Keeping Legacy Systems Alive Through The Cloud

February 17, 2016
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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Some organizations have taken this adage a little too literally and despite the advancements in technology today, continue to use legacy systems that are no longer mainstream. But the inertia to move to a modern system is only one part of the reason why these organizations are yet to make the switch.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Some organizations have taken this adage a little too literally and despite the advancements in technology today, continue to use legacy systems that are no longer mainstream. But the inertia to move to a modern system is only one part of the reason why these organizations are yet to make the switch. A lot of warehouses, for instance, still use PDAs since they are cheaper and sometimes better and more reliable than smartphones in collating data and managing inventory on the move. Fax machines are still extremely commonplace in law firms, brokerage firms and other industries that handle paperwork.

We are not just talking about outdated hardware here. Even software applications like COBOL or Mainframe that were popular software technologies in the 1980s continue to be used in several businesses today. There is however an interesting evolution happening here that has helped these legacy systems bridge the generational gap and stay relevant today. A slew of start-ups and projects have helped ‘cloudify’ these technologies in a way that makes these systems usable.

Take the example of Fax machines. These products typically need a sender and a receiver to work. The reason fax machines are still relevant today is because one of these two entities (sender or receiver) happens to be the law or brokerage firms that prefer faxed documents. But the product is not entirely usable until the other entity is capable of transmitting documents over fax as well. The solution is in cloudification. Today, you have cloud services that help transmit fax messages over an IP network that make it possible for law firms to continue receiving documents over fax although most of their clients do not own a machine of their own.

The same is true for pagers. A number of doctors, firefighters and even birdwatchers use pagers today since they offer several advantages over regular text messaging. For one, they do not store information (and less prone to data breaches), less vulnerable to network congestion and last longer. Similar to fax machines, pagers too require a sender and a receiver and one way to connect the two is through the cloud. There are web-based services that let a sender without access to a paging network send critical messages to the recipient over the cloud.

A similar evolution has been happening on the software side of technology as well. IBM launched Mainframes over fifty years back during the Cold War era and in January last year announced the launch of their latest Mainframes version z13. The reason Mainframes continues to exist is because retailers, financial institutions, insurance companies and airlines continue to rely on the stability offered by Mainframes to run their technology backend. However, the latest z13 is quite different from its predecessors in that it comes with the flexibility of the cloud. This edition is compatible with the z Systems Hybrid Cloud Connect that enables enterprises to connect their on-premise Mainframes systems to the public cloud. Similarly, the z13 has a scale-up memory that enables enterprises to expand their memory allocation in real-time without the typical restrictions of an on-premise Mainframes system.

These examples point to an interesting trend. Organizations continue to use legacy systems either out of a sheer lack of alternatives or because modern technology does not adequately replace conventional systems. Although sales figures point to a decline in the use of these legacy tools, the reality is that they shall continue to be around over the next decade. Till then, cloud systems will serve to connect the modern user at one end with the legacy user at the other. In some ways then, cloud shall be the driving force for both the continued popularity and the transition of technology from legacy to modern systems.