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February 13, 2007updated 19 Aug 2016 10:08am

Who are you calling ‘legacy’?

Traditionally, enterprises have considered old hardware, and the mainframe in particular, to be "legacy technology". But in a week in which there was legacy modernization tools and services news, it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly what is

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Traditionally, enterprises have considered old hardware, and the mainframe in particular, to be “legacy technology”. But in a week in which there was legacy modernization tools and services news, it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly what is meant by the term.

Many think of legacy technology as the older stuff they can’t get rid of because it still plays an important role. The bright spark who procured it for the company has almost certainly left by now, and in some cases left this mortal coil, too. Mainframes, mini-computers like the Vax, anything that runs VMS, anything that includes either of the names Sperry or Burroughs in its documentation: these are all almost certainly legacy technologies.

But can a Java application also be legacy? In fact it can, because in many cases older Java applications are like black boxes – no one knows what they were written for or which business users and processes remain reliant on them. The point being that it is not only mainframes and minis that are legacy technology today. The list is far longer than that, and it includes both software and hardware.

Only by acknowledging this are IT departments likely to keep on top of their ageing IT assets. Legacy technologies deserve slightly different treatment. A decision needs to be taken whether to maintain them, to turn them off, or to modernize them. Modernizing them can take several forms too, including rewriting, migrating, extending, or perhaps “wrappering” with more modern technologies like web services.

There are lots of things you can do with legacy technologies, depending of course on the size of your IT budget. But whatever you do to them, it’s not a good idea to simply ignore them.

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