Cloud

Legacy Application Replatforming

January 19, 2021 By: Alex Torres

Legacy application replatforming for enterprises requires significant financial and human capital, so the decision to replatform shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, in general, legacy system modernization is worth the investment

Today’s CIOs have identified complex legacy technology as a major bottleneck to digital-first business strategies, which have become even more important in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While legacy application replatforming is a long and winding road, most enterprises reap the benefits in the long, and sometimes even short, run.

Why enterprises replatform legacy applications

Legacy application replatforming might require migrating hundreds of legacy applications from an on-premise host to cloud-based infrastructure, or it might require enterprises to completely overhaul and rebuild monolithic legacy applications from scratch. 

Unfortunately, it turns out that some companies are stuck with legacy applications that have become too costly and difficult to manage. 

When an enterprise considers replacing or replatforming their legacy applications, they’re often concerned with speed to market, the relevance of their current technology, enabling superior digital services with a modern user interface, scalability, and meeting compliance or regulatory requirements, especially in industries like financial services.  

With legacy applications, many organizations run into problems related to maintenance, support, integration, and user experience. Indeed, legacy systems make it difficult to create responsive user experiences that are supported across the latest browsers.

The US Government, for instance, allocates less than one quarter of its technology budget to revamping legacy systems. This might explain why so many of its websites—including the 60-year-old IRS website that US citizens use to pay their taxes—offer an inferior user experience.

Your IT stack defines your business, so your applications should reflect the customer experience that your company hopes to deliver. Updating legacy applications is a business decision, not just an IT decision. 

Here’s an overview of legacy systems, legacy software, and the different approaches enterprises can take as they decide to replace or replatform their current legacy applications.

What is a legacy system? What is legacy software? 

Legacy systems are outdated technologies that are still being used to run critical day-to-day business operations. They lack IT support and struggle to keep up with an organization’s changing needs. Most legacy systems were built in the late 1990s or early 2000s, though some date back even further. 

Legacy software makes it difficult for your business to grow, shift, and adapt to the changing needs of your customers and employees. Like legacy systems, legacy software is generally at least 10 years old, cannot easily integrate with new tools, but may nonetheless function well enough to keep the business running. 

Legacy software modernization, then, is the process of updating or replacing inefficient, outdated legacy systems, software, and applications. Similarly, legacy system modernization can be defined as the process of updating your current IT stack to deliver faster applications and better connectivity in order to meet business goals.

Legacy Replatforming for Brick-and-Mortar Financial Institutions and Retailers  

Brick-and-mortar financial institutions, including banks like Wells Fargo, are focused on ensuring that they provide a secure, user friendly experience on their digital channels. Retailers, especially those that were founded before the digital revolution, are prioritizing building a multichannel e-commerce experience that meets rising customer demands. 

Many financial service institutions are knee deep in rewriting legacy applications built in business languages like COBOL—an object-oriented language built for business use—into languages that require fewer lines of code (like Java) to enhance readability. 

As they think about replatforming, retailers and financial institutions should engage in data-driven design thinking to ensure that they are building digital products that meet the needs of their user base.

What are the benefits of legacy application replatforming?

There are a number of advantages to legacy application replatforming, if performed correctly. 

    • The application will perform better, which means more reliability and fewer risks
    • Legacy replatforming can help to safeguard your application from costly data breaches and other external dangers
    • Both customers and employees become more productive when the user experience is enhanced
    • Scaling your company becomes easier when the IT stack is agile
    • Upgrading your legacy applications makes it easier to leverage Salesforce and other CRMs
    • In the long run, replatforming legacy applications reduces infrastructure costs and provides a more flexible development process 

Replacing Legacy Applications: Rehosting, Replatforming, and other Options

Some legacy applications can be rehosted, also known as “lifted and shifted,” in a new environment without too much effort. 

But legacy application replatforming becomes more difficult when an application is not easily cloud-enabled. In these cases, organizations must either replatform, rebuild, replace, or perform another major overhaul to the existing legacy systems. 

Today, many enterprises find themselves making a decision as to whether they should rehost or replatform their legacy application.

    • Rehosting a legacy application requires organizations to move the original application to another infrastructure. While many organizations are choosing the cloud, physical and virtual infrastructures are also options for rehosting. One advantage of rehosting is that it does not require teams to alter the code or modify key features, so the application’s functionality remains intact. The focus is on improving workflows, management, and processes; the stack is an afterthought.
    • Replatforming a legacy application involves migrating an application from one platform to another. Legacy application replatforming requires minimal code changes, though organizations still need to modify how the app interacts with third-party tools and databases. In general, the application’s code is modified so that it can integrate with the new cloud environment. This leads to more stability, reliability, and better functionality for operations, users, and other stakeholders. However, the code’s structure remains largely unchanged.
    • Replatforming tends to require some refactoring. This process involves restructuring, rewriting, and optimizing the current code to better interact with the new platform. While refracting necessarily leads teams to change the code itself, the application’s code structure, features, and functions remain the same. 

What if rehosting or replatforming are not the right solutions?

In the past, some applications were client-server based, which meant that they communicated using the end user’s network—not a third-party cloud vendor. Today, these legacy methods, which are usually not cloud enabled, have become inefficient, and some applications have failed to comply with new regulations. 

Occasionally, an organization has no choice but to keep an existing application that cannot easily integrate with the latest cloud infrastructure. In these cases, it might be necessary to rearchitect, rebuild, retire, or replace the legacy application. 

    • Rearchitecting a legacy application means altering the code so that it can integrate with a new application architecture that offers up-to-date capabilities and features. Before embarking on a rearchitecting project, teams need to analyze and understand the current architecture. The rearchitecing process comes with moderate costs and risks, and requires teams to recode major elements, eliminate unnecessary static content, and clean up the current code. They must do this while still ensuring that the user experience/interface remains familiar to current users. 
    • Rebuilding a legacy application means rewriting the application’s current code from scratch. This process makes it possible to take aspects of the app’s functionality and rewrite the application so that it integrates with a native cloud infrastructure. Rebuilding a legacy application works best for small and medium-sized apps, which often take up to a year to rebuild. Larger apps, especially those that have evolved over the course of a decade, can take years to rebuild. In general, replatforming is a cheaper option than rebuilding your application from scratch or replacing it.
    • Retiring a legacy application is the process of reducing the number of solutions by consolidating software applications. The process can involve rebuilding parts of an application, rearchitecting, or even replatforming, depending on the situation.
    • Replacing a legacy application requires an organization to completely eliminate the original application and replace it with one that meets the new requirements. While this costly approach tends to deliver superior results, replacing is usually avoided unless absolutely necessary, since it can cause problems for the teams that depend on the original application for day-to-day operations. 

No matter the case, moving your legacy application to the cloud almost always saves money in the long run. 

As enterprises approach replatforming legacy applications, they might start with smaller or medium-sized applications, with an eye on growth and scaling up as quickly as possible. 

If your organization is thinking about replatforming, take a look at Quantum Metric’s Digital Replatforming Playbook.

With our tips and suggestions, your organization can ensure that their replatforming project is a success. 

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