What is legacy modernization? Why should we be concerned with legacy modernization? Among the most difficult challenges information technology organizations face is the inevitable need to enhance or replace computing software and hardware. The word “legacy” is generally understood to mean old or obsolete, but some newer solutions implemented with modern technologies may also be viewed as “legacy” candidates if there is a compelling reason for the change.

By the same token, “old” doesn’t necessarily mean bad. If a solution functions reliably at a reasonable cost, replacing it may not yield a net benefit, especially when an opportunity cost is considered.

These are some useful criteria for determining if a solution, platform, or architecture needs modernization.

  • Is it fit for purpose?
  • Is it reliable?
  • Can it be supported easily?
  • Are operating costs reasonable? Do they need to be reduced?
  • Does the business need more capabilities or features?
  • Is the user interface acceptable?
  • Does it play nicely with other systems?
  • What are the known risks of continued use?
  • Can resources (e.g., computing power, storage) be augmented or removed easily?
  • Can it be adapted for future known and unknown business changes?

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s also important to keep in mind a broader context: All IT organizations maintain a wish list of legacy modernization opportunities but can typically fund a small fraction of those needs. Picking the right one(s) can be an arduous exercise, especially when complex corporate funding mechanisms are in play.

Sometimes it boils down to this: Companies may conclude that they don’t want to be in the IT business because it’s not a core competency or a regulatory requirement. “Modernization” in this context means companies no longer want the associated operational headaches and prefer to purchase services delivered through an RJ-45 port in the wall.

What Are the Key Elements of Legacy Modernization?

All consulting services purport to have a proven methodology for legacy modernization. The dozens or hundreds one can find on the internet all have value. They often work for simple and straightforward modernization projects. But we’ll share some wisdom with you: Every situation is different, and there is no single methodology that fits all situations. You may need to create your own.

At one end of the difficulty spectrum, a loosely coupled modular solution could be easy to modernize quickly.

At the other end of the spectrum, modernizing large complex architectures can be the stuff of nightmares and may take years to complete. Despite best intentions and efforts, such projects sometimes stumble; and occasionally they fail. Often, it’s due to this age-old problem: At the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know. (More on that later.)

There is no substitute for painstaking, trench-level work – and it’s especially hard if you don’t have supporting tools to automate that research. Each cost-benefit analysis for competing implementation alternatives also requires substantial effort, especially when considering intangibles that cannot be assigned a monetary value (e.g., flexibility, agility).

Gartner offers a useful menu of choices for modernization approaches:

  1. Encapsulate. Leverage and extend the application features by encapsulating its data and functions, making them available as services via an API.
  2. Rehost. Redeploy the application component to other infrastructure (physical, virtual or cloud) without modifying its code, features or functions.
  3. Replatform. Migrate to a new runtime platform, making minimal changes to the code, but not the code structure, features or functions.
  4. Refactor. Restructure and optimize the existing code (although not its external behavior) to remove technical debt and improve nonfunctional attributes.
  5. Rearchitect. Materially alter the code to shift it to a new application architecture and exploit new and better capabilities.
  6. Rebuild. Redesign or rewrite the application component from scratch while preserving its scope and specifications.
  7. Replace. Eliminate the former application component altogether and replace it, considering new requirements and needs at the same time.

Legacy Modernization in a Business Context

Legacy modernization investments are always considered in a business context. This is a partial list of typical business drivers:

  • Comply with regulations
  • Reduce costs
  • Become more agile
  • Provide new capabilities
  • Enable business process optimizations
  • Position the company to seize and exploit new opportunities
  • Enhance relationships with suppliers, partners, and customers
  • Increase employee satisfaction

The estimated cost of a complex modernization project is often shockingly high. IT executives must always be prepared to justify the expenditure in the context of expected business benefits.

How Does Orion Governance Add Value?

We mentioned earlier that legacy modernization projects stumble because “they don’t know what they don’t know”. In most cases, the lack of understanding of the legacy data environment is the stumbling block. For very old solutions, documentation is often incomplete or has not been updated consistently for many years. Critical knowledge is lost when employees with significant experience and wisdom depart. Downstream pockets of data and unknown transformations may have been in place for many years but were invisible to a legacy solution owner.

This is why Orion’s Enterprise Information Intelligence Graph (EIIG) is a valuable foundation for a legacy modernization journey. It’s a self-defined data fabric platform that provides the visualizations necessary to catalog, trace, trust and analyze data while promoting confidence, transparency, and governance of the enterprise landscape.

Using EIIG will yield these benefits for any legacy modernization initiative:

  • Risk reduction
  • Improved predictability
  • Time savings
  • Cost reduction

A terrific EIIG success story is described in this use case summary of a global financial services company modernizing its data warehouse.

How Can Orion Governance Assist Your Legacy Modernization Journey?

Orion Governance’s EIIG can save your legacy modernization project considerable time and effort by accelerating modernization/cloud migration projects in several critical ways including through understanding of the legacy data environment, impact analysis and change management, elimination of data bloat, and identifying reusable data to help set up migration priorities. EIIG can help accomplish all this in weeks, not months. Once installed, EIIG can also underpin a strong enterprise data governance program, a benefit that will yield a plethora of other benefits for your organization.

Are you ready to be the hero at your organization? Contact Orion today with any questions you may have about legacy modernization. Want to see a demo or proof of concept that shows how Orion Governance works with your data governance efforts? We’d be happy to schedule a call.

what is legacy modernization? An overview from Orion Governance

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