Tony Harris - June 8, 2020
7 Approaches to Legacy System Modernization

Legacy system modernization is a hot topic in business strategy right now. As the need increases for new technologies and intelligent business solutions, so too does the need for legacy system modernization. That means upgrading legacy systems, improving existing software, and otherwise bolstering operational efficiency.

This article will provide a quick recap of the basics and explain how they fit into a number of legacy system modernization strategies.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Legacy System?
  2. Problems with Migrating Legacy Systems
  3. Migrate or Modernize
  4. 7 Legacy Modernization Techniques
    1. Method 1: Ring-fencing APIs.
    2. Method 2: Relocation.
    3. Method 3: Restructure the application architecture.
    4. Method 4: Engage in simple patchwork.
    5. Method 5: Implement a support and retirement schedule.
    6. Method 6: Address technical debt.
    7. Method 7: Re-engineer the entire legacy system.
  5. DreamFactory and Legacy Systems

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What Is a Legacy System?

Legacy systems are any software, device, or other outdated technology still in use today. Developers often refer to technologies as “legacy systems” when they’re old, outdated, and incapable of providing the same level of service as comparable technologies available elsewhere. 

For example, some people still use pagers, but smart phones are far more effective means of communication. These outdated systems can be rife with security risks and can cause a host of additional problems down the line.

Problems with Migrating Legacy Systems

Whereas legacy system modernization approaches involve upgrading or updating a system, legacy system migration approaches involve switching to an entirely new system, which can be problematic for a number of reasons.

Issue 1: Decreased operational efficiency. Legacy system migration can result in the loss of critical business functions during the migration, resulting in potential revenue losses due to reduced operational efficiency.

Issue 2: Migration can be incredibly difficult. The difficulties of migrating the entire state and behavior of your system to a newer platform are far higher than simply upgrading a legacy system. However, a common solution to this problem is to simply use an iPaaS like DreamFactory during the modernization.

Issue 3: Behavior migration is not always an efficient use of resources. During a legacy system migration, you may be tempted to replicate the behaviors of your legacy system in the new system’s infrastructure. While this may be appealing in principle, it can often be time consuming and expensive. Moreover, this kind of practice can cause many of your current system’s problems to simply migrate alongside the system’s behavior, reducing the performance capabilities of the new system.

Migrate or Modernize

Now comes an important question: Which is better, legacy system migration or legacy system modernization? That depends on your specific goals. 

For example, if your goal is to abandon a large swatch of functions and old datastores, then migration may provide the best bang for your buck. On the other hand, if your goal is simply to improve the performance capabilities of your existing systems, legacy system modernization approaches will almost always be the better option.

7 Legacy Modernization Techniques

There are countless legacy system modernization approaches from which to choose and that number increases even more so when combined with powerful management tools like DreamFactory.

Each of these legacy system modernization approaches comes with its own risks and rewards, its own costs and benefits, and dos and don’ts. The best way to ensure that you meet your goals is to speak with legacy system modernization experts before committing to any one approach.

Method 1: Ring-Fencing APIs. Although APIs (application programming interfaces) have been around for years, they haven’t always been go-to solutions for modernization. However, that’s changing. By using an API management solution, you can easily improve your system’s security, facilitate real-time interactions, and much more. DreamFactory takes this a step further and provides tools for developing and integrating full-service REST APIs complete with universal HTTP connectors for servicing a number of legacy systems.

Method 2: Relocation. This is where the line between legacy system modernization approaches and migration approaches begins to blur. Sometimes, all it takes to modernize a system is to switch to a more modern platform to host it. That could mean modernizing and altering the current host, entirely relocating to a new platform, or some mix of the two. Once the relocation is complete, you can then run various tests to derive the necessary analytics that can show you what specific lines of code need recompiling or re-scripting.

Method 3: Restructure the application architecture. A decent analogy for this legacy system modernization approach is knocking out walls of an office space to facilitate greater communication between employees. This approach involves altering the actual architecture of an application’s code in order to better exploit various innovations in software and hardware design. For example, switching from an outdated or unsecured API to a full-service REST API can help maximize security and performance potential. DreamFactory is one of many platforms designed to do just that.

Method 4: Engage in simple patchwork. This is the legacy system modernization approach that a number of AAA gaming corporations use to ensure that their systems are always running at peak performance. This approach involves the use of quick fixes for smaller sections of an application, fixing bugs and similar performance issues in rapid succession, eventually building up to the overall modernization of the system from the ground up.

Method 5: Implement a support and retirement schedule. This kind of schedule enables you to forecast the need for modernization in specific areas of your application prior to the date when you actually need to make them. Once the scheduled date comes, if the current circumstances line up with the projections, you can proceed as scheduled with the projected changes to the code. Then, simply revise the schedule for accuracy and continue down the road.

Method 6: Address technical debt. Technical debt is the price you pay to revise software down the road after choosing a simple solution now. This is the proverbial kicking of the can down the road. By addressing technical debt before it arises, you can reduce overall costs by increasing the amount of short-term system demand. This can increase overall system performance in a timely manner without sacrificing future capital.

Method 7: Re-engineer the entire legacy system. This legacy system modernization approach should be a last resort only to be considered when the other legacy system modernization approaches listed above don’t work. In April of 2020, a team of researchers highlighted a number of reasons why re-engineering attempts may be prone to failure, the importance of trying nonetheless, and the potential rewards of this high-risk option. If you are able to swing the resources to restructure, rescript, and redeploy your entire application, you may just wind up with massive improvements to the majority of your application’s behavioral components.

DreamFactory and Legacy Systems

DreamFactory is one of the only platforms that enables a variety of legacy system modernization approaches through the use of a high-quality universal HTTP connector. That enables compatibility with an overwhelming number of existing APIs, facilitating simpler and smarter legacy system modernization.

For more information on legacy system modernization approaches, consult with the experts at DreamFactory and start your free trial today.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example database provided to you as part of the trial!

Create Your REST API Now