Legacy Application Modernization that Doesn’t Fly


While IT and software outages have become a staple of our modern existence, the recent focus on legacy application modernization seems to have brought the issue back into the limelight. I find that the media is quite cyclical in the attention paid to this issue, the current wave of coverage being driven (or should I say flown) by recent news coming from Boeing and British Airways.

Legacy application modernization, I believe, is the fundamental reason and common thread behind these recent issues, as well as some of the big IT outages in the last couple years at pretty much all the US airlines. And it’s not just the airlines, all enterprises are undergoing legacy application modernization programs at the moment, and this is where we tend to create the perfect storm to cock things up, as our British friends would say.

On the one hand, the legacy applications that truly run the business are complex, old, and not understood by the majority of the developers in IT. Whether through outsourcing, attrition, or team mobility, the institutional knowledge of legacy apps has a half life that’s getting shorter all the time.

On the other hand, we’re constructing modern toolchains, cloud-based container architectures, using DevOps practices and new development frameworks. Most dev teams only want to work in these modern environments, spurn any kind of legacy application understanding and can’t fathom that the API calls they make actually extend the transactions they are building deep into the entrails of those legacy applications.

And, of course, IT management still prefers to remain blissfully ignorant of the health and risk in the software their teams and vendors produce every day. Rare is the VP Apps or CIO who wants to uncover the filth, rot and gaping flaws in their applications, especially if some of those problems happened to have been caused during their tenure.

Legacy application modernization is the process of building new layers of functionality, while refactoring these legacy systems. It’s scary out there, folks.

The fact is, legacy application modernization is not a one-time event for any enterprise. The software built today will be legacy tomorrow. We will always be modernizing, reshaping and enhancing the layers of software we’ve built to run our core business. Entropy is not limited to the physical world. It’s a force equally relevant in the cyber world.

At CAST, we are the world’s leading experts on software intelligence – the ability for management and developers to have insight into their software from all perspectives, and all from the same source. Once in a while, as major software problems happen, we get asked for advice. Sometimes by enterprise tech leadership, sometimes by software developers, sometimes by analysts, and sometimes by media. This week the press wanted our opinion on the British Airways outage, last week it was Boeing’s fantastical quarterly loss – all due to a fundamental lack of software intelligence into their legacy application modernization programs. You can take a look at our comments in Information Age, Computer Business Review, VerdictSoftware Testing News, Aerospace Technology, and The Financial Times.

Given what I’m seeing in the field, unfortunately I see more frantic calls in the future from all the above, and probably more media coverage. If only our industry could learn to get proactive.

Learn how CAST can help unravel the complex legacy  black holes and accelerate your legacy application modernization.

  This report describes the effects of different industrial factors on  structural quality. Structural quality differed across technologies with COBOL  applications generally having the lowest densities of critical weaknesses,  while JAVA-EE had the highest densities. While structural quality differed  slightly across industry segments, there was almost no effect from whether the  application was in- or outsourced, or whether it was produced on- or off-shore.  Large variations in the densities in critical weaknesses across applications  suggested the major factors in structural quality are more related to  conditions specific to each application. CRASH Report 2020: CAST Research on  the Structural Condition of Critical Applications Report
Open source is part of almost every software capability we use today. At the  very least libraries, frameworks or databases that get used in mission critical  IT systems. In some cases entire systems being build on top of open source  foundations. Since we have been benchmarking IT software for years, we thought  we would set our sights on some of the most commonly used open source software  (OSS) projects. Software Intelligence Report <> Papers
Making sense of cloud transitions for financial and telecoms firms Cloud  migration 2.0: shifting priorities for application modernization in 2019  Research Report
Lev Lesokhin
Lev Lesokhin EVP, Strategy and Analytics at CAST
Lev spends his time investigating and communicating ways that software analysis and measurement can improve the lives of apps dev professionals. He is always ready to listen to customer feedback and to hear from IT practitioners about their software development and management challenges. Lev helps set market & product strategy for CAST and occasionally writes about his perspective on business technology in this blog and other media.
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