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Sounding Off About The Legacy Monster

Letters that disagree with Bob...

If Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
"Legacy application monsters" is one term.

Another term is "that which is working."

I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about. Of course, we have legacy systems, but we cannot get rid of them. We still use them, and they are functional. Yes, we have to pay maintenance fees every year, but updates and support are necessary. Even some of our older applications that aren't supported are still functional and more than adequate.

Why spend money and resources to be up to date when you gain no real benefits? We are a midsize company and cannot spend just to keep up with the Joneses. These applications are not tying us down, and we do review and upgrade where necessary.

I know the trade publications are all pushing real-time business, B-to-B, E-commerce, and so on, but the reality--at least for companies our size--is that these are unrealistic. If it's working and getting the job done effectively, why change? This is why many companies are still using older operating systems. Check polls and you will see that many companies are in the same boat.
Peter Davis
Network Administrator, HFI

Slaying The Monster Is Just The Beginning
It isn't hard to slay this monster if we don't mind getting the job done. We can increase how much money we're spending on future developments. If we're successful and those future developments become "that which is working," they will be the monsters we will need to destroy. This is all fun for the IS staff, but then we have the hard part.

Persuading the business that it doesn't need "that which is working," but instead needs "that which we will have fun making," will keep us busy, make us feel important, but doesn't work yet."
Howard Brazee
IT Professional, University of Colorado

Business Before Technology
I wish the Secret CIO's contention that "Technology comes last, not first" ("Information Alone Isn't Business Intelligence," Oct. 21, p. 108) was the mantra for the re-evaluation of technology deployments that everyone seems to be talking about. I preach to my clients that the business must come first.
Craig Fogg
Consultant, Mill Wheel Consulting, Portsmouth, N.H.

Outsourcing Is Killing Legacy
Legacy systems aren't the monster you claim. In fact, they're needed to keep parts of our business running 24-by-365. For example, we've got OpenVMS systems (both VAX and Alpha) that haven't been rebooted since we loaded the mandatory Y2K patches in the fall of 1999. (As an aside, very critical systems are clustered, which means that individual nodes can be taken down for maintenance and/or upgrades while the current transaction load is being handled by remaining nodes.)

Meanwhile, the vendors of newer Unix and Oracle-based systems recommend a reboot once a month just to keep the internals clean. This might be all right for a retail Web site, but it's no good for critical systems used in law enforcement, banking, telephony, power generation, etc.

The biggest problem with some legacy systems occurs when code maintenance is outsourced to companies staffed with younger people who are only trained to work on the newer technology. These systems tend to die a slow death while legacy systems not outsourced are alive and well.
Neil Rieck
Programmer/Analyst, Bell Canada

Legacy Works
I've heard the term "legacy application" defined as any piece of software that actually works. I don't see why it's bad to spend 80% of your operating budget on the systems that are actually delivering the information services that enable your company to function.

Actually, it would make sense for 100% of the operating budget to be spent on operations. We put new development and infrastructure improvements under a different budget heading.
Barry Swift

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