Love That 'Legacy'
Like it or not, old code is still around, and it needs special care.
Quiz: What is "legacy" software?
a. Cobol/mainframe code
b. Software written before 1990
c. Applications that have become obsolete
d. Poorly documented systems that no one wants to touch
e. Secure, reliable and effective stuff that just keeps running, year after year
Interviews with a number of IT managers turned up all of those definitions, and more.
"Legacy is a word I despise," says Frank da Cruz, an IT manager at Columbia University in New York. "People say 'legacy' and it's like, 'Oh my god, how could you possibly use that old garbage?' But what it really means is that it was written by smart people a long time ago and it really works, instead of being the latest bug-ridden, bloated piece of garbage from some company that has only teenagers working for it."
However you define legacy software, IT people say they know it when they see it, and they know it didn't all go away during Y2k remediation. It's the stuff with poor documentation, spaghetti code stirred by too many cooks, and processing cycles more appropriate for 1970s ways of doing business. And it's definitely not the stuff you tell college recruits about when they come looking for Java, Web services and grid computing.
Frank da Cruz, an IT manager at Columbia University
Image Credit: Manuello Paganelli
But even the most enthusiastic of the legacy loyalists acknowledge that old software often presents special challenges. They employ a number of tricks -- both managerial and technical -- to keep the bits flowing in those old pipes.
Not Older; Better
For Paul Grant, director of retail systems application development at Tower Records in West Sacramento, Calif., "'Legacy' is when the technology can no longer fit the business needs." By that definition, Tower's retail point-of-sale software, some 1 million lines of Cobol code dating to the mid-1980s, isn't legacy software.
Although Tower is modernizing it in various ways - by adding Web services interfaces to other systems, for example -- the underlying Cobol application is likely to serve the company for years to come, Grant says. "A lot of people get caught up in the wow and sexy stuff, but I've been a proponent of keeping what we have rather than starting all over, because I don't see the benefit," he says.
But it would be a mistake to think that Tower Records got
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Case Study: Murphy USA Gains Application Visibility Without Agents Murphy USA has more than 700 stores that share a 10Mbps VSAT link. So when something goes wrong with their applications, it's the...
- Infographic: Converged Infrastructure Benefits This Infographic quantifies the savings organizations are realizing from increased deployment speed, higher availability, and lower annual costs.
- CIOs Deliver Productivity Breakthroughs with Intelligent Digital Signage Retailers have long recognized the influence that digital signage provides over a shopper's point-of-purchase decision making process.
- Going Paperless? Here's What You Need to Think About As makers of some of the world's most popular PDF solutions, we often consult with businesses & governmental agencies that have the goal...
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- Building Tomorrow's Infrastructure Listen to this podcast to discover how Crider Foods worked with PC Connection to update their IT infrastructure, while maintaining compliance and control. All High Performance Computing White Papers | Webcasts