DevOps to leverage Legacy systems – Musato Technologies
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DevOps is Spreading Rapidly, but Selectively

The promise of DevOps is real. Needed functionality is coming online faster, teams are working together better, and issues are being resolved closer to the moment they are detected. But only where DevOps has been applied systematically.

New applications and interfaces that rely upon legacy applications can struggle as the velocity of delivery is slowed by systems that were not designed for, and do not easily support, agile and DevOps methodologies.DevOps

Organizations in every vertical need a way to access legacy data and business logic without creating more code and slowing down the DevOps process.

Current Environment – Backend

Large monolithic legacy systems tend to have many interconnected pieces and to be ‘fragile’ in an overall sense, with one application impacting several other systems, and changes needing to be validated across all of these impacted systems.

While the stability of legacy systems and data is renowned, the hurdles to getting changes implemented on those systems is equally infamous. As custodians of key business data; legacy systems developers, admins, and DBAs know well that they are not responding at the rate the business would like.

The problem is that attempts to deliver changes more quickly are thwarted by the very complexity that makes these systems valuable. The architectures of ten or twenty years ago are not suited to the type of rapid response expected today.

Current Environment – Agile

Agile development and DevOps methodology both aim to deliver software to the business at a faster pace, one in tune with today’s constant changes in the business environment.

By making shorter goals, agile allows developers to focus on one problem at a time, and to see test results quickly after they check in their code.

By increasing cross-functional communication and automating everything from build through deployment, DevOps aims to accelerate the rate at which those changes are presented to users.

Communications changes new development methodologies encourage keep business owners aware of the current
state and any outstanding issues.

This all works well if the application is completely wrapped in agile and DevOps, with rapid iterations offering many incremental changes to the application over time.

The mantra of Silicon Valley is definitely an adjunct to agile and DevOps – “Fail fast” means implement it, find the problems, and get to resolving them.

But that is the opposite of the view that has guarded legacy systems forever—controlled change coupled with thorough test environments have kept legacy systems stable and reliable.

Why Backend Work is Generally Slower

A problem occurs when a given application has dependencies on older architectures that are designed and maintained with a more robust approach. The systems that hold all of your customer and billing data have been built and modified for years with an eye to stability. And systems that have been rock-solid for years should not suddenly start having performance and quality issues.

The complexity of systems that have grown over the course of a decade or two can be stunning. They were designed for one initial purpose and, as that purpose has changed and grown, complexity has also grown.

While the data housed in these systems is critical, and the business logic they exercise over that data is unique to the application, this complexity can make changes take much longer than a fresh new agile project. Even simple changes to legacy systems can require extensive testing as the impact of those changes on other parts of the overall software architecture are evaluated.

Organizations want new web and/or mobile interfaces to legacy systems. Creating such an interface seems relatively simple on the surface, but the relationship of UI to backend systems is symbiotic. The creation of a UI will require new functionality or changes to the underlying data store. This is a natural process that occurs as an understanding of how users interact with the new UI becomes clear.

These scenarios end up with a rapidly iterating front end that can turn out changes in days or weeks backed by a system that is designed with the idea that changes will take months. When user feedback results in change requests for the backend, the entire agile/DevOps process goes on hold.

What is needed is a platform that grants access to the wealth of data stored in legacy systems without requiring a massive amount of new development on those systems—a framework to give DevOps the business logic that applications need.

The framework must also be flexible enough to serve that information where ever DevOps teams need it. For example, OpenLegacy’s approach builds APIs on top of microservices that are composed of standard Java stacks.

That means Java developers can get to the data they need without having to wait for the legacy team to develop more code.

Why Agile Work is Necessary

While the legacy systems and their development methodologies worked in an environment where the rate of change for all organizations was slower, and the demands of users were restricted to a small subset of the target market, the growth of the Internet and increasing competition make faster development of new systems and interfaces a business priority.

Agile and DevOps answer this need, allowing the business to respond to new competitive threats or to take advantage of a competitive opportunity in a timeframe suited to today’s business environment. The catch is that the speed of delivery must be systemic.

If a large portion of an organization’s product portfolio is difficult to change and requires weeks or even months of
testing after changes, the competitive business edge can be lost.

Utilizing agile development, DevOps methodologies, and OpenLegacy to bring legacy data into the agile and DevOps fold, an organization can start to deliver new functionality that utilizes legacy data and systems at the speed expected in a modern business environment.

Past Solutions and Their Legacy

In the not-too-distant past, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) were used to address the slow rate of change in legacy systems. The underlying motivation for SOA was to provide access to data in legacy systems while speeding development by moving new development into the client/server tier.

