This post is co-authored by Youssef Serghat, a Solution Architect at Dell Digital Business Services
Dell Digital Business Services has helped enterprises integrate their systems with the leading enterprise integration Dell Boomi iPaaS platform. The adoption of iPaaS platforms has enabled organizations to support a wide variety of enterprise integration scenarios, including B2B, EDI, web services and industry-specific standards such as HL7. Organizations that have embarked upon digital transformation by embracing and using a combination of cloud services have seen a dramatic improvement in their business agility and an increase in their operational efficiency. However, some of these same organizations have also seen an increase in the operating cost of their legacy systems.
Over time, some organizations have integrated their legacy systems with other applications, using a combination of proprietary and open source ESB platforms. But when it comes to legacy systems they have limited the use of these integration tools for protocol adaptation and data transformation. Once the data is transformed, it is then handed to the legacy application where all business logic, business rules, and heavy computing are performed. This strategy has many drawbacks.
Historically, legacy applications have been mainly developed with little notion of integrating with external systems, these kinds of applications are called “stove-piped applications,” as they don’t have well-defined points of integration or interfaces in which synchronization of information can be done with other systems. This makes it difficult to integrate into an overall SOA infrastructure. Also, when new functionality is needed for a legacy application, it is implemented within the same application. For example, when a new Trading Partner (TP) needs to be on-boarded, all business logic and business rules specific to this TP are implemented within the same application’s code logic. Some of the drawbacks of this strategy include:
- An increased complexity of legacy applications with new code base, and additional resources and licenses needed to be purchased to support worst-case scenarios, resulting in excess capacity that often goes unused.
- A continued use of legacy applications as stove-piped, with no point of integration and no good support for an overall SOA enterprise.
- An increased complexity and no improvement in time of on-boarding new TPs. The implementation of business rules related to TPs and the incorporation of the new logic is performed in sequence, resulting in a long queue of TPs waiting to be on-boarded.
- An inability for the application to take advantage of outside services and applications that exist in the enterprise or in the cloud.
Legacy systems have been supporting critical business functions for many decades across many verticals. They handle billions of online transactions every day and will continue to play a critical role in business. Replacing these legacy systems is a major challenge, which most organizations are not willing to assign any budget or people toward. However, with the help of Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) platforms and web services, it is possible to unlock the operations and processes of these stove-piped applications; extending their capabilities and exposing their services.
With the establishment and definition of points of integration for legacy applications, it gets easier to extend new functionality. New functionality is implemented outside the legacy code and handles most of the new business logic, business rules, and complex processing. The remainder of the process steps is then taken over by the legacy application. Establishing well-defined points of integration for the legacy application is critical here. The new services should be integrated with the legacy application at the last possible point of the process flow, where embedded functionality in the legacy application is needed to continue the process or save the data.
In addition to using message queues in delivering messages from new business processes to legacy applications, legacy application services and processes can be wrapped into web services and exposed to the new processes.
The newly designed services and process flows can be enhanced by the use of Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS), allowing for a centralized management of rule assets; enabling business users to define, manage, and change their domain rules without affecting the application development code.
Over time, not only new functionality is implemented in this fashion, but also existing functionality originally implemented within the legacy application can be progressively exported to be part of new services. Some of the advantages of this strategy include:
- The complexity and CPU-intensive computation are reduced in the legacy applications. CPU cost, software licenses and maintenance fees continue to be more expensive for legacy systems.
- The new services are developed and tested in parallel and are implemented using the latest open source technology that may not be accessible from the legacy systems.
- The use of BRMS improves the organization’s agility, reduces maintenance costs and engages business analysts and subject matter experts.
- The new services support an overall better SOA. Applications are decoupled through the Publish/Subscribe paradigm with message queues and web services. The new services can also reach out in the cloud for other services, and can be shared and governed easily.
- The use of modern technology will attract and retain millennial talent.
In conclusion, organizations have invested heavily over many decades in legacy applications. These applications continue to support business-critical functions. Replacing them is a daunting task, but there is no need to increase the complexity of — and investment in — the old technology.
New technology proven for many years to be efficient and cost-effective can serve an enterprise well by progressively migrating functionality from legacy to modern platforms and shrinking these old systems. This progressive strategy is easier to manage, and it paves the way for the enterprise to ready itself to the next step in which new, on-premises, modern services can become good candidates to be migrated to the cloud
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Youssef Serghat is a Solution Architect at Dell Digital Business Services. He has led and contributed to a number of enterprise and cloud integration solutions supporting customers in telecommunication, airline, e-commerce, aerospace and healthcare industries. He started his 20 years IT career when CORBA was the standard and the facto in enterprise integration and today he is using SOA, ESB, and APIs, to solve enterprise and cloud integration unique challenges.