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February 24, 2017

The legacy IT conundrum: Why big data & IoT projects have been slow to take off

Gaurav Dhillon, founder and CEO of SnapLogic, discusses how most enterprises have to make a conscious decision to stop throwing good money after bad on their IT infrastructure so that they don’t lose out on more opportunities.

By James Nunns

Can a business in 2017 effectively run on 25-year old technology? Both logic and intuition say it can’t. Yet that is exactly what thousands of companies attempt to do, even in this day and age.

IT and business leaders always think about sunken costs, and they don’t want to give up on them. But they have to think about sunken opportunity, and the high price their companies pay for missing out because of their antiquated infrastructure.

In the fast paced environment in which companies operate today, this legacy  Gaurav Dhillon, founder and CEO of SnapLogicinfrastructure from last century doesn’t allow them to move fast enough to seize an opportunity when they see it. There is a reason many analytics, big data and IoT projects have taken a long time to get to where they are today, and there is still a long way to go for businesses to truly see the full benefits.

Today, most enterprises are making a conscious decision to stop throwing good money after bad on their application portfolios. They recognise they can’t lose out on more opportunities. They are switching to a modern enterprise. Companies that swore they would never give up on-premise software are moving their application computing to the cloud; as a result, there’s been a huge shift toward solutions like Salesforce, Workday and Service Now. But why are they so reluctant to make the switch in other areas?

Fundamental landscape shift

We have seen fundamental shifts in the technology landscape and not only do businesses need to keep up with these, they need to deal with all the changes simultaneously. Consequently, technology that was developed pre-cloud – several years ago when there were only five databases that mattered and only a few ERP systems (Oracle, SAP and a young PeopleSoft) – isn’t best positioned to take advantage of the opportunities the cloud affords. Investing in new big data and IoT projects won’t pay off if other areas of the IT infrastructure are still stuck in the last century.

So what do you need? A clean slate. It’s a reality that businesses have to face, and embrace. They need the right technology for the current complex environment.

Going forward, does it make sense to run a company on 25 year old legacy technology? The truthful answer is, it can, just as you can run a modern company on a mainframe. You can also ride a horse to the office. But is it something you should do? That’s where I would say “no.” Because the friction between your current requirements and the problems you solve today, and the way you solve them, relative to the requirements that were well addressed by products from 25 years ago, are fundamentally different. Yes, some elements of these technologies have been updated but often the underlying engine hasn’t.

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The direct path between a problem and a solution is to use appropriate technologies that are in sync with the problems being solved, in the times and the budget that are available today. That is really the crux of legacy technology inheritance versus embracing modern solutions built for the cloud.

A “cloudy” world

In light of that, in a world that has gone “cloudy” and offers new, ultra-modern technology at commodity prices, businesses start to arrive at a realisation, “We ought to modernise. We should give up on the sunken costs and instead think of the sunken opportunity of persisting with clunky old technology.”

We live in an age where people expect multiple utility. It’s a good thing – if you’ve ever held an iPhone, you’re not ever going back to a flip phone. You want your phone, camera, music player and more in one device. As they teach you in law school, you can’t “unring the bell.”

Multiple utility expectations

Expectations for multiple utility are all over the workplace. Millennials, who are now a big force in the working world, are approaching the data consumption challenge with a clean slate. They say it should be easy, like a smartphone, and be self-service.

Businesses not willing to give up on legacy technology experience all kinds of data-in-flight problems in the enterprise. These include application integration problems like connecting Salesforce with SAP, or data integration problems, providing information feeds to solve modern analytic sorts of questions. Organisations need to be replacing legacy technologies with those that can help to solve problems that are currently faced like predictive analytics, machine learning, or wiring up large industrial enterprises with IoT sensors.

That’s the kind of multiple utility that people expect from their technology – it’s not about feeds or speeds, it’s about having a smart phone versus having a separate phone, camera and music player.

Smart IT organisations have realised their role in the modern enterprise is to help their business partners become more successful. By investing in new technologies, it is vital that IT organisations give their users the self-service they need, helping the lines of business grow to their potential instead of holding them back. This is when businesses can move away from legacy technologies and sunken costs to fully take advantage of the sunken opportunities they are missing out on.


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