Legacy modernization, a top priority for CIO for some time now has lately come under an increased scanner. Due to the increasing number of digital transformations, the expectations of users at all levels, and the need for efficiency, systems that can’t keep up have been thrust into the spotlight in ways that they haven’t been before now.
It has been clear for years that that modernization is necessary, but the time has long passed when it was expected to have happened. Those who haven’t modernized are falling behind not only in development and releases but also in their budgets - they are spending more money to stay afloat and perform at similar levels to their competition.
In the rush to modernize, CIOs and teams often resort to completely rewriting their legacy applications from scratch without knowing what’s inside - but they do not have to do this in every instance. In fact, in most situations, there is another viable option: understanding the software architecture for their applications in detail and finding out how and which of the legacy applications need to be changed to meet objectives.
Software architecture is, simply, the organization of a system, components and their interactions, including their operating environment and design principles. In many cases, it can also include the evolution of the software into the future.
Before investigating the underlying software architecture, one has to have a complete understanding of what it is.
Software architecture must be designed with a specific mission or missions in mind - from the very start. That mission has to be accomplished without hindering the missions of other tools or devices used within the same system. The behavior and structure of the application impacts significant decisions in all areas of the business, so they need to be appropriately rendered and built for the best possible results.
Simply put, software architecture does two distinct things:
It specifies how components must be organized;
It specifies how those components must interact.
At the most basic level, software architecture is important because it is essential to verify that all components conform to the current software architecture in order to prevent blocking issues, maintain quality performance levels, and determine the time and cost of modernization projects.
For migration or modernization projects (which are often large-scale projects with substantial budgets), automatic processing tools are designed based on the software architecture specifications and can be used during the project to determine how the application is developing and if it is meeting expectations.
It can also be used to educate newcomers and as a way to help architects define the new architecture.
Here’s an illustration to explain with visuals on how insights into the software architecture helps:
A mainframe application in which we want to isolate the data storage from business logic.
Technical accessors have been created to manage access.
Application programs must call the accessor instead of accessing data directly.
However, we can see using CAST Architecture Checker that there are still direct access between the Application layer and Data layers:
In general, here are some of the other most obvious ways intelligence of Software Architecture can help:
Through application security: Unsupported or insecure components, frameworks, or architectures may need to be rewritten or replaced with better or standardized solutions. With strong software architecture, those issues can be identified more rapidly and fixed at the same rate. This can also help in complying with GDPR and other regulatory requirements.
With expedited delivery: With modernization comes the expectation of quicker delivery of products and services. Increasingly, the need is not to make changes within one application, but rather to make concurrent changes through many applications. Sound software architecture helps teams to stay on pace and make changes as necessary, adhering to agile methodologies. In the end, this helps with a reduced time to market.
In keeping focus: Modernization projects need to be kept in focus - there is a desire to fix more and more throughout the process. Sometimes, fixing those problems can be the right choice, but other times it can impact quality and timelines in disastrous ways. The fixes may require more work than anticipated and can create other issues that will divert attention. To help, there are code-level tools that can evaluate the impact of re-engineering or changes within the software architecture.
'Fear of the unknown' typically slows down development and modernization efforts. Lack of intelligence pushes developers to work blind on systems too complex to visualize. Insights and intelligence into existing software architecture can help.
CAST's Imaging System, a new interactive application visualization and exploration software provides MRI-like visibility into most complex software systems. The Software intelligence provided can be used to look into the software architecture, how software components interact, then create a visual representation to provide insights, thus helping the modernization teams to better understand, support, and manage their strategy and execution.