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Overcoming Legacy Functionality through Continuous Change and Application Evolution

By BDS, Tuesday, 9th April 2013 | 0 comments
Filed under: Legacy Technology, Continuous Change.

Overcoming Legacy Functionality

IT organisations have many options available for using improvements in new hardware, software, tools and services to overcome the constraints of legacy functionality. For example, they may optimise it or they may simply replace it with more efficient and modular code.

One transitional strategy might be to simply wrap web interfaces around existing legacy systems. This makes it easy to maintain existing code whilst building a migration route via Web services - gradually better Web Services Processing is being built into the “new” application.

Migrating/Rewriting Legacy Applications: Issues

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There are a number of important issues to take into account when considering migrating or rewriting legacy applications. Firstly, consider the cost of replacement versus service-enabling the old code. It may be practical to replace legacy business processes in their entirety with selected modules of a well written, modular or component-based modern application.

There are, of course, other considerations. One must take into account not only the cost of service-enabling the legacy application, but how well it supports the current business need and how it will cater for future requirements.

AWARDS-BA³: Three Tiered Application

AWARDS-BA³ was designed from the outset to be a highly modular system. As authors of AWARDS, its predecessor, Brentech Data Systems were keenly aware of the migration issues their own customers would face.

At the outset, the new solution was designed as a tiered application i.e. the application was designed to have at least three layers consisting of the Business Logic, Database Layer and User Interface. This policy means that when, for example, it is necessary to run the applications on a Microsoft Sequel Server Database rather that a Progress Database, you simply replace the Progress DB access layer with its Microsoft Sequel Server equivalent. Similarly, ongoing changes to the UI (User Interface) have no impact on the business logic or database services part of the application.

Current AWARDS Users: Migration

What, in practice, has been the effect of this three tiered design on Brentech Data Systems own customers? “It really is irrelevant at this stage.” says John Brennan, Managing Director at Brentech Data Systems. “AWARDS-BA³ was never simply an upgrade for AWARDS. It was designed to provide a wide range of new capabilities and we made this clear to our customers as we developed the new product. However, as we revealed the new functionality in AWARDS-BA³, some customers wanted the immediate benefits without having to change their entire application. Our hybrid approach provided them with the perfect solution."

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Brentech Data Systems hybrid approach offered an ideal solution. They included Web Services in the legacy application and offered the new AWARDS-BA³ modules as an integrated part of their existing application. “Apart from the technical interest from the IT guys, few customers know or care about what lines of code are running their business.” says John.

“Yes, they know that they are using Microsoft.Net and some components of AWARDS-BA³, but they see it merely as extending the functionality of a product they have been using for up to 20 years.

For example, we have Business Alerts issuing emails or SMS messages to users and customers. We also have Central Orders received in many different formats via EDI, broadband, dial-up and file transfer, which are then being supplied either locally or via a third party. All of this processing takes place online, in real-time, and I suspect that the biggest impact that they are aware of, is that it happens faster than ever before”.

Hybrid Solution: Results

Brentech Data Systems are delighted with the results – the modular, component-based design of their new product enhances and prolongs the life of the AWARDS application indefinitely. The hybrid solution works efficiently and effectively, providing existing customers with the best of both worlds. Interestingly, Brentech Data Systems have now a different problem to consider – earlier plans to “End of Life” AWARDS in 2015 have been shelved and extended support plans are being put in place. “This is a nice problem to have.” says Brennan, who would rather have customers worried about extending their AWARDS applications rather than planning to replace them.

Strategy: Continuous Integration

Brentech Data Systems plans to offer the same migration path to customers with competing legacy applications. “Because we can now economically scale down to smaller businesses, we have decided to offer what we now term our “Continuous Integration Strategy” to other platform users. For example, those already on a Legacy Sequel Server or .Net platform like Navision can gain immediate benefit from adding AWARDS-BA³ functionality to appropriate parts of their business.”

“There is no longer a reason for users of such legacy applications to feel trapped or entrenched” states Brennan. “People are now taking a more holistic approach to integration and implementing data services platforms. We can help evaluate their existing systems and offer an inexpensive and secure integration strategy to enhance their systems. In my view, continuous change, evolution and mobility are the cornerstones of a modern IT business strategy”.

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