Most companies that‘ve been in business a while are dealing with some form of legacy systems & it come at great cost; not just financially.
While many new startups put emphasis on being on the cutting edge of technologies and technological innovation, the reality for most companies that have been in business a while is that they are dealing with some form of legacy systems.
Legacy systems usually refer to mission-critical technology, which has been developed some years ago and has become outdated. This could refer to the hardware (e.g. on-premise servers instead of cloud computing), software (e.g. monolithic instead of microservices architectures), or very often a combination of both.
A study by Avanade found that modernizing your legacy software could lead to 14% increase in revenue. Outside of missing out on a potential opportunity, choosing to maintain legacy systems can be draining your resources. Here are three main reasons legacy software may be costing you.
Legacy systems require a significant investment in maintenance. According to a by the US Government Accountability Office (GOA), the US federal government planned a budget of over $90 billion for IT in 2019. About 80% of this amount was dedicated to operating and maintaining existing IT investments, including legacy systems.
There are multiple factors that contribute to this. On the one hand, older code tends to be lengthier and heavier — understanding the code used in old legacy systems can be a huge time-investment for your development team.
On the other, old technologies are often incompatible with newer ones , creating integration, development, and maintenance issues, as well as potentially creating vulnerabilities.
Newer technologies are designed to be maintained more easily, to increase the speed and flexibility of the development process. Cloud computing has become immensely popular in the past years, as it decreases the need for maintenance required for on-premise servers. Microservices allow for faster (and easier) development and testing than its monolithic predecessors which is widely seen in legacy systems. SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solutions offer multiple benefits in terms of cost, effort and flexibility to both the end-user and the business behind it, in comparison to traditional software installation models.
Legacy systems come with a lot of security risks and security breaches can be costly.
Technology incompatibility plays a big role in security gaps. As new technologies come in, older versions are no longer supported and maintained by the providers, which often leads to technology incompatibility and leaves them vulnerable to cyberattacks. At the start of 2020, Windows urged its users to migrate to Windows 10 , since Windows 7 is no longer supported and vulnerable to cyberattacks. In July 2020, Windows 7 still has a market share of over .
The above-mentioned outlines that out of the 10 most critical legacy systems, used by the US government, several use outdated languages, have unsupported hardware/software, and are operating with known security vulnerabilities. For more than half, the security risks were evaluated at moderately high to high.
And while the technologies are constantly evolving, so are the regulations. When it comes to securing data, and cloud computing requirements on companies are becoming stricter. One most notable example is GDPR, which regulates the way personal data is stored, processed, and shared. Building a system with those regulations in mind can be easier than updating a heavy and complex legacy system.
The recent global economic crisis caused by Covid had an unexpected consequence — it exposed the shortage of COBOL developers. The US unemployment agency legacy systems were unable to cope with the sudden increase in usage and more COBOL developers were needed to help out. And yet, engineers working with COBOL are somewhat scarce.
While this is a rather specific example, it does highlight a significant issue when it comes to legacy systems — finding the talent you need to maintain them.
Finding engineers, who not only have the expertise, but would agree to work with outdated technologies can be a huge challenge, if not in some cases an impossible task.
Many engineers don’t have recent or any experience working with old technologies. But even more so — with the abundance of other opportunities, many will choose not to. They are aware that working on an old stack can hinder their competitiveness in the job market going forward.
Choosing to maintain your legacy systems could become a huge cost if you lose your development team or your competitive advantage in hiring more talent. The good news is — while many engineers are not interested in maintaining legacy systems, modernizing legacy software presents a more appealing challenge.
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