What to do with Legacy systems?

18 July 2014

I went to an excellent event a few weeks ago, hosted by a Vendor, Disty, Cloud Provider and Consultant, that aimed to discuss the cloud marketplace and how its evolving. All round interesting stuff, notably regurgitating lots of previous materials, but each time its repeated it gets more real. Content for another blog I feel. The one statistic I noted down though was that “6% of all systems are unable to migrate to the Cloud”, given by a large Vendor as part of their discussion around the future of their cloud platform.

This triggered an interesting thought process in my mind. I am a massive advocate of the Cloud Services Brokerage concepts and see the future of service provision in integration of multiple platforms rather than centralised delivery, but the realism of a portion of IT services NEVER reaching a third party delivery model perplexed me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but if you believe all the marketing and hype in the press there won’t be a computer outside of Amazon in 18 months time…..

But its real. Sad but true, I have a friend who works with a large mainframe software house. Down the pub we were talking about how all the large banks and 1970’s forerunners of IT systems are now lumbered with a legacy of mainframes which they can’t unpick from their world. The risk and timescales associated with changing the IT platforms for these systems, in the context of regulatory frameworks, data management and 50 year old business processes, are so immense it could take another 50 years to remove them. And we’ll be on “Great Grandson of Cloud” by then (data processing using spare capacity in the brain of specially cloned humans, Matrix styley)..

So the true IT Service delivery model of the future has to embrace legacy systems properly. Providers need to have established an answer to “What do I do with my old AS400 in the corner?” that doesn’t involve an application migration or even version upgrade in some cases. Networks still need to be the most robust part of the equation, followed by either data level or application level migration techniques to integrate business process flows seamlessly without impacting the Client. And Service Providers need to make sure the integration techniques are fully managed and monitored, and with these as services, use them as their differentiator to show throughput/efficiency data for business transactions.

The reality of legacy systems being a legacy of early adopters 50 years ago is upon us. Its not insurmountable, but in an industry where the marketing says its easy, some people are in for a shock. But at least it keeps us all in a job I suppose!

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