How to Decide Which Approach is Right?
When we inquired how IT managers were dealing with legacy system challenges, we found they typically chose between five approaches: (1) keep maintaining the legacy system, (2) replace the legacy system with a COTS package, (3) replace by rewriting, (4) modernize the legacy application with simple add-ons, and (5) modernize and convert the legacy application to a modern language and database. Below is a graphical representation of these five approaches.
Option 1 – Maintain It
• Continue using as is – minimal changes
• Focus on reducing maintenance costs
Options 2 and 3 – Replace It
• COTS Product – modifying internal processes or the product to achieve conformity to business needs
• New Development – scrapping the old system and building a new one
Options 4 and 5 – Modernize It
• Relatively simple non-invasive changes such as adding web-style user interfaces, dashboards or portals
• Complete migration / conversion to modern languages and databases, typically with automated tools
How to decide which approach is right?
When Auctor inquired as to how the IT managers chose between the five approaches, they were quick to respond that in most cases they did not know enough about the legacy system to make a decision with complete confidence. They found themselves in a very uncomfortable situation. There were no resources remaining to provide ongoing support and maintenance, and it was difficult to find anyone with knowledge in the legacy system technology and the application logic. The system documentation was either non-existent or inadequate. Many were faced with having to make a critical decision on the best path forward to the replace the legacy system without the insight and understanding of the legacy system they depended on. Many confided they typically made the decision that carried the least amount of risk.
Lesson 1: If the path is uncertain, you start with complete documentation.
To help IT managers address this situation Auctor believes complete documentation of the legacy system is the first step. Auctor’s methodology and tools support conducting an automated assessment and creating complete documentation of the legacy system. The artifacts generated by our Assessment and Documentation tool produce quantifiable data and new insight into the architecture and condition of the legacy system you are dealing with. With these artifacts in hand, IT management can make decisions with confidence regarding the best path forward.
Lesson 2: If the path is replacement, then you need to know the business rules.
If it is decided that replacing the legacy system is the best option then IT managers would utilize the Business Rules Extraction component of the tool suite. The BRE tool output becomes the foundation for the requirements to rewrite the application or find a COTS package. A client going down the replacement path can reduce the risk factor and drive down the costs by making the legacy system artifacts available to the vendors during the selection and pricing process. If you decide to replace the legacy system by rewriting or moving to a COTS package, there would be no reason to utilize the third component of our tool suite, Modernization and Conversion.
Lesson 3: If the path is modernization, utilize the third tool in the suite for conversion.
If it is determined that the best path forward is to modernize and convert the legacy system to a modern language and database then implementing the third component of our tool suite, Modernization and Conversion is the last step on the journey. The Modernization and Conversion tool will consume the artifacts from the Assessment and Documentation, and Business Rules Extraction to generate a new system. The target system is not a line-by-line conversion and follows industry best practices for building a multi-tiered application architecture. The target code is 100% native with no proprietary run-time libraries or APIs, nothing that results in recurring expenses.
How Auctor can help:
As illustrated in this diagram the Legacy Modernizer tools are applied progressively, in relation to a client’s efforts and direction in modernizing its legacy systems. Each tool is used after, and builds upon, the application of the previous tool, and allows you to decide whether and at what pace you want to proceed.