Why your legacy apps don’t need to stay in the past

Ask any nostalgist and they’ll tell you they don’t make things like they used to. Purchase a TV thirty years ago and you’d know it would last for many years. It seems applications developed back in the day also had staying power. I was speaking with a business the other day who said they were still using apps developed in the eighties and they continue to deliver value to this day.

The problem is that many apps currently being used in the enterprise weren’t built for the modern cloud-orientated era. That means although the apps still work, they are often seen as the ball and chain holding businesses back from moving everything to the cloud. And if you have this kind of tech debt getting in the way of full cloud adoption, things usually seem quite complicated and very messy. Should you start from scratch with new cloud-native applications, should you find a way to bring your old apps to the cloud, or should you leave everything as it is?

For apps that have served you well, it might be easy to take the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. At least then, you could focus all your attention on cloud-native deployments for all your new applications. But with so many benefits of cloud-based applications, including scalability, faster updates and development, and moving from capex to opex, it’s worth considering for all applications. Yes, that includes even the old, creaky ones.

Research from Gartner found that currently 81% of IT budgets are spent on traditional, non-cloud IT. Skytap recently held a roundtable event with financial services companies discussing their own cloud journeys. That figure rang true to them; some even said the number was too low to reflect their current reality. And if we’re spending so much on legacy, there’s very little to invest in innovating to prepare for the future.

Businesses need to find a way of bringing together new apps and legacy apps in a financially viable way that unlocks the potential of new technology. The mistake that many firms make is they talk about ‘a’ cloud when in fact, they should really be using the word in a plural sense. All apps are different and when we use a multi-cloud strategy, we can address the unique aspects of each app. A one-size-fits-all cloud approach is usually fraught with problems.

Skytap recommends a conversation where instead of asking ‘when’ a company should move to the cloud, the question should in fact be ‘which’. Which clouds are the most appropriate for which applications? Once we can answer that question, we can then start to look at the best pathway to modernise legacy applications in a way that supports business needs, not tech trends.

Between a rock and a hard place?

Innovation takes place in the cloud, there’s no doubt of that. But much of today’s business runs on legacy systems. And because the area of new innovation is the exciting and usually profitable part of the industry, suppliers are primarily selling products that service that need. It’s leaving CIOs frustrated because they are working on legacy-related problems that the industry doesn’t seem interested in solving for them. Sure, many of the cloud vendors will suggest rewriting the old apps from scratch in the cloud but that is much easier said than done. The cost of doing this is high and carrying out the procedure is often impossible because of the way legacy apps are reliant on each other to function.

Another alternative is to ‘lift and shift’ the traditional apps to the cloud. This is a good idea in principle as it gives some cloud benefits to existing apps. However, this usually provides no greater agility or flexibility to the business. Add to this the fact that most Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service offerings aren’t designed to handle the architecture of traditional applications, so costly and risky reworking would still be necessary.

Skytap is unique in that we ‘lift and extend’, first by migrating traditional apps to our cloud unchanged, then by enabling customers to modernise apps over time. It’s an approach that provides the flexibility of operating in the cloud and the advantage of opex instead of capex. Most importantly, this approach fuels innovation by enabling teams to safely adopt modern agile and DevOps processes and cloud-native services.

One major bank I spoke to recently said that part of the issue at many businesses is that CIOs aren’t aware this kind of approach is available. So, they continue down pathways that are extremely cumbersome and expensive. We think software innovation can and should take place in the cloud today, and that shouldn’t be hindered by tech debt. When we migrate and modernise apps, we enable businesses to move faster than ever. They can provision an entire infrastructure at the click of a button and scale up and down according to the company’s requirements.

Many traditional apps have stood the test of time but that doesn’t mean they’re fit for the future. That future is cloud and we want to help every business evolve from where they are today, to the cloud-driven innovation they’ll need tomorrow.

If you’re interested in discussing this topic in-person, we’d love to see you at one of our upcoming events:

Join our email list for news, product updates, and more.