical foundation for making good decisions, whether IT is migrating assets to the cloud, modernizing applications or infrastructure, or managing ongoing compliance, tech refresh or the ongoing application rationalization process.

IT is an environment of perpetual change, and change is difficult to manage. There will always be new technology, evolving business requirements, hosting sites, development methodologies as well as security, regulatory, and privacy issues. And there will always be the requirement to either integrate or make these new systems work with what already exists. At 60 years old, there are 220 billion lines of COBOL in production today, driving 80 percent of in-person transactions and handling $3 trillion in commerce. That’s quite a legacy.

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