Moving To The Cloud? Don’t Rush To Kiss Legacy Applications Goodbye

There’s a very old saying with a lot of truth in it: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

A move to the virtual cloud may be inevitable for your IT infrastructure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to convert overnight…


I recently spoke at a CIO cloud summit. In the kick-off presentation, I thought I’d see if people were awake… so I suggested that, with the advent of the cloud, UNIX was now a legacy platform.

he response was immediate: CIOs from Fortune 500 organizations (including large banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, etc.) started to laugh. And had trouble stopping. The joke was that, five years ago, UNIX was the market’s leading platform. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a legacy system and everyone is supposed to be getting off it?

This validated a key idea I had been considering: Just because cloud based technologies are the future doesn’t mean that “legacy systems” like mainframe, iSeries, and UNIX are history yet.

Here are the facts. Large organizations grow organically over long periods of time. They’ve also been known to buy other companies, with their own applications, their own technology, their own idiosyncrasies. Along the way, they customize off-the-shelf applications.

They develop homegrown applications. They incorporate big iron (still) and bolt these systems together into a business process. This hodgepodge of applications, platforms, and technology leverages the latest and greatest, and the not so late and not so great –creating hybrid environments that include mainframes, iSeries, UNIX, and – now – the cloud.

The very idea of converting all these “legacy” applications and platforms to the cloud overnight is ludicrous.

Even the biggest enterprise has limited resources, and conversion to the cloud is costly… in time, effort, and money. Companies are therefore faced with a decision:

  • “Do I take my existing environment and spend all my effort and expertise on taking those applications – which, by the way, are running just fine and have been in production a long time and are very proven – and import them to a cloud-based platform?”


  • “Do I take my limited resources and deploy them to differentiate myself in the marketplace, i.e., to develop new applications, new ideas, new products, or new services?”

Making the decision to stay in a hybrid environment takes corporate guts, especially when the marketplace is shouting, “You need to get off your legacy applications and into the cloud!”

Here are three points to help you stick to your guns:

Consider your technology environment from a business perspective.

If your mix of applications – legacy and otherwise – are serving the purposes of your business, your internal processes, your end users, and your customers, then there should be a very compelling reason to make a change. More than just “everybody’s doing it.”

Make gradual changes that are strategic in nature.

As your business evolves, you will undoubtedly deploy new applications. It probably makes sense to house these in the cloud, since the cloud gives flexibility, scalability, opex opportunities, etc. You may also decide that migrating specific legacy applications should take priority, i.e., if the legacy application can only run on a very old version of an operating system or an outdated piece of hardware, if license support is coming to an end, or if the people who coded the legacy application are no longer with the company (and may even be deceased)!


Remember that the future isn’t just about tomorrow.

Are you going to make a total migration to the cloud eventually? Most likely,yes. I do believe that the future of business does reside in the cloud.

But that doesn’t mean you have to do it immediately. Think about shifting from your legacy applications

systematically, perhaps over a three- or five-year time span. So if you’re feeling “peer pressure” to migrate your legacy applications to the cloud, shake it off. Your peers are in exactly the same situation as you:

they have hybrid environments that are working for them and that they don’t intend to change in the near future.

Trust me, the world does not run on Intel alone. You’ll get to the cloud. Eventually, one by one, your legacy applications will hit your “cloud migration” priority list. Until then, be comfortable with the complementary nature of your hybrid environment. Your “legacy applications” aren’t history yet.


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