Adding to legacy apps remains popular: study

Putting new front-ends on old systems is still common practice

A study of concerns about legacy IT has found that organisations are building on existing systems rather than looking for totally new technology.

The survey found respondents have moved away from IT-centric considerations, such as cost savings and platform consolidation, as their primary focus.

Instead, organisations are more concerned with business issues such as real-time access to legacy data, agility, and flexibility.

In addition, respondents no longer look to rewriting, replacing or outsourcing as the primary strategies for dealing with legacy systems.

Modernisation is now the overwhelming preference, according to the report released by Software AG, titled Customer Survey Report: Legacy Modernisation, last month. The survey garnered 247 responses from 183 Software AG customers across North America and Europe.

The survey also found more than 60% of respondents were “very” or “extremely” concerned about “the flexibility of this [legacy] system to be quickly modified to meet changing business requirements.”

Nearly 60% of respondents were very concerned about real-time interaction between “this [legacy] system” and other systems to support business process automation.

Software AG director Steve Keys says legacy systems remain a significant part of many companies. “We’ve found [many] large organisations have decided to retain rather than replace legacy systems; the SOA trend has a lot to do with this shift in attitude,” he says.

However, businesses have always been reluctant to ditch their investments, and the availability of legacy integration middleware from the likes of IBM, BEA, Sun and Tibco have enabled IT to breathe life into legacy systems for more than a decade.

IBRS senior analyst Kevin McIsaac says while maintaining legacy systems is often an expensive decision, the IT shops of many global corporates and government departments have been built by integrating new front ends into old systems.

“Maintaining legacy systems can be very expensive and time-consuming but it has been done for 15 years so its certainly nothing new,” McIsaac says.

“Net banking is an obvious example where some new web front-end functionality has been written and overlaid over a legacy transaction system.”

McIsaac says Singapore Airlines built a Java front end for its aged IBM transaction processing facility (TPF) for its customers and staff, while Qantas runs its core booking system on a legacy mainframe.

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