Ciber offers the allure of modernizing legacy applications

For all those hundreds of legacy enterprise applications, solutions like Ciber promise to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the cloud and mobile age

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Ciber is a global IT consulting company with some 6,500 employees in North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific, now approaching $1 billion in annual business. The company is a consulting house that specializes in working with its clients to deliver specific technology solutions. Recently, however, Ciber seems to have come to a realization: A huge number of existing organizations have legacy applications in daily use that are desperately in need of modernization. But there lies a quandary — if you're a CTO with a legacy app portfolio, do you invest the time and expense to rewrite those applications to be cloud-ready, or do you leave them in situ and simply focus on greenfield application opportunities.

This has certainly been the approach historically, with IT departments meekly accepting the fact that shifting existing apps is just too painful and too hard and thus adopting a so-called bimodal approach toward IT. Maintain existing apps in place, and build new apps in the cloud.

Increasingly there has been another way of dealing with the legacy application conundrum, a rise of third-party platforms that offer the exciting ability to reconfigure all those existing applications such that they are cloud and mobile ready, but without the time and complexity that full rewrites take.

There are two main approaches to this reconfiguration. The first is taken by platforms such as Capriza that essentially wrap the existing applications with a layer that effects mobilization. This is a great solution when the value proposition centers around mobilization and IT decision-makers are happy to leave the applications on legacy infrastructure. But what about when a total tech refresh is desired?

This is the problem that Ciber is trying to resolve with its Momentum platform.  Ciber’s solution re-platforms applications, delivering code that the company promises is 80% to 85% software-generated without any proprietary lock-in or additional software burden. The net result, according to Ciber, is massive efficiencies, customers report saving 60% of the time versus traditional, manual and tool-based conversion.

“CIOs identify application modernization as a top initiative and investment priority,” said Michael Boustridge, president and CEO of Ciber. “Until today, application modernization was predominately a people-based model and involved laboriously rewriting software. Ciber Momentum automates the process by rapidly transforming outdated legacy applications into cloud, mobile and digital-ready business solutions.”

MyPOV

Conceptually, Ciber Momentum sounds like the holy grail — fully functional, yet cloud- and mobile-ready apps without the massive development overhead. I fear, however, that like all good fairy tales, the Ciber story has a dark side. While I have to admit that I haven't used Ciber to reconfigure applications, I have come across approaches like this before, and they tend to suffer from similar issues: a lack of fidelity and an underwhelming grasp of modern mobile functionality.

You see, the very value that a mobile application brings is the ability to leverage the powerful sensors and APIs within today's mobile devices — location, proximity, different communications protocols, etc. Simply moving a legacy application to a mobile device might yield an application that "works" on a mobile device, but it is unlikely to deliver an application that truly leverages what a mobile device can offer.

If you're a CTO and your CEO is screaming at you to provide mobile access to your legacy applications, Ciber can be a very useful tool. But I fear that any CEO screaming "mobilize my apps" is barking up the wrong tree. Forward-looking CEOs will be asking their IT departments to repurpose and reimagine their applications within the context of deeply functional mobile devices — and that is a very different conversation.

Ciber certainly has an opportunity and, yes, it does help organizations take their first tentative steps into a mobile world. But whether it is enough is a question that largely rests on an individual's perspective on the future rate of change within organizations. For me, while Ciber is interesting, it's not enough to really move the dial.

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