The problem is that once the data was manipulated in the client/server environment, that environment became part of the overall legacy infrastructure. Now some changes were being made in the legacy environment, while other
changes were being made in the SOA environment, and those changes needed to be available at the same level of reliability.
The result was a complex world where not only was there a large super-integrated legacy application sitting on the backend, the middle tier was now a large super-integrated legacy application also. Both became slow to change, and changes often had to span both tiers, increasing the amount of work and the number of teams involved.

Utilizing microservices and single data access APIs, OpenLegacy sidesteps these issues by presenting a given application with the data it needs when it is needed. Developers writing in the language of their choice can say “I need the customer number so I can find their last order”, and call the customer API to grab data.

There is no mainframe coding, no middle layer of business logic that must be maintained and inter-relationships to manage, just a call to get the needed data, and move along.

OpenLegacy enables this ability to get the data and move along with a system of connectors that allow legacy data to be pulled into microservices easily.

While many backend connectors come preconfigured (For example, CICS or DB2), others can be custom designed if there is a need. This offers ease of use for the common cases and task-specific implementation for custom cases.

No matter which type of connector is needed, in the end, agile users are presented with an API implemented in Java and residing on the edge of a microservice. At that point, the code and resulting API fits into the existing agile and DevOps architecture.

Making the Two Work Together

Backend Strengths

Legacy systems grew to be legacy because they get the job done. The workhorse of most modern enterprises, core systems hold the data that represents customer base, sales, stock levels, and more. These systems have reliably serviced the organization for a long time because they’re good – or at least good enough – at what they do.

DevOps Strengths

Both the business and customers are demanding a faster rate of change though. The whole goal of digital transformation is to increase the rate of change to meet the demands of today’s environment. The ability to rapidly improve the user experience is something that enterprises in nearly every vertical are striving for.

Agile plus DevOps are the tools most organizations choose to approach that goal. By offering quick iterations with
a highly automated build/test/deploy environment and repeatable/reusable processes and artifacts, DevOps increases the rate of change and often increases stability by removing room for human error.

The Best of Both Worlds

Those monolithic legacy applications need to continue operating as they have in the past, but agile and DevOps teams need something that can move at the pace of modern business.

Since replacement of backend systems is not only expensive, but also prohibitively long, it makes the most sense to actually delivery on the promises SOA made.

Enabling access to backend data, with small, manageable pieces that can be re-assembled as needed in a more agile environment is the key to improving productivity and delivery timelines without making things worse.

While the legacy systems continue to store and protect mission-critical data, OpenLegacy extends those core
systems for access by agile teams. Using a microservices architecture with APIs that are both easily generated and customizable by Java developers, monolithic legacy applications can serve data where and when it is needed.

OpenLegacy uses connectors to tie backend systems into the microservice, and API generation to generate the frontend API, relieving the need to develop access code in the most common access scenarios.

Even in a highly flexible environment requiring support for platforms like cloud and mobile. OpenLegacy’s integration with standard agile and DevOps tools such as Jenkins means that it is truly part of the DevOps solution architecture.

OpenLegacy helps teams adapt backend access with microservices and DevOps outside the monolith. Part of this solution is integration with modern development and DevOps tools. Based in Java, with Eclipse support, Jenkins integration, and targeting for Docker, developers will find existing skill-sets extend to legacy applications and data.

This integration helps DevOps teams gain the benefits of stable, secure datasets and procedures while making application delivery faster.

Make Use of the Most Prevalent Skills Most new developers entering the workforce are trained in modern languages like Java, Node.js and Python. They are not equipped to handle the environments in which legacy applications were developed and are maintained. OpenLegacy generates APIs that can be called from any language that supports SOAP or REST API calls.

That means developers and teams can use the toolset that best fits the goals of agile and DevOps, taking advantage of the languages they are already familiar with, but gaining access to legacy systems and data that power the enterprise.

Importantly, the development of the legacy systems is not required. Since the pool of available developers for many legacy platforms – most notably the mainframe – is on a downward trend, not creating a new source to be maintained for integration is important, as available legacy system staff will have enough to do.

With OpenLegacy, agile developers can generate the APIs, make changes required, and keep their project moving forward. With the development shifted to agile teams and platforms integrated into the DevOps lifecycle, the need for legacy changes is reduced or eliminated.

This allows projects to use the data and subsystems that have worked for years while getting the benefits of agile and DevOps development speeds. Contact Musato Technologies to learn how our innovative and smart ICT solutions can accelerate your business digital transformation. Content provided by OpenLegacy.

Gideon E. M
Author: Gideon E. M

Gideon Ebonde M. is the CEO and Chief Software Architect at Musato Technologies. He is experienced Software developer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. He has a strong engineering professional skilled in Mobile Application Development, Enterprise Software, AI, Robotics, IoT, Servers, Cloud and business application. He is an accomplished DevOps software engineer and a visionary computer scientist and engineer.

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