Despite the last decade of articles proclaiming the end of the legacy application, many businesses are still struggling with inherited technology that’s no longer fit for purpose. Fortunately, that pain could soon be alleviated – thanks to the rapid adoption of API-driven microservices, the idea of a service delivery platform which can embed cloud-native capabilities into traditional business processes and applications, is now a reality. And although the cloud isn’t quite yet the de facto way for businesses to consume and deliver digital services across all industries, the tipping point is within sight. Cloud has enabled enterprises and tech companies alike to discover innovative advancements in the area of data analytics, automation, and AI. Even better, it has allowed all of this to come together under one roof as developers look to modernise those creaking legacy assets.
A new, cloud-based service delivery platform means that, for the first time, application architects have a way of meshing and blending applications with transformative capabilities, without having to completely redesign or rewrite legacy application code. The platform also offers designers and developers a way to take advantage of the value locked up in legacy assets by infusing new data driven capabilities and enabling multi-channel access. However, building and operating such a platform isn’t easy for all organisations – here are just a few of the key considerations that need to be handled before businesses can start reaping the benefits:
It’s not surprising that many enterprises are wary of fiddling around with legacy application code that’s been running ‘just so’ for years. A spate of recent high-profile disasters following botched migrations show how badly such tinkering can go if not done properly, and in many cases the risks far outweigh the potential benefits.
Modern service delivery platforms get around this as they provide a foundational capability for containerising all kinds of software assets, which should be the first step taken by organisations when looking to update or adapt legacy assets. Containers encapsulate an entire application / service component, including all of their dependencies, and therefore lend themselves to be easily ‘contained’ and managed. Such modular design means that any tweaks can be made and analysed in a safe environment before being rolled out on a broader scale. This means that legacy software can be upgraded without running the risk of falling victim to an unexpected and nasty surprise.
Secondly, by bringing in a cloud-based service delivery platform, firms gain the ability to mesh and infuse modern cloud-native capabilities with containerised legacy assets. This means that range of use cases can be expanded dramatically, beyond what they were initially designed for such as multi-channel access or data analysis. A well-designed service delivery platform provides both service registration and service discovery functionality which can enable legacy software to be meshed with cloud native services and other containerised assets to create composite services.
Once legacy assets have been containerised and blended with cloud functionality, the final stage is using these capabilities to reimagine business processes for efficiency and transformative effect. A cloud-based service delivery platform, coupled with well-functioning legacy assets can create far more dynamic business processes, i.e. ones that can respond to events in real-time and can reconfigure themselves to adapt to new data. For example, a legacy business process regarding order processing running on a mainframe can be transformed to support new capabilities – such as predictive inventory management or develop the elasticity to support demand without a full rewrite of legacy software.
A legacy to treasure
Despite all of the naysayers, there is still huge value locked up in many firms’ legacy assets and applications. Although firms have little choice about making the digital migration shift, those that do so carefully and with a view to retaining as many advantages as possible from their legacy tech will outdo those that try to move too quickly and scrap everything. IT migrations are the quintessential case of needing to make haste slowly, and through cloud-based service delivery platforms, businesses now have the tools to seamlessly make that transition.
Madhavan Krishnan is vice president of Cloud and DevOps Solutions at Virtusa, provider of end-to-end digital transformation and IT outsourcing services